Falcons back on winning track, 31-14

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • U. S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Air Force capitalized on long touchdown runs by Chad Hall and Shaun Carney to beat the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 31-14, sending the Oct. 6 Falcon Stadium crowd of 35,583 home happy.

Bluesuiter head coach Troy Calhoun was not among them.

Despite the win, which snapped a two game losing skid and improved Air Force to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the Mountain West Conference, the first year Falcon boss was not a happy camper.

"I'm not going to trade in a 17-point win," Calhoun told reporters. "But, overall, I'm not pleased with the way we played tonight. We've got to grow up as a football team. In that first half we didn't do much that was firm or decisive. We didn't move with a whole lot of swiftness. If we play again like we did in that first half, we're going to have someone's cleats on our chest."

UNLV (2-4, 1-1 MWC) marched on the Air Force defense for nearly 12 and one-half minutes in the second quarter. The one-sided time-of-possession produced a touchdown on the last play of the first half when Rebel quarterback Travis Dixon ran in from two yards out to knot matters, 7-7 at halftime.

Falcon tailback Chad Smith scored on a 1-yard plunge with just 26 seconds left in the first quarter to open the scoring.

UNLV moved the ball at will in the first half, and would have taken the lead if not for an inspired goal line stand by the Air Force defense in the second quarter.

On a fourth-and-goal from the Falcon one-yard line, Rebel running back Frank Summers summer-salted toward the goal line. He was met at the height of his flip by senior linebacker John Rabold and sophomore nose guard Ben Garland. Their stop ended a 16-play, 79-yard drive that took 8:35 off the clock.

"Everyone was plugging gaps," said Garland, who made seven tackles in his first career start. "We played tentative for most of the first half. But, on the goal line the linemen tried to get under as low as we could so the other guys could make the play."

For Rabold, the stop highlighted his team- and career-high 12 tackle, two-sack performance.

"I was on the tight end on the back side of the play," Rabold said. "The tight end knifed down and I slanted across when I saw the guy jump. (Garland) got a piece of him and I knocked him out of the end zone. I just reacted."

The goal line stand was one of three fourth-down stops by the Falcon defense.

The Air Force offense, meanwhile, converted quickly on two key third quarter possessions.

On the opening drive of the second half, senior Chad Hall took a pitch and raced 52-yards down the left sideline to cap a five-play, 80-yard drive in just 2:10 to give the Falcons a 14-7 lead.

"I got two key blocks," said Hall of the long TD, who ran for a game- and career-high 169 yards on 18 carries. "Mike Moffett cracked the safety and our fullback took care of the corner. Our offensive line was push, push, push all night, so give them a lot of credit."

Hall's 169 yards were the most gained by a Falcon since Keith Boyea rushed for 188 yards against Colorado State in 2001 and the most by an Air Force running back since fullback Jason Jones ran for 188 yards against Notre Dame in 1991.

Carney, meanwhile, netted 73 yards on the ground, 71 came on a touchdown burst up the middle, on a third and two play. It was the eventual game winner.

"That long touchdown run gave us a lot of confidence and momentum," he said. "We stepped up and made plays when we had to."

The senior quarterback also completed 9-of-14 passes for 123 yards, to move within seven yards of the Falcons all-time career passing mark of 4,789 set by Dave Ziebart in 1979.

After a 4-yard touchdown run by Summers brought UNLV within seven in the fourth quarter, junior kicker Ryan Harrison added a 28-yard field goal and Hall an 8-yard TD run as insurance to round out the scoring.

UNLV out-gained Air Force 471 to 432 in total offense and held a 34:39 to 25:21 time of possession advantage over the Falcons.

"We don't make a lot of big plays so those (the Hall and Carney TD runs) were sparks and no doubt equalizers for us," Calhoun said given the time of possession disparity. "Defensively, it's inexcusable not to be able get off the field. If you wear those bolts on the side of your helmet, you do it with the gumption, pride, savvy and determination that's Air Force football."

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