Falcons' winning ways are back

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Matt Fuller
  • Air Warfare Center Public Affairs
The Air Force is back to its winning ways.

After losing three straight games following a 6-0 start to the season, the Air Force Academy Falcons convincingly pushed their current win streak to two games with a 49-32 win over the Rebels of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas on Nov. 16. "I'm proud of our football team, coming in on the road and decisively beating a team that is still kicking and alive and had their backs against the wall," said Fisher DeBerry, Air Force Academy head coach.

Air Force quarterback Chance Harridge turned in an impressive performance in the win, accounting for 216 total yards and four of seven Falcon touchdowns.

Harridge scored his 19th rushing touchdown of the season to tie the school record. He also topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season and is the 11th Falcon in academy history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. Harridge has rushed for 1,042 yards this season.

Falcon running back Darnell Stephens rushed for 89-yards and one touchdown with and impressive 12.7 yards per carry average.

The Falcons, the top-ranked rushing offense in the nation, punished the Rebels throughout the day with the option; however the real story of the day was turnovers.

"The turnovers we got in the second half played a big part in the outcome of the game," DeBerry said.

UNLV committed five turnovers in the second half, including two fumbles, two turnovers on downs and one interception. Air Force capitalized scoring three touchdowns and putting the game out of reach for.

Early on, UNLV looked ready to cruise to a third straight win over the Falcons, taking the ball 75 yards on four plays. Tailback Larry Croom capped the drive with a 40-yard run for a touchdown.

On the Falcon's ensuing drive, a Harridge pass was intercepted at the goal line by cornerback Ruschard Dodd-Masters. At the end of the first quarter, Air Force trailed 7-0.

Air Force opened up the second quarter with a five-yard touchdown run by Harridge to tie the game. UNLV answered on the very next drive, ending with a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Earvin Johnson from quarterback Jason Thomas, giving the Rebels a 14-7 advantage. The Falcons responded with a six-yard touchdown run by running back Leotis Palmer, which sent both teams to the locker room in a 14-14 halftime tie.

The Falcons stormed out of the locker room and on to the field. The third quarter began with kick returner Alec Messerall taking the kickoff 61 yards to the UNLV 39-yard line. Four plays later, Harridge got into the end zone on a one-yard run.

The Falcons would not relinquish the lead. After a UNLV field goal, the Falcons scored their fourth touchdown on a 35-yard pass to tight end Adam Strecker, putting Air Force ahead 28-17.

In an effort to close the gap, UNLV drove 83 yards, only to see tailback Dominique Dorsey fumble on the 1 yard line, in what would be the first of the Rebels five turnovers in the second half. The Falcons did not take advantage of the opportunity though, with Harridge throwing his second interception of the day on the next drive.

After another Rebel fumble and an Air Force punt, UNLV running back Larry Croom took it 17 yards for his second score of the game. The Rebels successfully attempted a 2-point conversion to bring themselves within a field goal, 28-25, to start the fourth quarter.

The next two drives yielded an Air Force punt and a UNLV turnover on downs. The Falcons capitalized by taking the ball 46 yards in three plays ending with a 34-yard touchdown pass to JP Waller, making the score 35-25 Air Force.

Falcon defensive back Joel Buelow intercepted a Thomas pass inside Air Force territory on the next Rebel possession. The ensuing Falcon drive ended in a three-yard touchdown run by fullback Steve Massie.

On the next UNLV possession, Thomas threw two incomplete passes and was sacked twice, resulting in a turnover on downs.

After taking the ball back, Stephens carried the ball 16 yards into the end zone for the final Air Force touchdown of the day.

UNLV managed to muster one more touchdown on the next drive, but it would not be enough, as time expired and the Falcons prevailed 49 - 32.

"Air Force played a very good game," said John Robinson, UNLV head coach. "We felt like we had to keep the quarterback (Harridge) from having one of those days. They blocked us extremely well. They are an outstanding football team."

After leaving Las Vegas with the victory, the Falcons are now focused on finishing the regular season on a strong note.

"We have one game left," said DeBerry. "We are coming home for our senior day. We will work hard this week to make sure those players go out and play their hearts out for the departing seniors."

With the win against the Rebels, the Air Force Academy improves its record to 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the Mountain West Conference. The Falcons close out the regular season when they play host to San Diego State University on Nov. 23.