Air Force 48, Nevada 31
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP)
The Air Force Falcons piled up 600 yards of offense against Nevada, including 461 rushing, and they stymied the nation's leading running back in their 48-31 victory over the Wolf Pack on Friday night.
Senior Wes Cobb ran for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries in place of injured Cody Getz and the Falcons held Stefphon Jefferson to 93 yards - 63 below his nation-leading average - six days after surrendering a conference-record 338 yards to New Mexico's Kasey Carrier.
''It was a good feeling,'' Falcons leading tackler Christian Spears said. ''Last week we had a lot of missed tackles against Carrier, so this week we made it a point to wrap up on tackles and get more hats to the ball.''
Jefferson came in as the nation's top rusher by a whopping 17 yards per game, but it was the Falcons running wild on this bitterly cold night, rushing for nearly 500 yards, including 96 by Jon Lee, 76 by Ty MacArthur and 68 by quarterback Connor Dietz.
''For the first time we finally executed for four quarters,'' wide receiver Dontae Strickland said after scoring a pair of touchdowns.
The Falcons (5-3, 4-1 Mountain West) ran roughshod over the Wolf Pack (6-3, 3-2), who entered the game as the only team in the nation averaging more than 260 yards both passing and rushing and failed to reach that figure in either category.
''The defense is bitterly disappointed, but the bottom line is they just kept the ball all day and dominated the game with their offense,'' Nevada coach Chris Ault said.
The Falcons rushed 82 times and they would have had even more yards were it not for a high snap that resulted in a 19-yard loss and then a series of kneel-downs at the end that cost them 7 more yards.
''Just cut out our fumbles and a lot of teams will have trouble trying to stop us,'' Strickland said.
Dietz directed eight scoring drives, throwing two long TD passes and running for another.
''I think it was the best team win we've had. The offense made plays, the defense made plays,'' Dietz said. ''But offensively, we've still got things to work on. I shouldn't have fumbled that ball. That's still in my mind even though we won.''
Coach Troy Calhoun's, too.
The Falcons coach was miffed over the two footballs the Falcons put on the ground that led to two Nevada touchdowns.
''I thought we made some headway. We've got a ways to go,'' said Calhoun, who also was critical of his team after their win over the Lobos last week.
The Falcons limited Johnson to 22 yards on nine first-half carries and took a 31-21 lead into the locker room after scoring on five of their six drives.
They turned the ball over on their first possession of the second half and Johnson made them pay with a 21-yard TD run following linebacker Dray Bell's recovery of Lee's fumble at midfield.
Cobb, who topped his old career high of 83 yards set last year against Colorado State, restored the Falcons' 10-point cushion with his 1-yard TD run.
The Wolf Pack had to settle for Allen Hardison's short field goal after its drive stalled inside the Air Force 10, and his 26-yarder on the first snap of the fourth quarter made it 38-31.
Dietz's 1-yard keeper gave the Falcons a two-TD cushion, their largest of the game, with 9 1/2 minutes left.
After forcing a punt, the Falcons put the ball in Cobb's hands, and he ran eight times for 56 yards before Parker Herrington's second field goal capped the scoring.
Nevada defensive back Duke Williams made two big plays that had the Falcons on their heels in the opening minutes.
First, he tackled Dietz for a 19-yard loss after a high snap, forcing the Falcons to try a 45-yard field goal. Herrington, just 1 for 6 coming in, converted the attempt, matching his career long with his first field goal since Sept. 8 at Michigan.
Williams recovered Dietz' fumble at the Air Force 35 on the ensuing series, and Cody Fajardo's 1-yard keeper gave the Wolf Pack a 7-3 lead.
The Falcons responded by scoring touchdowns on their next four possessions. Mike DeWitt ran it in from 8 yards out, Dietz hit Strickland with a 46-yard TD toss and Marcus Hendricks from 29 yards out and Strickland added a 12-yard TD run.
The Falcons took control early in the second quarter on a perfect play-action pass. After running the ball on 25 of their first 27 snaps, the Falcons went to the air. Dietz faked a handoff while Strickland slipped behind three defensive backs to haul in the 46-yard touchdown pass that put Air Force ahead 17-7.
That capped a 95-yard drive in which the Falcons ran the ball seven times before Dietz's TD throw.
Nevada's other two losses were both by a point, including 39-38 to San Diego State in overtime last weekend.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton