Air Force and it’s powerful running game found little resistance from UNLV’s porous defense.
Asher Clark ran for career highs of three touchdowns and 160 yards and Air Force totaled 431 yards on ground Saturday in a 45-17 romp over UNLV.
The Falcons came in with the fourth-best rushing attack in the country. The Rebels ranked 111th in major college football defending the run.
Clark scored on runs of 40, 24 and 2 yards. He had his first 100-yard game of the season and surpassed his career best of 131 yards.
“He’s been pretty good,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said of Clark. “He was really good in Fort Collins (against Colorado State) with the blocking part of it, and he was again tonight.”
“He’s got the ability to take some plays that initially look like four-yard gains and make those plays longer than that,” Calhoun added.
Jared Tew, Savier Stephens and Nathan Walker also ran for touchdowns. Air Force (7-4, 5-2 Mountain West) won its third in a row.
“We expected to stop them,” said UNLV coach Mike Sanford. “We had a special plan to stop the run, but we didn’t get it done.
Tim Jefferson threw for 126 yards and ran for another 63 yards.
“I think this was our best complete game overall as a unit,” Jefferson said. “The offense was clicking and the defense made the stops whenever they needed to. It was a great effort all around. It felt like everything we called worked.”
Omar Clayton was 9 of 18 for 108 yards, with a touchdown and an interception for UNLV (4-7, 2-5).
The temperature was 33 degrees with a wind chill of 20 at kickoff, and snow fell most of the second half.
Clark ran for 113 yards and a touchdown as Air Force built a 24-3 halftime lead. The Falcons put together three touchdown drives of at least 80 yards.
Air Force went 95 yards in 11 plays after a punt by the Rebels’ Kyle Watson. Clark capped the Falcons’ longest scoring drive of the year with a 24-yard run with 5:53 left in the first quarter.
Tew’s 3-yard run made it 14-0 early in the second quarter. After the teams traded field goals, Air Force’s Chris Thomas made an interception in the end zone.
“We had a chance to get back into the game when we were inside the 10 and threw an interception,” Sanford said. “It turned out to be a big momentum turning point of the game.”
The Falcons needed only two minutes and 29 seconds to turn it into a 10-yard TD run by Stephens.
UNLV closed to 24-10 with 7:32 left in the third quarter on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Clayton to Phillip Payne on a fourth-and-6 play. Moments later the Falcons countered with a 2-yard run scoring run by Walker.
Clark had a 2-yard TD run to start the fourth quarter. UNLV backup quarterback Mike Clausen ran for a 6-yard touchdown, but Clark scored again on a 40-yard gallop up the sideline.
“The ball did almost come out, but it was just an option to the right that was supposed to go outside, but I cut it inside because the blocks led me that way,” Asher said of his third touchdown. “I almost lost the ball again, but I spun out of it and was able to hold onto the ball, got some blocks downfield and was able to score.”
UNLV’s Ryan Wolfe, the nation’s leading active receiver, has 283 after catching four passes for 36 yards. He moved past Troy Edwards (280) into 12th place all-time in NCAA FBS history.