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Falcons Outlast Wolfpack, Win in 3OT Extravaganza

by Graham Knight

Air Force got a big performance from its defense and frustrated one of the nation's top quarterbacks to keep their hopes of a Mountain West Conference Championship alive against the Nevada Wolf Pack in a three-overtime win in Reno, NV.


Shutting down Wolf Pack's vaunted quarterback Carson Strong was job number one for the Falcons, and on Nevada's second possession sophomore defensive end Jayden Theirgood sacked Strong for an eight yard loss, the first of 7-sacks against Strong in the night.


"That was the game plan coming in," Vince Sanford, Air Force Linebacker said. "As we knew this team, they're a tempo team, throwing the ball almost every play. We just pinned our ears back, trying to get to him every single play, try to help our DB'S out, get it out of his hand quick."


It was also hawking defense that held the Wolfpack to just three points in the first half.


Meanwhile, the Falcons' offensive line took control as Air Force ate up more than 10 1/2 minutes in a 19-play, 75-yard drive, all on the ground, to take the lead 7-3 on a 4-yard Ben Jefferson run. It was Jefferson's first carry of his Falcon career. Seven different Falcons ran the ball in that drive.

Air Force Falcons running back/wide receiver De'Andre Hughes burst through the Nevada Wolf Pack defense during a Mountain West Conference football game on November 19, 2021 at Mackay Stadium in Reno, NV. Hughes rushed for 223 yards in the game.
Air Force Falcons running back/wide receiver De'Andre Hughes burst through the Nevada Wolf Pack defense during a Mountain West Conference football game on November 19, 2021 at Mackay Stadium in Reno, NV. Hughes rushed for 223 yards in the game.

The Falcon defense was relentless. Linebacker Bo Richter picked off Strong to snuff out a Nevada drive in the 2nd.


The Wolf Pack had five first-half possessions ending in three punts, the interception and a field goal.


A 52-yard DeAndre Hughes run punctuated a 66-yard Air Force drive in the second. After a penalty, Hughes finished things off with a 10-yard touchdown dash to make it 14-3, Falcons.


A 49-yard Matthew Depore field goal gave the Falcons a 17-3 lead at the half. The Air Force defense held Nevada, and Strong -- one of the top NFL draft prospects -- to under a hundred yards in the first half and registered five sacks.


Each team traded touchdowns in the 3rd and Air Force maintained its 14-point lead.


"Our execution was pretty good," said Air Force Head Coach Troy Calhoun, "really through the first three, three plus quarters and then we had a couple of possessions where that was not the case."


Air Force had successive drives of punt, fumble, punt, punt while Nevada and Strong orchestrated two TD drives to tie the game at 24 with 3:13 left...and that's how regulation ended.


In overtime Air Force had the first possession and scored a touchdown on a two-yard Dane Kinamon run to make it 31-24.


Nevada answered with a TD run and the game was tied again at 31.


In the second OT, Nevada took the lead on a 19-yard Strong TD pass and the two-point conversion made it 39-31, Nevada.


But the Falcons answered, on a Brad Roberts 1-yard run followed a DeAndre Hughes two-point conversion to tie the game at 39.


Subsequent overtime periods this season are a series of 2-point tries. Quarterback Haaziq Daniels gave Air Force the lead, 41-39, with an easy run into the endzone.


Then came the biggest defensive play of the game: When Carson Strong tried to find Romeo Doubs in the back of the endzone safety, Camby Goff broke up the pass to preserve the victory for the Falcons.


"Good things happen when Camby Goff's on the field," Calhoun said, "and I mean, truly, there were two games where he didn't play maybe two and a half games where he didn't play a whole lot and and those weren't outcomes that we wanted. He's just, he has a knack for playing the sport."


Offensively, the Falcons put up 499 yards, including a 221-yard rushing performance from Hughes.


"When we go into the game, we always have a game plan," DeAndre Hughes said. "But when I was given an opportunity, I had to take it."


For Coach Calhoun, it was a gutsy win by his squad: "We found a way. You know, this was as Bolt Brotherhood, as Bolt Brotherhood gets just with the heart and the fortitude of these guys. And you know, really, you look here within the last 13 days, you know, you travel to Dallas and you travel up to Fort Collins, you travel out to Reno, and yet, the resolve, and I just I can't say enough about the heart of these guys. "




edited for web by Joe Harman