Details from Air Force's 45-42 victory at Nevada late Friday night. A victory sealed with a Luke Strebel field goal as time expired.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Luke Strebel, Air Force kicker
More than anybody else on Friday night, you can point to Strebel and say the Falcons don’t win if not for his efforts. His 30-yard field goal as time expired made the difference on the scoreboard, but there was more. He was a perfect 6 for 6 on PATs, extending a program-record to 117 of 117 in his career. He also executed an onside kick that Air Force recovered in the second quarter, setting up a touchdown. And he provided just enough of a barrier in kickoff coverage to slow Nevada returner Daiyan Henley on his path to the end zone allowing his Falcons teammates to catch up and make the tackle. The Wolf Pack ended up with a field goal on that possession, making Strebel’s play worth a four-point swing … in a three-point game.
Tim McVey went around the right side, then cut to his left to gain 38 yards on the first play of the final drive with the score tied 42-42 and just under four minutes remaining. That run put Air Force at the Nevada 37 and allowed the Falcons to go into milk-the-clock-mode as they posted a 12-play, 62-yard drive and kicked the winning field goal as time expired. For McVey, it was the longest run in a 139-yard performance that served as the long-awaited breakout in the senior’s season. “I’m really happy for Timmy,” quarterback Arion Worthman said. “We’ve been giving him crap all year like, ‘When you going to show up Tim?’ He did today and it was awesome. I’m proud of him and happy for him.”
SUBPLOTS WE WATCHED
Nevada taking on Air Force’s young secondary
The vaunted Wolf Pack passing game did not put up the big numbers it had in recent weeks, going 18 for 35 for 267 yards. This was barely more than half the 500-plus yards it put up the week before at Colorado State. Interestingly, it was Air Force cornerback Marquis Griffin who was tested more than the others on Nevada routes. Griffin is the lone senior of the four-man secondary and the only one with previous experience against a pass-first attack.
Who will help Worthman?
In a season in which the distribution of carries has been heavily skewed toward quarterback Arion Worthman and then sporadic among those manning the key skill positions, this was the first game a familiar pattern of carries started to emerge. McVey toted 18 times as tailbacks logged 22 carries for 161 yards. Sophomore fullback Taven Birdow led the way as fullbacks ran 35 times for 166 yards. Worthman had 20 carries for 92 yards and the slot receivers, led by Ronald Cleveland, ran 12 times for 133 yards. Those overall numbers were inflated by a team-record 91 rushing attempts, but the distribution was something more like the Falcons have shown in the past.
Air Force safety Kyle Floyd made an ankle tackle to save a touchdown on the first play of the game. This was the tackle the Falcons had missed on several occasions this year as opponents have posted three one-play scoring drives and have scored three other touchdowns that covered 50 or more yards. Nevada still made its share of long plays, with five plays of 20 or more yards and it scored 42 points while only taking 55 offensive snaps, but no plays were more than 50 yards and that allowed the Falcons to settle in to keep the Wolf Pack out of the end zone on half of their 10 possessions.