Air Force’s season is turning into a redemption campaign, righting wrongs not only from this season but from years past.
Four years ago, this program went into Nevada and lost 45-42. On Friday night, Air Force flipped that result with a victory by the same 45-42 score.
Last week, the Falcons (3-4, 2-2 Mountain West) scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:14 remaining, then held UNLV on the final drive to secure the victory. This was in direct contrast to its previous game when it had scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:53 remaining but couldn’t prevent Navy from seizing victory with in the waning moments.
And on a personal note, this was a redemptive moment for kicker Luke Strebel, whose field goal as time expired won it for Air Force.
Last year against Hawaii, Strebel faced nearly the exact situation. In a tied game the Falcons drove the length of the field and called upon Strebel to end it with a short kick as time expired. Against Hawaii, the most accurate kicker in program history misfired and the team lost in overtime.
Against, Nevada, Strebel made up for it.
“I didn’t think about that until my holder picked me up,” Strebel said. “At that point I was like, it would be nice if this was the second time.”
The past can’t be erased, but this program has shown to be resilient in the face of its shortcomings. It came back from three 21-point deficits to take that brief lead against Navy and it climbed out of a 27-0 hole to top UNLV. It’s been this way for a while, too. A 45-21 victory in last year’s Arizona Bowl against South Alabama came after Air Force had fallen behind 21-3.
“It’s the second-half of the season and we’re a second-half team,” said freshman outside linebacker Lakota Wills, who led the Falcons with nine tackles at Nevada.
Another common threat in these games is they’ve all been close. The past three games were decided by plays in the final minute.
“I don’t think this team is making anybody younger,” said coach Troy Calhoun, whose team has followed a four-game losing streak by winning two straight.
The redemption tour's next stop is in Fort Collins, where Colorado State has won the past two meetings in the series.