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Air Force notes: It's a game of firsts and bests for Air Force football

October 20, 2017 Updated: October 21, 2017 at 8:51 am
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photo - Air Force's Ronald Cleveland cuts back against Nevada's Marcus Lucas (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)
Air Force's Ronald Cleveland cuts back against Nevada's Marcus Lucas (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes) 

First-half touchdowns for fullback Taven Birdow and Garrett Amy were the first of their careers for Air Force.

The 118-yard rushing effort from slot receiver Ronald Cleveland was the first time he had gone over 100 in his career.

"I had 100 yards?" Cleveland asked afterward. "I didn't realize that."

Andrew Smith also notched his first catch on a forward option pitch that went for 6 yards. Smith, a junior receiver, had two carries for 2 yards in his career entering Friday.

Birdow's 20 carries and 100 yards marked career-bests for the sophomore.

Senior fullback Jacob Stafford set personal marks with 13 carries for 58 yards as well.

Freshman linebacker Lakota Wills set a career mark with nine tackles, leading the Falcons.

Falcons content to run out half

Air Force had an opportunity to stop the clock with less than two minutes left in the half when it stopped Nevada on a third-and-long play. The team had already outscored the Wolf Pack 21-6 in the quarter.

However, coach Troy Calhoun opted not to take a timeout and the Falcons didn't take possession until 46 seconds remained on the clock. They took a knee on two plays and went into the locker room with a 28-20 lead.

"I just thought more than likely when they punted the ball it was going to be down inside the 15-yard line," said Calhoun, correctly, as the Falcons took over at their 9. "I just thought, no, that might not fit where we were. And we had the ball coming out in the second half. We didn’t do anything with it, obviously, with the turnover. I just thought it was 28-20, we go into the half and we’ve got the drive. It didn’t work out that way."

Explaining the onside kick

Air Force took everyone by surprise in the second quarter by attempting and recovering an onside kick.

Here was Calhoun's explanation: "We just felt like there might be opportunity there. Obviously a little bit of element of surprise – one of the old 11 principles of warfare. We’re fortunate that we executed it really, really well. Good kick (by Luke Strebel) and good job by Zane (Lewis) there on the recovery."

Epic drive

Air Force converted two fourth-down attempts, including Arion Worthman's 1-yard touchdown, on a 20-play, 82-yard drive that gobbled up 9 minutes, 47 seconds of the third quarter.

The drive put the Falcons ahead 35-28. Immediately after it a rested Air Force defense forced Nevada into its lone three-and-out possession of the game.

The 20 plays and time of drive marked season highs.

Scoring streak continues

Air Force's increased its scoring streak to 305 games, which rank third among active streaks in the nation and fifth all-time in major college football.

Only Florida (367 games) and TCU (311) have longer streaks than the Falcons, which dates back to a 13-0 shutout at the hands of Mississippi in the 1992 Liberty Bowl.

Calhoun said the longevity of the streak can be attributed to a mindset that he compared to a baseball player who never gives up an at-bat. But it's something he gives little thought.

"I don't want to say you block it out, but it just doesn't help you in what you're trying to do as you move forward," he said.

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