Twice now, Taven Birdow has entered as a midgame replacement for Air Force and has shown the ability to carry the load at fullback.
Perhaps the sophomore’s future appearances will not come in relief.
“I feel like that’s what you’ve got to do,” said the 6-foot-1, 220 pound bruiser from Altus, Okla., “Once you get your opportunity you just do what you can. That’s just my goal, whenever I get the chance is to do whatever I can to prove I should be in there.”
Birdow ran 20 times for 100 yards and his first career touchdown in a 45-42 victory at Nevada on Friday. This was three weeks after he carried 12 times for 50 yards in his first extended action in a loss at New Mexico. Both appearances came after starter Parker Wilson left with injuries.
Birdow now has 160 yards on 36 carries this season.
“I thought the best thing that Taven did was run with more power and thrust in the second half than he did in the first half,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “Part of that is playing, getting into the groove of a game. And this is the first game he’s had a good number of snaps.”
Birdow wasn’t alone in getting some chances at fullback. Senior Jacob Stafford ran 13 times for 58 yards and was trusted to run it five of the final seven plays as Air Force milked the clock and prepared for the game-winning field goal that was kicked as time expired.
The three fullbacks combining for 166 yards on 36 carries was a major factor in Air Force compiling five drives of 10-plus plays and building a 41:20 to 18:40 edge in time of possession against the Wolf Pack.
For Birdow, who had 13 carries in the second half, this was a throwback to his prolific days when he was the state Player of the Year in Oklahoma as a senior with 2,472 rushing yards.
“I’m not used to 20 carries,” he said. I haven’t done since high school. … That’s what we want to do. We want the ball and (to) be able to just grind it out yard by yard, inch by inch. That’s our goal is just to control the clock and have the ball the whole time.
“That’s what we’re built for. That’s what a fullback is built for. Just grind it out. Hard yards.”