If Jacobi Owens had to guess, he would have placed his rushing total at about 150 yards.
This was his first game, so those sort of estimating skills haven’t had time to develop.
In fact, Owens racked up 233 yards in his Air Force debut, a 44-16 sigh of relief over Nicholls State on Saturday at Falcon Stadium. The sophomore ran wild throughout an up-and-down first half, providing a stabilizing force for the Falcons as they worked out kinks on offense and defense before rattling off 35 consecutive points to bury their visitors from the Football Championship Subdivision.
“I was just trying to get as many yards as I could,” the sophomore tailback said shortly after the game. “It wasn’t until a couple of minutes ago that somebody told me what I had. I just knew I was tired.”
Owens had 171 yards by halftime and hit 200 with 11:42 remaining in the third quarter. His was the seventh-best single-game rushing performance in team history and the most yards for a player in his first start.
Air Force had struggled early, going three and out on its first two possessions as Nicholls State clogged the middle of the field. Once the Falcons started going to Owens on outside option pitches, everything changed.
“They got out on the perimeter on us with those tosses and got us out in space,” Nicholls State coach Charlie Stubbs said. “When you’re out there like that as defenders you’ve got to be tremendous tacklers and be able to get off blocks and we weren’t able to do that.”
The Falcons scored first when Weston Steelhammer picked up a sack in the end zone on a safety blitz. That set up a short field and a Garrett Brown touchdown for a 9-0 lead.
The Colonels, who defeated Western Michigan last year in one of three games they played up in classification, scored the next nine points and made things seem as though they might be scary for an Air Force team coming off a 2-10 season.
The Falcons’ defense tightened, forced punts on six consecutive possessions and this turned into the 19th straight blowout of an FCS opponent.
“I had no doubt that these dudes were going to come up here and play,” Air Force defensive tackle Nick Fitzgerald said. “But once they start getting pounded play after play they have to give up sooner or later. That’s what happened.”
Bolstered by Owens, the Air Force offense ran for 539 yards and outgained the Colonels 558-263.
Pretty much the only thing Owens didn’t do for the offense was find the end zone.
Devin Rushing scored twice and Garrett Brown, Shayne Davern, Broam Hart and Paco Solano each had touchdowns.
Air Force’s starters were finished by the end of the third quarter, with Nicholls State’s final points coming against reserves with 2 minutes, 37 seconds remaining.
“I thought we got a little stronger as the game went on,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Sometimes that happens as you’re trying to get a feel for how you play a game. It’s just not exactly the same as what you try to show them during practice.”