Josh Stoner had two thoughts as he streaked down the sideline on a 43-yard run for Air Force on Friday night.
First, what kind of move was he going to put on San Jose State defensive back Nehemi Shelton, who had the angle on the junior tailback?
The second thought?
“I was just like, ‘Wow, I’m actually in this position right now,” Stoner thought.
Air Force blew out San Jose State on Friday night, washing away the taste from a loss at Boise State and entering preparations for Navy on a high note.
It has taken longer than Stoner or Air Force would have hoped.
Always regarded as a talented prospect in the backfield, nagging injuries have limited Stoner’s production throughout his career. He finally opened this season in the rotation and carried five times for 56 yards in the opener against Colgate.
But he was injured again in that game, didn’t appear against Colorado and then ran once for 9 yards at Boise State.
On Friday, his one carry came on that 43-yard gain to the left side against San Jose State. Sprinting toward the sideline after taking a pitch, he stopped, cut up field and found himself out in the open.
“I think it gives him confidence, knowing he can plant on his feet and run behind his pads, because he does have good power and strength,” coach Troy Calhoun said.
Stoner has carried seven times this year for 108 yards, 15.4 yards per attempt.
“Just going through a lot of injuries, it’s just fun to help to help the team out any way I can,” he said. “When I get to make a run like that it’s just real fun.”
It would seem just a bit more of that in a backup role is all the Falcons (3-1, 1-1 Mountain West) need from Stoner, as starting tailback Kade Remsberg is on pace for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns and averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Remsberg would be Air Force’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Jacobi Owens in 2015 if he keeps the pace.
But he might be even more effective if Stoner can remain healthy and take more of the reps, allowing Remsberg to remain more fresh at the end of games.
Oh, by the way, Stoner opted to go for the simplest potential route for the end zone — directly through Shelton. Apparently three years of dancing around with injuries and competition were enough for Stoner.
“I just tried to run him over,” he said after being tackled at the 2-yard line in Air Force’s 41-24 victory — Christian Mallard scored on the next play. “He made a great play, though. Good by him.”