Post Game Interviews
USAFA, Colo. –
Despite a valiant comeback, the Air Force Academy football team came up just short in a 28-25 defeat to the University of Nevada in Mountain West Conference action Saturday afternoon, Sept. 29, at Falcon Stadium. The Falcons (1-3, 0-2 MW) scored 15 unanswered points after trailing 28-10 early in the second half, but could not quite come all the way back.
Sophomore quarterback Donald Hammond III
was the catalyst for the offense, leading them on the comeback trail after taking over at QB in the second half. He finished with 71 yards and a TD pass through the air, while also adding 28 yards with a score on the ground. After totaling just the 24 yards in the first half, Air Force had 226 in the second half to finish with 250 total.
Senior wide out Marcus Bennett
finished as the leading receiver, totaling 52 yards on four receptions, including the touchdown catch, while sophomore running back Kaden Remsburg was the leading rusher on the day, notching 71 yards on 13 carries.
The highlight on the day defensively was a 99-yard interception return touchdown from junior defensive back Zane Lewis
. The wire-to-wire return for a score was the longest pick six in Academy history, and the second pick six on the season for Air Force. The Falcons now have a non-offensive touchdown in each of the four games this season.
Overall on the day, junior defensive back Jeremy Fejedelem
was the leading tackler, totaling 11 including eight solo, while senior linebacker Brody Bagnall
was not far behind, notching 10 total, seven solo.
Nevada came out firing on the first drive of the game, slicing their way into Air Force territory in eight plays to set up shop on the AF 45. Faced with a fourth and one, Nevada used a QB rush to get a new set of downs at the 40. On the very next play, the Wolf Pack struck for a 40-yard TD strike to complete the 75-yard drive and leap ahead 7-0.
Coming back the other way, Air Force converted a fourth and one of its own, that one coming on its own 34. Despite the conversion, they would be forced to punt three plays later. Both teams then traded two quick possessions each, and took the game into the second quarter of play.
Air Force held Nevada to a third-straight short drive to start the second quarter, and took over at its own 23. Nevada's defense continued to apply pressure, as they notched a strip sack on third and long, and appeared to take it in for a defensive touchdown, but after review the ball was ruled down at the one.
The review proved huge for the Falcons as penalties backed the Wolf Pack to the 20 yard line. Then, on an attempted pass to the end zone, Lewis jumped the route and picked the ball off at the one. With a convoy out in front of him, Lewis returned the interception all the way back for a 99-yard pick six. It was the longest interception returned for a touchdown in program history, breaking the previous high of 95 yards set back in 2001.
Nevada was undeterred on its ensuing drive, as they looked like they did on the opening possession, meticulously moving their way down field for a score. Seven plays and 80-yards later, the TD drive was capped off by a 29-yard pass to put the Wolf Pack back up, 14-7, with just under seven minutes to the half.
As AF's offense continued to sputter, Nevada kept its momentum up after regaining possession with 1:10 left in the second quarter in Air Force territory. Needing just four plays, Nevada used its third long touchdown pass of the first half, this time a 30-yard strike in the back corner of the end zone, to take the 14-point advantage, 21-7, into the locker room.
Starting with the ball to start the second half, Air Force was able to use three long rushes from senior wide receiver Ronald Cleveland
, as well as a long pass from senior quarterback Arion Worthman
to fellow senior wide receiver Andrew Smith
, to get into Nevada territory. The drive stalled from there, leading to a 43-yard field goal from junior kicker Jake Koehnke
to make the tally 21-10.
Nevada kept the offense rolling in their first possession of the second half, as they needed less than two minutes to go 75 yards for another long TD pass score, this one 23 yards, to maintain its steady lead, 28-10, early in the second half.
Both teams then traded fumbles on consecutive plays near midfield, setting up Air Force with the ball at their own 42, and with a new quarterback, Hammond III. The sophomore was poised as he led the Falcons on their longest drive of the game, marching 58 yards in 12 plays to put up their first offensive touchdown of the day, a two-yard pass from Hammond III to Bennett. Hammond III accounted for 40 of the 58 yards on the drive.
The 28-17 score held into the final quarter of play, and began with the Wolf Pack possessing the ball near midfield. Nevada was able to get into field goal range, attempting a 51 yarder, but the kick sailed wide right to give AF the ball back with 11:15 to play and an 11-point deficit.
Hammond III and the offense continued to move the ball with ease, as they methodically moved 67 yards in 11 plays, taking about four and a half minutes off the clock, to score its 13th unanswered point. Hammond III capped off the long drive with a thunderous nine-yard rush, but the two point try was unsuccessful, to keep it 28-23 with just under seven to play.
Nevada's ensuing possession went 35 yards and chewed up just under four minutes, but a fourth down stop at the AF 40 gave the Falcons the ball back, down five, with 2:55 to play. Three long passes in a row quickly got Air Force into the red zone, setting up shop at the 13. From there, however, Nevada's defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs after a Hammond III pass fell incomplete in the end zone. The Wolf Pack took over with 1:16 to play.
With two timeouts in its pocket, Air Force was able to force a three and out. Deep in its own territory, Nevada opted to run out of the back of the end zone for a safety, making it 28-25 with only 17 seconds left. After a return on the free kick to the AF 40, the Falcons had one last heave into the end zone, but it fell incomplete to seal the game.
The Falcons return to the field next Saturday, Oct. 6, for the first leg of the Commander in Chief's trophy when they host the Naval Academy. Kickoff against the Midshipmen is set for 1:30 p.m.