Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels surrenders to Brad Roberts against the Army on November 6, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo / Tim Heitman)
Wednesday 17th November 2021
The Air Force Falcons have a great respect for the Nevada Wolf Pack.
“This is the most complete team we’ve played this season,” said Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, whose Falcons will face the wolf pack on Friday (6pm, Fox Sports One) in the final regular season game of the year. Stadion.
Air Force (7-3, 4-2) is still in the mix for the title in the Mountain Division of Mountain West with Utah State (8-2, 5-1) and Boise State (6-4, 4- 2). The wolf pack (7-3, 4-2), along with San Diego State (9-1, 5-1) and Fresno State (8-3, 5-2), are still not out of the West Division race. However, Calhoun said the wolf pack was worth playing for something higher than a mere Mountain West title.
“When you watch the movie, when you say Nevada is 10-0 and there is a discussion between you and Cincinnati (which is actually 10-0) about who is in the middle, who is in one of the six bowls of the new one Year, that’s what you see when you watch the video (from Nevada). “
Nevada is just a two-point favorite on Friday night despite Calhoun’s praise, despite a nine-game winning streak at Mackay Stadium that dates back to the last game of the 2019 regular season. That tight spread could be due to the Air Force’s 4-0 record on the road this year.
“Our focus is on the quality of the opponents we will play this week,” said Calhoun.
“Every single team we play against has a mindset that they can beat us and we have the ability to beat them,” said Chris Herrera, Air Force defensive lineman. “You can’t be too confident and you can’t be confident enough.”
The Air Force and Nevada haven’t met since 2018 when Nevada went to Colorado Springs and took home a 28:25 win. Quarterback Ty Gangi threw four touchdown passes for the pack that day and the Wolf Pack defense kept the Air Force’s option offensive to just 16 first downs and just under 29 minutes of ball possession time.
A lot has changed since 2018, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the offensive plans that will be seen Friday night. The pack is still executing the pass-based air raid while the Air Force is hoping to control the game with their onslaught in progress.
“I don’t know how we came up with it, but I saw in our (coaching) staff room that someone left a playbook and it said ‘1999 Oklahoma Offense, Mike Leach,'” Calhoun said, referring to one of them Founder and designer of the pack’s air raid offensive. “I just thought, ‘Okay, someone dug this up, I don’t know how or where.’ It made you laugh a little just because of the connection with what they’re doing aggressively. “
The pack leads Mountain West at 373.7 yards per game while the Air Force leads Mountain West (and the nation) at 311 yards per game.
“It’s going to be a real contrast in style,” said Nevada’s coach Jay Norvell.
Running back Brad Roberts leads the Air Force with 1,064 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns at 234 carries. That’s only 10 fewer carries, 420 yards more and three more touchdowns than the entire Wolf Pack team has on the ground. Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels has accumulated 643 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, injuring teams in the air, passing 909 yards and five touchdowns. Nevada quarterback Carson Strong has passed 3,547 yards and 28 touchdowns, 444 yards more and only three touchdowns less than the Air Force floor game produced this year.
“He does a great job of detecting cover and he knows immediately where the ball needs to go,” said Strong’s Calhoun. “We’ve played some really good ones (quarterbacks) in the past and there hasn’t been anyone better than Strong.”
The Air Force only allowed 287.5 yards per defense game this year, the best in Mountain West. The Falcons are also runner-up in the conference, allowing only 17.6 points per game. The Falcons are third in the league in pass defense, allowing only 184.2 yards per game and 10 touchdowns. Strong will play a series of six consecutive games of 300 yards or more through Friday night. He has 13 straight games with 200 yards or more.
The Air Force has not competed against Strong or Fresno State’s Jake Haener this year, the top two quarterbacks in Mountain West. Utah quarterbacks Logan Bonner and Andrew Peasley combined 448 yards and five touchdowns against the Falcons that year, while Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier scored 259 yards and one touchdown.
“They’re just honored to play against people (like Strong) who are going to play at the next level (NFL),” Herrera said.
Strong, who could be promoted to the NFL after this season, could play the last game of his career at Mackay Stadium on Friday. The pack will honor its 37 seniors on Friday’s Senior Night, though many of those seniors could return next year as the COVID-19 pandemic gave them an extra year of eligibility last year.
“You are extraordinarily old,” said Calhoun of the pack. “I don’t think I’ve ever looked through a roster and seen more seniors or GR’s than this team.”
Norvell and the Wolfpack are looking to end this season on a positive note after losing 23-21 to San Diego State last Saturday and 34-32 a month ago to Fresno State, seriously jeopardizing their hopes for the West Division title .
“Saturday night (in San Diego state) was a disappointment to say the least,” said Norvell. “But we have to go on.
“The Air Force is very, very well versed in what they do and how they play. They force you to play with a lot of detail and discipline. You’ve made a lot of people look bad over the years. “
One of those years was 2012 when the Air Force ran 461 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and controlled the clock for over 34 minutes in a 48-31 win against the Pack. That was nine years ago, but the Air Force still has the same trainer and will be doing the same offense this Friday night.
“You learn a lot from losses,” said Norvell, whose wolf pack lost 45:42 to the Air Force at Mackay Stadium in 2017, resulting in an alarming 550 yards and six touchdowns in 91 seemingly endless carries.
“It was a nightmare,” said Norvell.
Time of possession, Norvell said, will be key to both teams’ success on Friday.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are on the offensive,” he said. “If you don’t have the ball, you can’t score.”