Air Force vs. Nevada: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds Prediction
Can the Falcons Rebound Against the Wolf Pack?
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Cross Division Matchup: the Wolf Pack Come to the Springs
WEEK 4: Nevada Wolf Pack 2-2 (0-0) vs. Air Force Falcons 2-1 (0-1)
WHEN: Friday, September 23rd — 6:00 PM MT/5:00 PM PT
WHERE: Falcon Stadium (Colorado Springs)
WEATHER: Sunny, high of 74 degrees
RADIO: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, 104.3 the Fan in Denver; SIRIUS 388, SXM App 978
Jim Arthur (play-by-play), Jesse Kurtz (analyst)
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 4-2. Last Year the Falcons Defeated Nevada 41-39.
LAST WEEK: Air Force lost to Wyoming 17-14, while Nevada was shut out by Iowa 27-0.
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 22.2
FEI PROJECTION: (not yet released)
As the Wolf Pack and Falcons head into their Friday night matchup, both teams are coming off of disappointing losses from the prior week. Nevada was disposed of 27-0, by a largely offensively inept Iowa Hawkeyes team. Air Force on the other hand landed on the losing end of a very physical contest with Wyoming.
The major difference in these losses should be obvious though. Despite their offensive woes, Iowa is a team that was expected to beat Nevada. The Falcons however, were heavy favorites against the Cowboys, despite an extended spell of troubles when playing in Laramie. Losing as favorites and losing as underdogs bare the same consequence at the end of the day. Except that losing to a division foe has Air Force in the hole early, in Conference play.
Both teams are going to try and bounce back from week three losses, and record their first Conference wins of the 2022 campaign. If Troy Calhoun’s squad wants to even their Mountain West record, here are a few things that could go a long way in aiding them.
On to Nevada…
Let's take a the brief history of our matchup with the Nevada Wolfpack!https://t.co/elFucl9UOr
— History Of Air Force Football (@HistoryFalcon) September 18, 2022
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. REINFORCE THE TRENCHES
For the first time in a long while, the Air Force offensive line was pretty overwhelmed last week, against Wyoming. Things weren’t much better on the defensive line either. The single most contributing factor to last weeks loss was the Cowboys dominance at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball.
Against Nevada, the Falcons have to get back to form. In particular, in the run game. Despite last weeks dreadful performance on the ground (by Academy Standards), Air Force is still the countries leading rush offense. The offensive line has to put the Conference back on notice, that this is the baddest unit in the league. They need to do so at the expense of the Wolf Pack.
2. BEWARE THE AIR
A balanced offensive attack typically makes for a long day for the Air Force opposition. That still holds true against Nevada, but this is certainly a pass at your own risk game for Haaziq Daniels and the offense.
The Wolf Pack lead the country in takeaways with 11, seven of which have come by way of a ball-hawking secondary. Daniels, nor anyone else on the offense have thrown an interception for the Falcons to date. This would not be the game to break that streak.
The temptation to pass will be there, as Nevada has surrendered 273 yards per game through the air. But Air Force is not a yard amassing pass attack. They have to pick their spots.
3. BE A LINE STEPPER
Charlie Murphy famously described Rick James as a “habitual line stepper”, in Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories skit, on the Chappelle Show. Well I’m not suggesting the Falcons should accrue a mass of offsides penalties. But they should do their best to make some plays in the Nevada backfield, whenever possible.
Moreover, they must keep the Wolf Pack out of their own backfield. Nevada has accumulated as many sacks (nine) as the Falcons have tackles for loss. In that category, Ken Wilson’s defense has recorded 26 tackles behind the oppositions line of scrimmage to date. Getting behind the sticks is not in Air Force’s best interest.
𝐑𝐮𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐤𝐞𝐫 ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/zRyDDG8rQN
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 20, 2022
Nevada is going to be an interesting team as the season plays out. They won their first two games to start the year, before laying an egg in a head-scratching loss to Incarnate Word of the FCS. And although a loss to Iowa is generally excusable, those two back-to-back losses haven’t exactly inspired confidence in the Wolf Pack.
This is still no layup though. Nevada is not the pass crazy offense of recent years, they actually pose quite a balanced attack. With a commitment to run the ball, the Pack’s rush yard production on a per game basis (138 yards per game) nearly mirrors exactly what Air Force has surrendered (136 yards per game).
Even more compelling to this narrative, Air Force features the top pass defense in the conference (17th in the Country), whereas the rush defense is sixth (66th in the Country). Those two rankings are typically reversed. A lot of that has to do with the level of ineptitude exhibited in their oppositions passing game the first two weeks, along with some success running the ball against Air Force. Wyoming by contrast seemed to find little resistance throwing the ball when they needed to make a play.
The relenting in the rush defense, which has been historically strong for Air Force has aided in the misleading passing statistics. In fact, Wyoming exposed what to this point in the season appears to be a bit of an unknown, in the Falcons defensive line. They are going to have to be more stout upfront to stop a physical running tandem of Toa Taua and Devonte Lee. It appears that quarterback Nate Cox will return to the lineup as well, after playing just one snap against Iowa, due to injury. He too is a capable runner.
I know this seems like a lot of buildup, to ultimately land where a vast majority of games that Air Force plays, will be decided; On the (flat) backs of their offensive line. Their underwhelming performance against Wyoming was certainly the anomaly, not the norm. This unit has earned that benefit of the doubt, with their consistently strong performances over the years. They should be able to do a better job handling Nevada’s front, even with a stalwart on the line in Dom Peterson. Frankly, I expect them to be downright nasty after last weeks display.
Air Force 38, Nevada 24
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