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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 8:05 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (30,000) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: AF 1-2, Nevada 2-0. Away Record: AF 0-1, Nevada 0-2. Neutral Record: AF 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: AF 0-3, Nevada 1-0. Series Record: Air Force leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: For the first time ever, the Nevada Wolf Pack plays host to the Air Force Falcons this weekend as the two Mountain West Conference foes collide at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
The Pack have split the first four games on their schedule, with the good news being that the squad has picked up a pair of wins in as many opportunities at home. In addition to a 36-7 beating of UC Davis earlier this month at Mackay Stadium, Nevada played a similar game on Sept. 21 by topping Hawaii in the conference opener, 31-9.
While there are still a handful of teams in the MWC that are still waiting to vie for that first league win, Air Force has already battled in three conference bouts. Unfortunately, the Falcons have come up short in each one of those league outings, the most recent of which being a 56-23 loss to Wyoming at home last weekend.
Since opening the season with a sizeable win over Colgate (38-13), the Falcons have been in a downward spiral with three straight defeats, by a combined score of 150-63.
Air Force won the only previous matchup between these two programs a season ago in Colorado, 48-31.
The Academy actually scored the first points of the night on a 33-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Jaleel Awini and then led 10-7 late in the first quarter before the Wyoming offense kicked into gear. Awini, who hit on 11- of-18 pass attempts for 89 yards, was second on the team with 68 rushing yards as the group generated 346 yards and a pair of scores on the ground, but it was not nearly enough to hold off a Cowboys group that produced a staggering 622 yards of total offense.
Joey Nichol was credited with a game-high 12 tackles against Wyoming, logging 1.5 tackles for loss, but still the Cowboys had their way with the Falcons. Nichol now has 42 stops overall.
Outside of the effort against Colgate, the Falcons have been beaten up rather severely every time out this season, resulting in the team being ranked 117th in the country in total defense, permitting a hefty 508.0 ypg. The same can be said for the points allowed (40.8 ppg), which is also 117th in the nation at the moment.
Awini, who has stepped in for an injured Kale Pearson who is now lost for the season with a knee injury, has yet to throw a touchdown pass, but at least he isn't afraid to put the ball in the air, having already let fly with 42 throws, of which half have been reeled in by Air Force players.
Again, one of the top rushing teams in the country, Air Force is producing 276.2 ypg on the ground, averaging five yards per carry and reaching the end zone 10 times.
Without an injured Cody Fajardo, the Wolf Pack turned to freshman signal caller Tyler Stewart to lead them to the victory over visiting Hawaii in Reno on Saturday. Stewart connected on 14-of-20 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns, dealing with three sacks along the way as the Pack moved to 2-2 on the season by opening up the Mountain West Conference slate on a positive note. Kolby Arendse reeled in four passes for 77 yards and two of those touchdowns for the Pack, while linebacker Alex Bertrando contributed to the win with a two-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the hosts.
Nevada logged a pair of fumble recoveries and four interceptions, two of those picks coming from Markus Smith. Also grabbing the spotlight on defense was Brock Hekking who forced two fumbles, made an interception and tallied three sacks. For his efforts, Hekking was named the MWC Defensive Player of the Week.
With Fajardo listed as questionable for this weekend and fellow signal caller Devin Combs expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, Stewart could be back under center for the Pack again this week. If that's the case, wide receiver Brandon Wimberly will have to take his game to another level in order to provide a threat down the field. The same goes for Richy Turner who is averaging 12.5 yards per catch.
Awini is getting more and more comfortable running the Air Force offense, which gives the Falcons an advantage in that department if Fajardo is not available for the Wolf Pack. Still, being at home should give Nevada an edge, enough to get the team over the top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 31, Air Force 21
09/25 10:30:27 ET
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