Air Force tops UNLV 41-35 for 1st conference win
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Trailing at halftime had been a problem for Air Force this season. The Falcons were 0-4 in such games.
But that all changed Friday night when Isaiah Sanders accounted for four touchdowns to lead Air Force to a 41-35 win over UNLV.
The Rebels held a 21-20 lead at halftime, but Air Force (3-4, 1-3 Mountain West) wasted no time in jumping on a UNLV defense that has allowed 150 points and 1,672 yards in its last three games.
The Falcons, who ran up 572 yards of offense, scored 21 straight points in the third quarter to lead 41-21. The Rebels’ defense has allowed more than 500 yards in four of seven games this season.
Sanders completed 9 of 11 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 173 yards and three TDs.
“He played well, you could tell, just the grasp of the offense,” said Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, who became the second coach in Mountain West history with 50 conference wins. “Just the confidence and some of the skill, yet some of the will power at the end, some of the really, really sturdy and strong runs that he had today.”
Ronald Cleveland had three receptions for 100 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons. Cleveland has caught a pass in a team-best eight straight games, and 10 of his last 11.
The Falcons ended a four-game road losing streak and improved to 16-6 all-time against UNLV, including 8-4 in Las Vegas. Air Force has won three straight in the series, including its last two at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The Falcons held off a late rally by UNLV, which erased a 20-point deficit with 5:45 left in the third quarter by scoring 14 points in a row.
The Falcons stopped UNLV (2-5, 0-3) on fourth-and-8 with less than two minutes left in the game, as Max Gilliam’s pass to Darren Woods Jr. fell incomplete.
“It’s hard to win on the road,” Calhoun said. “It’s hard for us to win in this league, especially on the road, and that’s a credit to the opponent who we played, UNLV. At the same time, we might have made it a little bit more difficult than we needed to, though.”
Gilliam, who was making his third start in place of injured starter Armani Rogers, was 26-of-38 passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. The sophomore averaged 186.5 yards passing in his previous two starts for the Rebels, who rank 123rd nationally with just 123.7 yards per contest.
Lexington Thomas rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns for UNLV.
“We came out in the second half and did not play much better on defense until toward the end, created some turnovers,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “Offensively we did some good things. We had our opportunities though we sputtered at inopportune times. They fought their tail off for four quarters, they were down big, got themselves back in and gave themselves a chance to win at the very end. The bottom line is the execution wasn’t there.”
Air Force, which has the 106th-ranked offense in the nation, had no trouble moving the ball against UNLV, converting on its first seven possessions - two field goals and five touchdowns.
Air Force: The Falcons kept their bowl hopes alive by securing their third win of the season. After hosting preseason Mountain Division favorite Boise State next week, the Falcons close the season against Army, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado State, who have a combined record of 12-14.
UNLV: While the Rebels continue to struggle defensively, Thomas continues to climb the ladder as UNLV’s most successful running back. His 74-yard TD run was his second run of more than 70 yards this season, contributing to his 16th game with at least 100 yards rushing. He ranks second behind Mike Thomas on the all-time list for 100-yard games. Thomas (3,148) is two yards shy of passing Thomas (3,149) for career rushing yards. He is 586 shy of passing Tim Cornett (3,733) as the school’s all-time rushing leader.
Air Force: Hosts Boise State next Saturday
UNLV: Travels to San Jose State next Saturday