Davern’s touchdown lifts Air Force over Nevada in overtime
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Struggling to contain Nevada’s offense throughout regulation, Air Force’s defense made its stand in overtime.
Shayne Davern ran for two touchdowns, including the decisive score in overtime, and Air Force finally fended off Nevada’s high-scoring attack to beat the Wolf Pack 45-38 on a snowy Saturday for its fourth win in a row.
“It was win or go home right there and we were able to stand tall,” said Air Force safety Weston Steelhammer, whose fourth-quarter interception merely blunted Nevada’s offense, which came back to kick a game-tying field goal.
Kale Pearson matched his career high with three touchdown passes, two to Jalen Robinette, and ran for a key fourth-quarter score for Air Force (8-2, 4-2 Mountain West), helping the Falcons remain unbeaten in five games at home this season.
Don Jackson ran for 123 yards and three touchdowns for Nevada (6-4, 3-3), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
The Wolf Pack also lost wide receiver Hasaan Henderson to injury. Henderson had just made a 6-yard catch late in the fourth quarter and was brought down hard on a field partially covered with snow. He lay motionless and the game was stopped for several minutes while medical personnel tended to him. He was strapped to a backboard, lifted gingerly onto a gurney and wheeled off the field. After the game, Henderson was awake and alert.
“In the grand scheme of things that is the absolute best we could expect,” Polian said.
The game included five ties, the last on a 22-yard field goal by Brent Zuzo amid snow flurries with 12 seconds remaining in regulation.
Air Force weathered a fumble by Devin Rushing that was recovered by offensive lineman Andrew Ruechel en route to a touchdown on its opening overtime possession. Davern bulled into the end zone from 3 yards out.
Nevada’s OT possession ended when Cody Fajardo, dodging pressure, saw his fourth down pass fall incomplete, sailing over the head of Richy Turner.
“We hadn’t stopped them the whole game and it was now or never,” Air Force linebacker Jordan Pierce said. “Our offense had fortunately gotten into the end zone and it was our time to stop them.”
Nevada pulled into a 28-all deadlock on Jackson’s third touchdown run of the day, a 1-yarder with 14:26 remaining in regulation.
After coming up short on a third-and-1 play from the Nevada 4, Air Force settled for 23-yard field goal by Will Conant with 10:23 remaining. Nevada’s Fajardo responded by leading a 75-yard drive ending in a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jerico Richardson and the Wolf Pack went in front 35-31 midway through the fourth quarter.
That was time enough for Air Force to mount another touchdown drive, this time with Pearson, who ran for 109 yards, taking a quarterback sweep around the right side, slipping a couple tackles and scoring from 16 yards out with 4:13 remaining for a 38-35 lead.
The Pack seemed to play from behind most of the day.
Nevada evened the score at 21 midway through the third quarter when Jackson burst through the middle of Air Force’s defense en route to a 32-yard touchdown.
The Wolf Pack seemed poised for another score after the ensuing kickoff, in which Zuzo recovered his own surprise onside kick.
But Jackson was stuffed for a loss on a fourth-and-1 play, and Air Force took over on downs at its 44. Pearson converted a fourth-and-1 play with a 2-yard burst to the 25 and tossed a scoring pass, his third of the day, to Garrett Brown on the next play as Air Force regained the lead 28-21 late in the third quarter.
The Falcons led 21-14 at halftime after Pearson ran for 21 yards to set up a 1st and goal at the 10 before shaking off pressure up the middle to loft his second scoring pass of the day to Robinette with 8 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Pearson finished off the game’s opening drive with his first 6-yard touchdown pass to Robinette and Davern ran 1 yard for a touchdown around two second quarter scores by the Wolf Pack.
The Wolf Pack evened the score at 7 after Fajardo broke loose for a 53-yard run, setting up his 25-yard scoring pass to Henderson moments later.
Jackson’s 1-yard, fourth-down run at the end of another long march by Nevada tied the game at 14-all in the second quarter.