AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Nevada's upcoming bye comes at an opportune time.
The Wolf Pack surrendered a staggering 461 yards rushing and Stefphon Jefferson struggled in a 48-31 loss to Air Force on Friday.
"This was not a good effort," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "Don't get me wrong. The kids were trying, but we weren't close tonight. The defense is bitterly disappointed, too, but the bottom line is they just kept the ball all day and dominated the game with their offense."
Wes Cobb ran for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries in place of injured Cody Getz, leading Air Force to the win in the first meeting between the schools.
The Falcons (5-3, 4-1 Mountain West) snapped a four-game road winning streak by the Wolf Pack (6-3, 3-2) and held Jefferson to 93 yards on the ground — 63 below his nation-leading average — six days after surrendering a conference-record 338 yards to New Mexico's Kasey Carrier.
It was the most lopsided loss of the season for Nevada, which was coming off a 39-38 overtime setback against San Diego State last weekend. The Wolf Pack also lost 32-31 to South Florida in September.
"We've got a bye week and it's going to be a long week, no question about it," Ault said. "Now, the character of your team has got to rise. We have suffered two really tough defeats and this one we didn't deserve to win. They beat us in every way they could beat us."
Added tight end Zach Sudfeld: "It's pretty devastating. We let one loss turn into two. We've got to stay up. We need to improve as we go forward for the rest of the season."
Jefferson began the day as the nation's top rusher by a whopping 17 yards per game, but it was the Falcons who ran wild on this bitterly cold night. Jon Lee had 10 carries for 96 yards, and Ty MacArthur gained 76 yards on the ground. Quarterback Connor Dietz rushed for 68 yards, including a 1-yard score, and threw two long touchdown passes while going 6 for 7 for 139 yards.
The Falcons limited Johnson to 22 yards on nine first-half carries and carried a 31-21 lead into the locker room after scoring on five of their six drives.
"Air Force put a lot of pressure on us," said Cody Fajardo, who was 15 of 27 for 211 yards with a touchdown and an interception. "They blitzed on almost every play. Any time they're doing that, you've got to throw the ball and loosen them up and I struggled a bit throwing tonight and that hurt the team."
Air Force turned the ball over on its first possession of the second half and Jefferson made them pay with a 21-yard TD run following linebacker Dray Bell's recovery of Lee's fumble at midfield.
But Cobb, who topped his old career high of 83 yards set last year against Colorado State, restored the Falcons' 10-point cushion with a 1-yard TD run.
"They came out ready to go and we came out flat and we weren't able to come back in the second half like we did in a couple of games this season," Nevada linebacker Albert Rosette said. "They were doing a good job of getting guys on us (to block), but I think they just played harder than us and out-efforted us. We've got to go in to this bye week and heal up. We've just got to get back to the basics, get back to work and get this thing figured out. We can get this ship righted."
The Wolf Pack had to settle for Allen Hardison's short field goal after their drive stalled inside the Air Force 10, and his 26-yarder on the first snap of the fourth quarter made it 38-31.
Dietz's 1-yard keeper gave the Falcons a two-TD cushion, their largest of the game, with 9½ minutes left.
Nevada defensive back Duke Williams made two big plays that had the Falcons on their heels in the opening minutes.
First, he tackled Dietz for a 19-yard loss after a high snap, forcing the Falcons to try a 45-yard field goal. Parker Herrington, just 1 for 6 coming in, converted the attempt, matching his career long with his first field goal since Sept. 8 at Michigan.
Williams recovered Dietz's fumble at the Air Force 35 on the ensuing series, and Fajardo's 1-yard keeper gave the Wolf Pack a 7-3 lead.
The Falcons responded by scoring touchdowns on their next four possessions.