Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
At that point, the Rebels held a 17-14 lead in a game where they were listed as 19-point underdogs and had a little momentum going after the Falcons lost a fumble to open the second half at Sam Boyd Stadium.
UNLV hasn't had many opportunities to go for an opponent's jugular in 2010, and Hauck saw one right in front of him.
The call — a power run up the gut — didn't pan out, and Air Force pounced, scoring three more touchdowns to run away with a 35-20 victory on Thursday night.
"I'd probably still do it again, if anybody wanted to ask," Hauck said in his postgame press conference. "With their style of offense, we had a chance to put them down two scores. A field goal puts us up six if we in fact make it; our last (extra point try) had been shaky, and I just thought it was the right thing to do.
"It was about trying to get up by two scores and put a little pressure on them, because we'd played well to that point. But we'd played well because we'd been able to keep the ball and stay ahead of the game a little bit."
The fact that the Rebels (2-9 overall, 2-5 Mountain West) were able to stay ahead of the Falcons (8-4, 5-3) to that point was impressive by itself, considering that they essentially handed Air Force's first score over to them.
On the game's opening drive, senior quarterback Omar Clayton's first pass attempt went through the hands of junior receiver Phillip Payne, turning into an interception that was taken back to inside UNLV's 10-yard line.
Air Force scored a touchdown three plays later, but UNLV answered with an impressive 11-play, 62-yard drive capped by a Tim Cornett 2-yard touchdown plunge.
The Falcons were unable to strike back, as Nathan Walker's fumble inside the UNLV five-yard line set up the drive that would help the Rebels take control of the game's pace.
Over the next 10 minutes of game time, consuming chunks of the first and second quarters, they went 83 yards over 21 plays. Though the drive was ended with a 32-yard Nolan Kohorst field goal, it definitely threw the Falcons' no-huddle, run-oriented attack into a funk.
When Air Force fumbled on the second half's third play, Hauck knew that his best chance to keep the chips in his corner was to gamble big on fourth down.
After the run play fell about a yard short of the sticks, Air Force junior Tim Jefferson, playing with a broken nose suffered last Saturday against New Mexico, took charge.
The Falcons would end up posting 169 of their 343 rushing yards in the third quarter alone, including a crippling 54-yard scoring run by receiver Jonathan Warzeka that gave them the lead for good at 21-17.
"Those guys have a weird way of breaking off scores out of nowhere," Clayton said. "They do what they do and they make it work for them. They have to get at least one of those every game ... at least every time I've played them.
"It was on us to keep scoring to keep the game competitive."
Though the Rebels couldn't ultimately keep up in the shootout, the night was far from ugly in the final home game for 19 seniors.
Clayton, after the ball out of Payne's hands that went for a pick, was 18-of-29 for 224 yards and a score.
UNLV picked up 18 first downs, totaled 337 yards of offense, held the ball for 30:21 and was 10-of-15 on third downs.
The defense made some big plays in the first half and looked spry, but as Air Force took over in the second half, the Rebels simply didn't have enough gas left to last.
Against the fast-paced option attack of the Falcons', few do. In the end, 62 of Air Force's 71 plays were of the run variety.
Jefferson, on top of a 7-of-9 passing performance with 111 yards and a TD toss, ran for a modest 64 yards and three scores on 16 carries.
"They're awfully good running the ball," Hauck said. "I thought as the game wore on, we don't have a ton of guys to go to and it's tiring when they keep hammering the fullback, pulling it, cutting you, getting you on the ground. It's a hard offense to play against. As the plays mount, it's difficult."
What was encouraging for the season-low 13,790 fans who turned out, though, was that UNLV appears poised to avoid going in the tank with two tough road tests still left.
"It's encouraging that we're doing things better on offense and defense, and we're showing some improvement," Clayton said. "We just need to continue to work on that and try to get a win next week."