Mark Reis / The Colorado Springs Gazette
Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 | 9:12 p.m.
After watching his team drop its 15th consecutive road game with another lopsided loss, 45-17, at Air Force, UNLV coach Bobby Hauck summed up the state of Rebels football in one simple sentence.
"Right now it's a matter of we're not good enough to win, and we need to do better," Hauck said.
The Rebels (2-8, 1-4) actually hung with the Falcons (6-5, 2-4) for much of the first half, trailing only 14-10 after a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Caleb Herring capped an impressive 16-play, 80-yard drive midway through the second quarter.
But then it was just a case of too much Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson and running back Asher Clark and way too little Rebel defense the rest of the way.
Jefferson, listed as questionable most of the week after suffering a concussion in a Nov. 12 loss to Wyoming, completed 7 of 12 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 81 yards and another TD in just three quarters of action while Clark gained a career-high 169 yards on just 15 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run around right end just before halftime that increased Air Force's lead to 21-10.
Clark's TD started a 31-0 scoring run by Air Force, which led 45-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter and substituted freely in the final quarter.
Air Force finished with 522 yards in total offense, including 394 yards rushing, while UNLV had just 259 total yards.
"It was a pretty good game early on but they seemed to have answers to everything we did and we just weren't able to hold up to their pressure," Hauck said.
The Rebels, despite losing starting tailback Dionza Bradford in the first quarter to an arm injury, ran the ball effectively, finishing with 227 rushing yards, including 104 yards by on 19 carries by sophomore Tim Cornett and 82 yards and a touchdown by third-stringer Bradley Randall. But quarterback Caleb Herring, who sat out last week's 21-14 loss while recovering from a concussion, struggled badly again, completing just 6 of 14 passes for 41 yards and an interception. Herring was only 2 of 6 for 5 yards in the first half, and misfired badly on several throws.
"Our guys ran hard and we played the run game decently up front but we continue to struggle with the throwing game," Hauck said. "We know we're not going to outrush them so we have to throw and we just couldn't do that."
Meanwhile, Jefferson, who was officially cleared to play prior to kickoff, was sharp both throwing and running the ball. The Falcons scored on six of the eight drives that he quarterbacked — he would have been a perfect 8-for-8 if not for two missed field goals by Parker Herrington — en route to his 27th career win as a starter. That ranks him No. 3 in Mountain West history behind only former TCU star Andy Dalton (42) and BYU's Max Hall (32).
"TJ was able to go through most of the workouts this week and we got complete clearance for him before the game," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "We seem to have guys that just have a way to rejuvenate the team and it was good to get some of those guys back for tonight's game."
The Falcons need to win at Colorado State (3-7, 1-4) next weekend to become bowl eligible.
UNLV, meanwhile, returns home to host San Diego State on Nov. 26. The Rebels get one more shot — make that one more very long shot — to snap their road losing streak this season when they travel to conference champion TCU (9-2, 6-0) for their season finale on Dec. 3.