Plays of the gameWith Nevada driving for a potential game winning touchdown or game tying field goal, Air Force safety Weston Steelhammer made brilliant play on a Cody Fajardo pass intended for Richy Turner. The wind caught hold of the pass, causing it to float a little, Steelhammer came flying over to the sideline, made a leaping catch in front of Turner and came down with the ball. On replay, it appeared the ball may have hit the ground as he came down with it but there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it on review.
Hassan Henderson's leaping catch with a little less than 3 minutes remaining and collision with Air Force's Justin DeCoud was was an amazing play all by itself. Henderson fell to the ground in a heap, reportedly unconscious, but held onto the ball. He then lay motionless for nearly 15 minutes while trainers and medical personnel attended to him. For a team that is as close knit as the Wolf Pack team, it had to be emotionally draining to sit there in the cold for 15 long minutes while of their teammates appeared to be so seriously injured. Three plays later, Fajardo's pass was intercepted by Steelhammer at the Air Force 41 yard line. The Wolf Pack would get another shot to win the game, but the injury to Henderson seemed to take a little out of the team. [UPDATE] Henderson was reported to be awake, talking and moving all of his limbs but was held over night in Colorado.
As time was running out in regulation, Nevada had the ball 3rd and six on the Air Force seven yard line. Jerico Richardson caught the ball at the first down marker and his forward progress appeared to be enough for the first down, stopping the clock and giving the Wolf Pack the ball 1st and goal on the four. The sideline judge rushed to spot the ball and appeared to be heading to spot it at the four but adjusted his trajectory as he got to the ball. The officials ending up spotting the ball about the four and a half yard line, bringing up 4th down, forcing Nevada to burn its last time out and ultimately kick the game tying field goal rather than take a couple of shots into the end zone to win the game in regulation. To add insult to injury, Nevada ran a hurry up play that appeared to give them Wolf Pack a first down but the officials blew the play dead to review the spot.
Players of the gameQB Cody Fajardo
People can always point to errant passes or interceptions, even Fajardo will admit to some passes he would like back, but you can't forget all the plays he makes leading up to those. Fajardo finished the game with 275 yards passing on 24-of-36 for two touchdowns and one interception, as well as 100 yards on 11 carries on the ground. He also had a couple spectacular scramble plays and a read option play that went for 53 yards.
LB Jordan Dobrich
Dobrich finished with a career-high 16 tackles and seemed to be in on nearly every play on defense.
DT Rykeem Yates
Yates finished with eight tackles, three tackles for loss and his forced fumble during overtime would've been the play of the game had Nevada been able to recover it.
RB Don Jackson
Don Jackson rushed for over 100 yards for the first time this season, finishing with 123 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns.
Stat of the gameZero. Nevada's defense failed to cause a turnover for the first time in 22 straight games. The Wolf Pack defense has surrendered yards this year but has made plays by causing turnovers or tightening up in the red zone. Against the Falcons rushing attack, the Wolf Pack was never able to come up with that game changing play. They came tantalizingly close in overtime. On TKL from the TKL, (Nevada player) stripped the ball, but (Air Force player) was able to fall on the ball. It was a play that would've likely sealed a win for the Wolf Pack as Nevada would've needed only a field goal in their overtime possession to win the game. Instead, Air Force scored a touchdown TKL plays later.
Final ThoughtsAs Coach Polian said, Nevada didn't play well enough to win, especially on defense. They surrendered 356 yards on the ground, allowed Air Force a 60% third-down conversion rate and failed to prevent the Falcons from scoring once in the Red Zone.
The capper is how close this Nevada team has been in all of its losses this season, they just have not gotten the 50/50 balls or calls. With a few more bounces or calls going Nevada's way, this could easily be a one loss team.
Now, the Wolf Pack need to quickly shake this one off and get focused on visiting Fresno State as it's now a must win game for both teams. The Western division's Mountain West conference championship game birth is on the line.
Neil Henderson can be reached via Twitter.