Air Force beats UNLV, snaps four-game skid

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- With Air Force closing in on the goal line, Shaun Carney took the snap, tried to hand off to the fullback and watched as the ball hit the ground.

Carney scooped the ball up and ran for a touchdown, part of a 42-7 win over UNLV on Saturday that snapped Air Force's four-game losing streak and showed that, indeed, the hard-luck Falcons really could get a break or two.

"I've never been yelled at so much for scoring a touchdown in my life," Carney said.

For obvious reasons, the yelling subsided as the day progressed.

Carney, the sophomore quarterback, ran for a career-high four touchdowns in a surprisingly easy win for the Falcons (3-4, 2-3 Mountain West). Carney went 6-for-7 for 74 yards and ran for 83 more to help Air Force overcome three turnovers and some sloppy play early en route to the blowout.

"We're on the right track now," Carney said. "We're finally where we need to be."

They were helped immensely by the Rebels (2-5, 1-3), who looked groggy for this 10 a.m. start -- committing a season-high 13 penalties for 88 yards and four turnovers, including two on kickoffs after Air Force touchdowns.

The Rebels also flew a pair of shotgun snaps 10 yards over quarterback Jarrod Jackson's head -- a few of the many embarrassing moments that led to a running game that netted 2 yards. Jackson finished 18-for-25 for 157 yards with two interceptions.

UNLV's only score came on a touchdown pass from one wide receiver to another. Tremayne Kirkland took a lateral from Jackson and hit Casey Flair for a 58-yard score after Flair had slipped behind the fooled defender. That trimmed the Air Force lead to

"We didn't do the things we needed to do today," coach Mike Sanford said. "We had some stupid plays. Some turnovers on special teams. It's amazing we had only 2 yards rushing. There's no excuse for that. We've got a long way to go."

One possession before the UNLV touchdown, Carney put a new spin on the Air Force triple option, losing the ball on the missed exchange and then scooping it back up for an 8-yard score to make it 14-0.

Of course, it wasn't quite the way coach Fisher DeBerry drew it up for the Falcons, but then again, nothing really has gone to plan at Air Force this year.

After winning its first two games, Air Force lost four straight. The first three dropped the Falcons out of contention for a conference title. Last week's loss to Navy, in which the Falcons blew a 10-point lead over the final 16 minutes, made them ineligible to win back the Commander In Chief's Trophy.

Air Force has to win three of its last four to avoid the first back-to-back losing seasons in DeBerry's 22 seasons at the Academy.

"I've never been more determined in my life to try to help these guys," DeBerry said. "I knew in time this would come. I really don't think this is the last time."

If Carney keeps playing this way, it probably won't be.

His first touchdown was an 11-yard score on a heady run. Carney appeared to be wrapped up, but spun out of a tackle, lost himself among a cadre of Falcons linemen and then followed them into the end zone.

In the third quarter, Carney scored another 11-yard TD. He got in again in the fourth on an option play from the UNLV 5.

It was part of a 316-yard effort on the ground for Air Force, which came in averaging 241 yards rushing but was getting overpowered by opposing offenses. The seven points and 217 yards Air Force allowed in this one, though, were both season bests.

"I don't care if you're playing the Sisters of the Poor, holding them to seven points when the way they score is on a trick play" is good, DeBerry said. "I don't think our defense was ever in trouble today."

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