AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Jacobi Owens was a little bit queasy before his first start. Just nerves.
He was a little bit dazed when it was over. Outright shock at what he accomplished.
The sophomore tailback rushed for 233 yards in his Air Force debut and Devin Rushing scored two short touchdowns, helping the Falcons beat Nicholls 44-16 on Saturday for their 19th straight win over a team from the Football Championship Subdivision.
Owens had no idea how many yards he was accumulating or how many records he was breaking on his way to a memorable afternoon. When he was asked what he thought his total was, he conservatively guessed 150. He had that mark surpassed by halftime.
"To hear 233, it was a surprise," the speedy Owens said. "When they told me, I was like, 'What? I didn't have that much. You guys are lying.'"
No lying, Owens' output was the most ever by a Falcons player making his first start, surpassing the mark of 218 set by Cody Getz in 2012. It's also the seventh-most yards in a game all-time at a school known for its vaunted ground game.
Owens averaged 10.1 yards per carry as he danced around and through Nicholls defenders. He emerged as the primary ball carrier after a big game in the spring and this did nothing but cement his hold on the position.
"I thought Jacobi ran with some thrust and power," said Falcons coach Troy Calhoun, who won his 50th career game at the Academy.
Owens felt a little sick to his stomach before the game. He usually does before a big game.
"As soon as I got hit, though, it was time to go," said Owens, who's from Las Vegas and had his family in for the game. "Feeling more hyped than queasy."
Air Force finished with 539 yards rushing, the team's highest total since 2011.
The Colonels kept up with Air Force for just over a quarter before fading. They were beaten 72-0 by the Falcons to start the 2009 season.
It didn't help that Nicholls lost starting center Brandon Holmes to an injury earlier in the week and then his backup, Ashton Duhe, to a hand injury in the first half. The Colonels had to rely on their third-string snapper.
"We're battered and bruised," said coach Charlie Stubbs, whose team plays at Arkansas next week. "We did some good things I feel like we can build on. We're very thin personnel-wise. Eventually, the fatigue and the other conditions took their toll, and we were patching it together at the end."
Kale Pearson was back at quarterback for Air Force after suffering a torn right ACL in the season opener a year ago. He made all the right reads in the option offense to give Owens & Co. plenty of room to run. Pearson rushed for 46 yards as the Falcons improved to 8-0 in openers under Calhoun.
"Feels great to be back," Pearson said. "Took a couple of shots (on the knee) from the outside and it felt good.
"Good for Jacobi in his first game. He's got all the confidence in the world now."
Garrett Brown, Broam Hart, Shayne Davern and Paco Solano also scored TDs for the Falcons. Davern is making the switch from linebacker to fullback this season.
The Colonels kept up with Air Force early on, tying the game at 9-apiece on a 37-yard field goal by Francisco Condado with 13:20 left in the second quarter.
That's when the Falcons snapped out of their offensive doldrums, scoring 35 straight points to coast to the win.
The Air Force defense certainly did its part with Weston Steelhammer getting the Falcons on the board early by sacking Kalen Henderson in the end zone for a safety in the first quarter.
Henderson didn't have much time to throw all day and was sacked four times. The senior threw for 136 yards and ran for 1 yard on 12 attempts.
"We couldn't stay in rhythm, because they were pressuring us so much," Stubbs said.
Nicholls fell to 3-21 against FBS schools since 2001. The Colonels beat Western Michigan last season with Henderson at the helm.
Tobias Lofton scored an 18-yard TD for Nicholls when he broke through the line and went untouched into the end zone late in the first quarter. The Colonels added another in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when backup QB Beaux Hebert connected with Darryl Watson II for a 10-yard score.
"It's just a few things we need to work out," Henderson said. "We'll get together and be fine later in the season."
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Posted on Sun, August 31, 2014
by PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer