Air Force coach Troy Calhoun expressed disappointment in the Falcons’ offensive performance in Saturday’s 33-14 loss to Rice in the Armed Forces Bowl at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Air Force managed just 53 yards on 23 plays in the second half (2.3 per snap), when the Falcons (6-7) were outscored by a 26-0 margin. Air Force finished with 12 first downs, its fewest of the season, and managed just 166 rushing yards against Rice (7-6), which entered the game ranked 91st among the nation’s 120 FBS schools in rushing defense. Air Force was second in rushing offense, averaging 328.8 yards per game on the ground, but was not physical enough in the trenches Saturday to handle Rice’s larger linemen.
“We struggled,” said Calhoun, who tried two different quarterbacks (Connor Dietz, Kale Persson) in effort to jump-start the team’s option attack. “We have to increase our size (in the offensive line). Where objects collide, you start going in other directions instead of … (having) a chance for execution. Just the mass difference … we’ve got to come up with a way to change that part.”
OTHER GAME-RELATED NOTES BELOW ...
Game honorees: Rice receiver Taylor Jordan (9 catches, 153 yards, 3 TDs) was selected as the Owls’ most outstanding player in the contest. Air Force linebacker Austin Niklas (game-high 14 tackles, two TFLs) received the honor for the Falcons.
Penalty problems: In a rare role reversal, Air Force was the most penalized team in Saturday’s game (5 penalties, 45 yards). Rice had 35 penalty yards on five stepoffs. During the regular season, Air Force had the fewest penalties (39) and fewest penalty yards per game (24.7) among FBS schools.
Record setter: By connecting on two field goals and two extra points, Rice kicker Chris Boswell became the school’s all-time leader in kick scoring with 270 points. Boswell, a junior, is a Keller Fossil Ridge graduate.
Looking ahead: Based on existing contracts, Navy will make its debut in next season’s Armed Forces Bowl as long as the Midshipmen become bowl-eligible. Bowl officials have signed agreements with Navy to play in the 2013 and 2016 games, with Army slated to play in Fort Worth in 2014 and 2017. Both academies must meet the six-win minimum in each of those seasons to accept bowl berths.
Air Force, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, could be paired against Navy in next year’s contest although bowl officials consider that possibility unlikely because the teams will play during the 2013 regular season. Navy is the lone service academy that has yet to appear in the Armed Forces Bowl during the game’s first 10 seasons.
Positive feedback: Both coaches said they were more than impressed by the remodeling job done at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium, which played host to its first Armed Forces Bowl since 2009. The 2010 and 2011 games were moved to SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas to allow for renovations at TCU. After competing in the remodeled facility, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said he marveled at how much the facility changed “so rapidly and yet in a first-class way” since the Falcons last played there during a regular-season contest in 2010. Rice coach David Bailiff, a former TCU assistant, said the renovation “gives you the ‘wow’ effect of walking into an NFL venue.”
Briefly: Officials announced a ticket distribution of 40,754, which included 13,000 complimentary tickets for active and retired military personnel.
Kickoff temperature was 30 degrees (25 degree wind chill), second-coldest in the game’s 10-year history. The 2004 contest, a night game, started with a 28 degree temperature and 15 degree wind chill.
James Holbrook, a retired corpsman second class in the U.S. Navy, received a mortgage-free home from the non-profit Military Warriors Support Foundation at halftime. Holbrook, a San Antonio resident, received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Afghanistan in 2007.
_ Jimmy Burch