Academy falls to Rice in Armed Forces Bowl

  • Published
  • By John Van Winkle
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
The Air Force Academy fell 33-14 to Rice University in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl today.

Rice University used a combination of size, speed and better execution to dominate the second half and end the Falcons season with a loss.

After a few initial three-and-outs, Rice mounted its first sustained drive to score when quarterback Taylor McHargue connected with receiver Jordan Taylor from 16-yards out in the corner of the end zone to go up 7-0.

McHargue would later go with a concussion and not return. Air Force also switched out under center, pulling senior quarterback Connor Dietz in the second quarter in favor of sophomore Kale Pearson, hoping to spark a offense that can stay on the field for more than three consecutive plays.

"We came into the game expecting both guys to play for us at quarterback," said Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun. "Kale played well for us in the second quarter."

Pearson commanded the Falcons' first sustained drive of the game and ended the series with a 9-yard run around the right to tie the game at 7-all. The Falcons took the lead a few series later when senior running back Wes Cobb dove in from a yard out for the Falcons' second touchdown. Kicker Parker Herrington added the extra point, giving the Falcons a 14-7 lead. The Owls evened the score before the half, and took control of the game from that point on, keeping the Falcons out of the end zone and on their heels for the remainder of the game. Rice would score four times in the second half to mount and sustain a 33-14 lead until time ran out.

"At every single spot, we didn't play well enough in the second half to win a game," said Calhoun.

On offense, the Falcons would end the day converting only four of 14 third downs, and one of two on fourth down. Two critical turnovers in the fourth quarter also killed any chance the Falcons had of mounting a comeback.

"We put an awful lot of strain on our defense," said Calhoun. "Sometimes it was in field position, and sometimes it wasn't getting enough first downs. Sometimes it was in third downs for the other team. When your opponent has 20 third downs, you aren't stopping them enough to give your offense a shot."

Defensively, the Falcons allowed 503 yards of offense to sustain several long drives and win time of possession battle by over 15 minutes.

"It just came down to execution," said senior linebacker Austin Niklas, Air Force's move valuable player for the game.

Size was also an advantage that Rice monopolized. It is an advantage that most opponents have over service academy football teams. Service academy teams compensate for this up front with their triple-option offenses, and utilize technique, strength and mobility to overcome the opponents' mass advantage. But against Rice's offense and their three wide-receiver set, the Falcons smaller secondary spent the game in their opponent's shadows. Between Rice's two quarterbacks, the Falcons gave up 295 yards in passing offense and had zero interceptions.

"It was a combo of our secondary, our defensive backs, getting beat up, and our pass rush. Rice has a lot better size on the ends and our pass rush just didn't bring it home," said senior linebacker Alex Means.

Rice receiver Jordan Taylor used his 6'5" frame to tower over Falcon defenders and score all three of Rice's touchdowns.

"I wish we had won," said Niklas. "We fought hard the whole game. Rice has a good football team, and we were unable to stop them consistently in the second half. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl people were great, and we appeciated our time here."

For the Falcons, this concludes their 2012 college football season. After a few more days of holiday leave, next up for the players will be off-season workouts in the weight room in January for the underclassmen. For most of the 22 seniors, it's the last game of their collegiate careers, so they have just one more semester and graduation awaiting them. For the coaches, recruiting trips and recruiting visits will take the forefront of the days to come, as well as preparations for spring football in early 2013.