Falcons capitalize on turnovers, swat Yellow Jackets, 14-7

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
A disciplined offense and tenacious defense sealed Air Force's second consecutive bowl game win and the team's first-ever victory against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., Dec. 27.

Two muffed Georgia Tech punt returns set the stage for the Falcons' go-ahead touchdown, and an interception by Air Force defensive back Jon Davis sealed the 14-7 victory with 15 seconds left to play.

Air Force scored first on a Zack Bell field goal, capping a drive set up by Reggie Rembert's 43-yard punt return, to take a 3-0 lead. But the Yellow Jackets struck back on their next drive, marching upfield on 12 straight running plays. Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen ran in on second and goal to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-3 lead.

Each team proved willing to play four-down football throughout the first half, with Georgia Tech and Air Force trading possession on downs three times in a row in the second quarter. Falcons quarterback Tim Jefferson got stopped short of the first down marker on fourth and 1 from the Air Force 36. The Falcons' defense stopped Georgia Tech's successive drive, with Falcons linebacker Patrick Hennessy forcing a fumble and cornerback Reggie Rembert breaking up a pass in the end zone intended for Georgia Tech receiver Kevin Cone.

Air Force found its rhythm toward the end of the first half. Rick Ricketts sacked Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington to force 3rd and 20. Jon Davis broke up a pass intended for Tech running back Embry Peebles, forcing the nation's leader in fourth-down conversion attempts to punt. With less than a minute in the half, Jefferson picked apart the Tech secondary, connecting on four of seven passes to bring Air Force into field goal range. Zack Bell knocked in his second field goal of the game to trim Georgia Tech's lead to one point going into halftime.

The Yellow Jackets swarmed over Air Force's offense in the third quarter, but Georgia Tech's Daniel McKayhan fumbled two punt returns. The first got Air Force out from deep in its own territory, and the second gave the Falcons possession inside the Georgia Tech red zone.

Fullback Jared Tew gave Air Force its only touchdown of the game four plays later, on first and goal from the 3. Jonathan Warzeka ran into the end zone untouched for the two-point conversion to give the Falcons a 14-7 lead.

After taking a solid lead, the Falcons did what they do best: demolish the clock. The Falcons' offense started their next drive at their 9 and held onto the ball for more than nine minutes, using play-action passes to soften Tech's run defense and grinding out yardage on the backs of fullbacks Tew and Nathan Walker. The Yellow Jackets' defense held, however, and Zack Bell missed his first field goal of the night, chipping the 37-yard attempt wide left.

The missed field goal gave Georgia Tech a turn to execute a two-minute drill. Washington led the Yellow Jackets downfield, scrambling out of bounds for positive yards when he couldn't find an open receiver downfield. However, Georgia Tech's hopes for a comeback ended on Jonathan Davis' interception at the Falcons' 2-yard line with 15 seconds left.

Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun called the cadet-athletes "remarkable young men" on his way to the locker room after the game.

"There's a reason why these guys gravitated toward the Air Force Academy," he said. "I think ... these guys are going to be phenomenal officers for our country down the road, I mean, just great, great young men who are part of an incredible school at the Air Force Academy."

The Independence Bowl featured the nation's two most prolific rushing teams: Georgia Tech at the top spot, with Air Force a close second. The Yellow Jackets easily outgained Air Force on the ground, with 279 yards on the ground to the Falcons' 170. However, Air Force edged Georgia Tech on time of possession, 30:40 to 29:20. Turnovers proved the deciding factor: Air Force ended the night at plus-four.