Air Force out-optioned Georgia Tech just enough to win the game 14-7.
Offense: Looking at the final score, you can see that offense was at a premium in this game. Also, while Air Force won the game, the Falcons actually didn't play strong enough to even reflect the 14 points they did get. All you need to know is that Air Force's option attack was so successful against Georgia Tech on Monday that the Falcons threw the ball 23 times. During the regular season they averaged 12 passes a game. Even crazier, Air Force was more successful throwing the ball than running it, as Tim Jefferson led a nice drive out of the shotgun before halftime to get a field goal. As for Air Force's lone touchdown, it came following a muffed punt by Georgia Tech set the Falcons up inside the 15-yard line. In fact, punter Keil Bartholomew was Air Force's offensive MVP, as two of his punts were muffed by Tech and resulted in about 90 yards of field position and eight points. Grade: D
Defense: While they only gave up 7 points, the Falcons defense wasn't amazing on Monday night. They did allow Georgia Tech to rush for 320 yards, and gave up nearly 5 yards a carry. They also allowed Tech to convert 8 of 18 third downs, and 2 of 3 fourth downs. The key for Air Force was that they forced a few key turnovers. On the opening drive of the second half, Tech put together an 18-play, 77 yard drive that took over eight and a half minutes off the clock. That's when GT's Tevin Washington was stripped inside the Air Force 5-yard line and the Falcons recovered. The second big turnover came at the end of the fourth quarter when Jon Davis intercepted a Washington pass in the final seconds to seal the victory. Grade: B-
Coaching: At the end of the day, you can't be too critical of a coaching staff when the team gets a win, but there were a few things I felt Troy Calhoun and the Falcons could have done. Particularly after seeing the success that the offense had out of the shotgun at the end of the first half. The Falcons couldn't get much going on the ground all day, so I would have liked to have seen Air Force shake things up a bit on offense. Of course, following the script did get a win. Grade: B
Offense: Coming into the game I had doubts about Tevin Washington and how well he could lead Georgia Tech in this game in lieu of the injured Josh Nesbitt. Well, Washington didn't play poorly at all. Yes, there were those two back-breaking turnovers that can't be forgiven, but he also had 131 yards rushing. Anthony Allen finished with 91 yards, and Tech ran the ball well on the day. The problem was that yards don't count for points, and the Jackets just couldn't punch it into the end zone when it mattered. Grade: C+
Defense: I had a lot of crow to eat when it came to Georgia Tech in this game. Much like Washington, I had low expectations for Georgia Tech's defense in this game as well. Seems I forgot one important thing: when you spend all season practicing against an option offense, you tend to get pretty good at stopping an option offense. Anytime you can hold Air Force under 200 yards on the ground and force them to air it out more than they want to, you've done your job, and Tech did just that. It's not their fault they were let down by special teams and turnovers on offense. I'd give them an even better grade than this had they been able to force some turnovers. Grade: A-
Coaching: I can't fault Paul Johnson or anyone on his coaching staff for this game. They had a plan, stuck to it, and the plan worked. They were without their starting quarterback and were in the game with a chance to win through the closing seconds. The coaches can't be held accountable for backup punt returners and a backup quarterback turning the ball over. Grade: A
I was looking forward to this game for weeks because I'm a big fan of the triple option offense, and we don't get many chances to see two teams running it face off. The problem is that option offenses generally struggle in bowl games, and it turns out that when they go against each other, it tends to make things worse. Seriously, the most enjoyable part of this game was that the Air Force's falcon mascot literally flew away before the game and the academy needed to form a search party to find him in downtown Shreveport. They did find him in the fourth quarter. They would not confirm that he was found at a casino playing blackjack. Still, the game was close throughout, and the bird did provide entertainment, so that bumps the grade up a notch. Grade: C+