Falcons snag 6 interceptions, win 47-20

Friday , August 06, 2010 - 11:14 AM

Armed Forces News Service

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Six interceptions powered the Air Force Academy to a 47-20 win over the University of Houston Cougars in the Armed Forces Bowl, on Dec. 31.

The 2009 Armed Forces Bowl was Air Force's third trip to the bowl game in as many years, and turned out to be a rematch for the Falcons and Cougars, and pitted Air Force's No. 1-ranked passing defense against Houston's No. 1-ranked passing offense. And it was the defense that won this battle, ending six Houston drives with interceptions and limiting the Cougar offense to only four of 10 third-down conversions.

"We were outplayed today by Air Force," said Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin after the game. "I don't think there's any doubt about that. They had the No. 1 pass defense in the country and showed it today. We were a little off, frankly in all areas.

"You can't expect to win any time when you turn the ball over like we did," he said. "This loss was turnover-related and from not getting off the field on third down. We didn't make the plays on third down, and I'll have to look at the tape to evaluate the other mistakes. Air Force took advantage of some of our errors and created opportunities on their own."

The Falcons racked up two scores on their first two possessions, with their run-heavy triple-option attack, and larger-than average number of passes.

On their opening possession, an option left and two carries by fullback Jared Taw made the Houston defense tighten up on the run. That allowed Falcon quarterback Tim Jefferson to hit two consecutive passes to wide receiver Kevin Fouler and then tailback Asher Clark, and move the ball to the Houston 36-yard line. An option and good blocking on the next play sprung Clark free to race into the end zone for the score left to Clark. Falcon place kicker Erik Overberg added the extra point.

When Houston first took the ball, it was the starting matchup of the nation's No. 1 passing defense and passing offense. On this possession, it was the Air Force's top-ranked passing defense that gained the upper hand on a pass deflection intercepted by Falcon defensive back Anthony Wright. His grab made it a Falcon possession at their 37-yard-line.

The Falcons kept the momentum by moving the ball to the Houston 43-yard line, before Jefferson found wide receiver Kevin Fouler open on a deep route and hit him for a 37-yard gain, at the Cougar 6-yard line. Taw hit the hole on the next play off the right side for the Falcon's second touchdown. An Overberg extra point upped the lead to 14-0.

The teams traded turnovers on their next possessions. Houston's chance with the ball was a more methodical drive which gained a foothold in Falcon territory before the defense left the Cougars with a fourth-and-two at the Falcon 43-yard-line. The Cougars went for it, and quarterback Case Keanu did a pooch-punt to play the field-position game with the Falcons, as the ball was downed at the Falcon 3-yard-line. Three runs gave the Falcons enough room to safely punt, and Houston had a fresh set of downs at the Falcon 44-yard line.

The pass-happy Cougars moved the ball to the Air Force 16-yard line before facing a fourth down. Houston's coaches chose a field goal attempt to narrow their 14-point deficit. Houston placekicker Matt Hogan made the kick to give the Cougars their first score, 14-3.

The Falcons answered with another long drive, capped off when Jefferson optioned to Clark, and the tailback ran right and crossed the goal line for the Falcon's third TD. Another Overberg extra point put the Falcons up 21-3.

Houston answered with a 33-yard field goal by Hogan, to narrow the score to 21-6.

With a little more than two minutes left on the clock, Falcons head football coach Troy Calhoun went deep into his play-calling archives and dusted off the two-minute drill. Air Force started working the sidelines, airing out the ball and putting time-outs to use, to keep the clock alive and move the ball from the Falcon 34-yard line into Houston territory.

Then Jefferson found his favorite wide receiver, Fouler, down the right sideline and hit him for a 34-yard gain to set up a first-and-goal at the Houston 9-yard-line. An option right and a time-out gave the bluesuiters a second and five with 24 seconds left in the half. Wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka was called on to run, and gained three yards to make it third and goal from the 2-yard line. On the third-down play Jefferson rolled out to pass and slipped.

Facing a fourth down with the clock ticking and zero timeouts left before halftime, the field goal team rushed on the field to get Soderberg in place to hit the field goal and put the Falcons up 24-6 at halftime.

Cougar kick returner Tyron Carrier returned the halftime opening kickoff for a touchdown making it Air Force 24, Houston 13.

Warzeka then took the kickoff at the Falcon goal line and took it the distance, for the Falcons' first kickoff return for a touchdown since 1985.

The back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns at the Armed Forces bowl was the first time ever in a bowl game and only the third time in NCAA history. The score was now Air Force 31, Houston 13.

Houston quarterback Case Keenum hit wide receiver Patrick Edwards for a 10-yard touchdown pass to narrow the scoring margin to Air Force 31, Houston 20. The Falcons followed up with another long drive and a Soderberg field goal, to make it 34-20.

The Falcons defense snuffed out Houston's next drive to take over possession at their 25-yard line. The Falcons drove to sneezing distance of the Houston goal line, and Jefferson stretched out on the keeper to cross the goal line with Warzeka adding a push from behind. The score put the Falcons up 40-20, and Soderberg's kick made it Air Force 41, Houston 20.

A pair of interceptions by Falcon defensive backs shut down Houston's next two scoring attempts, while the Falcons continued to grind away at the clock. Air Force added a touchdown on a Jared Tew run added another six points to give the Falcons a 47-20 victory in front of a bowl-record 41,414 fans.

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