Air Force Beats Baylor in Frigid Armed Forces Bowl

Air Force Beats Baylor

Air Force‘s offense heated up in the second half of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in what, at least up until now, is the coldest college football bowl game ever played. The Falcons used an efficient passing attack, a suffocating defense, and a bruising late-game rushing attack to get their tenth win of the season and send Baylor packing back to Waco with a 6-7 season.

Air Force Beats Baylor in Frigid Armed Forces Bowl

It was a painful game to watch in the first half as the two teams combined for a total of 16 points on 239 total yards. Both teams struggled in the kicking game, with Baylor missing a field goal and Air Force allowing a blocked extra point.

Neither team was able to get their primary run game going.

The difference in the first half was Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels. He converted two early first downs through the air, including a fourth and four, and two long third downs on the ground. While Baylor focused on shutting down Mountain West offensive player of the year Brad Roberts, Daniels provided a capable secondary option that kept the Falcons’ offense on the field for the majority of the first half.

Conversely, Baylor could not get Big 12 Freshman of the Year Richard Reese any space to run. Reese, who had 962 yards during the regular season, managed a meager 10 yards on eight carries. The Bears rushed for 50 yards total for the entire game. Quarterback Blake Shapen could not relieve the pressure from the run game. Shapen was 11-for-23 (48%) through the air.

Baylor’s biggest failure was on third down. The Bears were 0-11 on third down on Thursday night. Against an option attack that grounds down the game clock, that’s a death knell statistic.

Second Half Dominance

Air Force’s running game warmed up in the second half. Roberts would find his groove and finish with 116 yards on 37 carries with two touchdowns. John Lee Eldridge added 65 yards as well, including a couple of explosive runs on the edge, to keep the Falcons balanced offensively. Eldridge also had a key recovery on a poor pitch from Daniels.

The Falcons ran the ball 67 times in the game and had a better than 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession.

On the frigid Ft. Worth field, Baylor couldn’t withstand the constant pounding in the second half.

The Mental Game

As discussed before the game, the mental aspect of this game was key. Any time you play a triple option, ball control offense, you have to be prepared for a slugfest. Baylor let the body blows and the weather combine for a knockout punch early in the second half. And the Bears couldn’t recover. Air Force dominated the first 25 minutes of the second half with 21 unanswered points a six-minute drive that resulted in no points.

Baylor went away from their best option, Reese, early on and put the game in the hands of Shapen far too often in poor weather. Shapen has struggled in the second half of the season and continued to struggle Thursday as well.

With coaching changes after the regular season, a mediocre record, and awful weather you have to wonder how much Baylor was invested in this game.

End-of-Season Report

For Baylor, it was a disappointing third season under Dave Aranda. The Bears won the Big 12 Conference Championship Game last season, but fall to 6-7 with this loss.

It’s all a celebration from Air Force. The Falcons have won ten games for the third time in the last four seasons and for the fifth time under head coach Troy Calhoun. Air Force also won their fourth straight bowl game, including three straight against Power 5 opponents. The Falcons will lose a boatload of key players next season, but they’ll worry about that later. For now, they’re letting another big win keep them warm.

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