After a painful two-game collapse, Air Force revived with a solid, if not spectacular, 21-7 victory over Hawaii.
The victory lifts Air Force to a 6-5 record. Immediately after the game, coach Troy Calhoun accepted a bid to play in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 29 in Fort Worth, Texas. This will be the Falcons sixth straight trip to a bowl. It was a primal effort by the Falcons. They ran 68 times and did not attempt a pass.
Hawaii tumbles to 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the Mountain West Conference. Hawaii had lost the MWC games by an average margin of 28.7 points.
But the Warriors took a 7-0 lead and for a few minutes it looked as if Air Force’s pain might continue. The Falcons had been throttled in consecutive losses to Army and San Diego State, losing the games by a combined score of 69-30.
But the Falcons finally busted out of their doldrums on their first drive of the third quarter. Halfback Cody Getz had struggled for five games after suffering an ankle injury but looked fully healed on a 55-yard run to the Hawaii 19.
Six plays later, on a third-and-goal from the 5, Getz took a pitch from Connor Dietz and encountered Hawaii safety John Hardy-Tuliau. Getz took a big hit, but kept his feet and dived into the end zone.
The score transformed the game. The Falcons had been struggling against Hawaii’s normally porous defense. After Getz’s determined battle into the end zone, the Falcons dominated the game.
For Getz, it was a return to the dazzling play of the first five games of the season when he rushed for 887 yards and led the nation in yards per game. After the injury, he gained 119 yards in the next five games.
Air Force’s defense followed the offense’s lead and played a stingy second half. The Falcons held Hawaii to 162 total yards, which included only 41 yards in the second half.
The Warriors' final chance ended when Air Force’s Dexter Walker stopped quarterback Sean Schroeder short of a first down with a violent hit at the Air Force 44-yard line. The Falcons then ran out the clock.
For a few minutes, Air Force looked in trouble. The Falcons were jolted on Hawaii’s first drive. Left-handed sophomore Jeremy Higgins replaced Schroeder as the Warriors’ starting quarterback. Higgins, a sophomore, had passed only 22 times in Hawaii’s first nine games.
He was effective against the Falcons, transforming two third downs into first downs, while marching the Warriors downfield. He ended the drive with a precisely placed 26-yard pass to Clark Evans.
Air Force did not answer until the second quarter. The Falcons took a methodical 12-play, 60-yard journey to the end zone that ended when fullback Wes Cobb powered in from the 2-yard line.
Hawaii’s defense came into the game ranked 106th in rush defense, but the Warriors showed surprising toughness against Air Force’s option attack in the first half. The Falcons averaged only 3.4 yards per rush in the first half and moved inside Hawaii’s 49-yard line only once.