Rice benefits from extra time
Rice’s defense had the benefit of three weeks of practice time to prepare for Air Force’s option attack, and it showed.
Owls linebacker Cameron Nwosu said the team also was helped by the lack of distractions as they plotted to stop the Falcons.
“It’s been all about football,” Nwosu said.
Rice coach David Bailiff said his team was helped by the increased preparation time.
“The fact that we didn’t just have a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to get ready for the option really does help you,” he said. “It gives you more time to get your reads and the discipline and everything it takes to stop that. If you’re going to play an option, you really want it to be your first game or your last game of the season.”
Rice’s preparation was evident in the second half. Air Force managed only 25 yards rushing and two first downs in the final two quarters.
Rice starting QB departs early
Rice starting quarterback Taylor McHargue was forced to leave the game after suffering a concussion after a second-quarter collision with Air Force’s Steffon Batts.
McHargue, a high school teammate of Air Force receiver Drew Coleman, went 6-for-8 with 31 yards and a touchdown before his exit. He also ran for 39 yards on 10 carries.
Players of the game
Official honors for the game's most valuable players went to Rice receiver Jordan Taylor and Air Force linebacker Austin Niklas.
Taylor caught nine passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Niklas made 14 tackles, including two for a loss.
Air Force’s bowl record
Air Force drops to 10-12-1 overall in bowl games and 2-4 in its run of six straight postseason appearances under Calhoun.
Calhoun is 1-3 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Air Force players wore the letters DW on the back of their helmet. The tribute was in honor of academy registrar Dean Wilson, who is battling a personal health issue.
Give me 40
The announced attendance of 40,754 marked the fourth time in the past six years that the Armed Forces Bowl has drawn at least 40,000, but the first time since Air Force played Houston in 2009.
The Falcons were part of the game each time the bowl drew at least 40,000.
“The cat’s out of the bag that I’m probably not going to outrun corners,” Rice 220-pound running back Turner Petersen, recalling his game-long 48-yard run in the fourth quarter where several defensive backs caught him but slid off his back.
BRENT BRIGGEMAN and DAVID RAMSEY, THE GAZETTE