Kyle Bonagura, ESPN Staff Writer 685d

Air Force comeback denies South Alabama first bowl win

South Alabama's wait for its first-ever bowl victory will go on for at least another year.

The Jaguars got off to a dream start in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl when they scored on their first play from scrimmage and built a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter against Air Force. There was no stopping the Falcons when they woke up, though, as they claimed a 45-21 victory.

For South Alabama, just being in a bowl game marked a significant accomplishment. This is a program that didn't exist until 2009 and didn't join the FBS ranks until 2013. Though the Jaguars did play in a bowl game in 2014, their sustained level of moderate success is noteworthy.

Even if the Jaguars beat Air Force, which came into the game with a 9-3 record and a heavy favorite, it still would have only been the second-most memorable win of the season. The bar was set too high in the season opener, when they became just the eighth Sun Belt team in history to beat an SEC team with a 21-20 win against Mississippi State.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said, at first, that the Falcons were caught off guard by the Jaguars' speed, but things went smoothly once they were able to adjust.

The win gives Air Force its sixth 10-win season in history and its second in 10 seasons under Calhoun.

It also marked the final game in the storied career of three-time All-Mountain West safety Weston Steelhammer, whose interception in the third quarter gave him seven for the season and a school-record 18 for his career.

Just as South Alabama did on the first play from scrimmage in the first half, Air Force's Jalen Robinette scored on a 75-yard pass from Arion Worthman to open up the second half. That touchdown broke a 21-21 tie. South Alabama never mounted a threat from there.

Worthman completed only 7 of 10 passes but still passed for 207 yards.

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