Air Force beat Georgia Tech 14-7 in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl on Monday. Here is a quick instant analysis:
How the game was won: This ended up being a defensive struggle. The top two rushing teams in the country were held below their season averages on the ground. Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson threw more than he normally does, recording his second-highest pass attempts of the season. He did have several costly drops that could have led to scoring opportunities early, but his passing helped Air Force get a field goal just before halftime to close the gap to 7-6. The ultimate difference were turnovers from Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets gave the ball away four times, and Air Force finally took advantage when Jared Tew ran up the middle for 3 yards with 13:24 to go in the fourth quarter. Jonathan Warzeka rushed for the 2-point conversion to make it 14-7. Zack Bell missed a 37-yard field goal that would have iced the game, and Air Force had to survive a frantic rally from Georgia Tech that started with 1:48 to go. Jon Davis made the interception with 11 seconds left to seal the game.
Turning point: The third quarter. Georgia Tech lost three fumbles in the quarter, including two from muffed punts by Daniel McKayhan. Air Force failed to take advantage of the first two, but was able to convert the third into the decisive points to win the game.
Player of the game: Air Force may not have had the rushing day it is used to, but the dynamic duo of Jefferson and Tew get the nod here. Interestingly, Jefferson kept the Falcons in the game with his arm by completing 11 of 23 passes for 117 yards. Tew, playing in his first game since breaking his leg against San Diego State on Oct. 16, scored the decisive touchdown.
Unsung hero: How could you not go with Davis, whose interception saved the game for the Falcons.
Best call: Clinging to a 14-7 lead, Air Force got the ball back at its own 9 with 10:57 to play. The Falcons marched down the field, but faced a fourth-and-1 from the Georgia Tech 27 with just under 3 minutes to play. Coach Troy Calhoun had been going for it on fourth down all day, and decided to do it again. Jefferson got the first down. Air Force took more than 9 minutes off the clock, though the drive ended with a missed 37-yard field goal.
What it means: Air Force (9-4) finishes the season with its fourth straight season of eight wins or more, the first time that has happened since 1982-85. The Falcons lose nine starters, including some of its best players -- Tew, cornerback Reggie Rembert and defensive end Rick Ricketts. But Jefferson and Asher Clark return on offense. If this season is any indication, Jefferson is poised to be at his career best in 2011. But will that be enough to compete for a Mountain West title with Boise State joining a lineup that also includes TCU and a resurgent San Diego State?