Contrasting offenses hit the field in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and it was the Bear Raid that came out on top as Cal knocked off Air Force 55-36. Despite strong pushes from Air Force throughout the game, the clean play of Cal quarterback Jared Goff was enough to keep the Bears safely out in front to pick up their first bowl win since the 2008 season.
What the win means for Cal: This win is a good sign of progress for a team that went 1-11 just two seasons ago. It was likely Goff’s final game as a Bear and his team did its best to send him out in a way that is worthy of a player who helped turn this Pac-12 bottom-dweller into a competitor in the league. The bowl win, in addition to coach Sonny Dykes’ contract extension, should give the Bears a lot of momentum heading into this offseason.
What the loss means for Air Force: The Falcons ended an impressive year on a three-game losing skid, leaving Air Force with a bad taste in its mouth for the 2015 season, despite the fact it had the program’s most conference wins (six) since the 2007 season (which coincidentally also ended in a bowl game loss to Cal). Like the Bears, this is a program that went winless in its conference just two seasons ago and has turned itself around rather quickly.
Player of the game: Goff. The junior recorded six touchdown passes against Air Force, setting Cal bowl and Armed Forces Bowl records. Goff’s six touchdown passes ties the total for the second-most touchdown passes thrown in a bowl game (ties Connor Halliday, Geno Smith and Chuck Long). With 43 TD passes in 2015, he broke the Pac-12’s single-season touchdown pass record, which was previously held by Oregon’s Marcus Mariota with 42 in 2014.
Stat of the game: Coming into this matchup, just one Cal player had ever been to a bowl game -- defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil. The redshirt senior was a true freshman in the Bears’ 21-10 loss in the 2011 Holiday Bowl.