By John Van Winkle
Air Force Academy Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2011 – A failed two-point conversion gave the Toledo Rockets a 42-41 win over Air Force in the 2011 Military Bowl at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium here yesterday.
The game was an expected offensive shootout featuring two teams that scored a combined 920 points this season. The two teams gave just that to a national TV audience, with 35 points scored in the first half, and going into the halftime tied up at 28-all.
This shootout featured 746 yards of offense and boiled down to a 42-35 deficit for Air Force with just under five minutes left and 78 yards to go to tie the game.
Four-year starting quarterback Tim Jefferson led the Falcons the length of the field in 11 plays featuring eight passes and only three rushes, before putting six more points on the scoreboard with a 33-yard pass to Zach Kauth.
Then the Falcons lined up for an extra point with punter David Baska holding and Parker Herrington set to kick.
But the play called wasn’t a kick.
Extensive film study of the Toledo Rockets had shown Air Force coaches that the Rockets tended to overload the right side when facing an opponent’s extra point and field goal attempts, said Falcons head football coach Troy Calhoun.
“We thought we’d get an overload on the right this time too,” the coach said. “We thought we were better off going for two. When we’re getting four, five or six yards per play like we normally do, then going for the tie and taking it to overtime could work.”
But in the second half, the Toledo defense had held the Falcons to only two scores, so the Falcons coaches decided they were better off going for the win than prolonging the game into a sudden death overtime, he added.
“We called an option left, with an inside player blocking down and thought we’d have the punter run it, and he’d be able to pitch out to the kicker if needed,” Calhoun explained.
But the pitch was fumbled and bounced unclaimed out the left side of the end zone. The Toledo bench erupted in cheers, but the game wasn’t over yet. The clock still had 52 seconds left in regulation.
Air Force lined up for an onside kick, with two kickers in the middle to disguise which way the onside kick was destined to go. The kick was recovered by Toledo, which ran out the clock to secure the team’s 42-41 win.
The Air Force Academy Falcons end their 2011 season with a 7-6 record, but there’s still a few more chapters before the 2011 Fighting Falcons story comes to a close. The graduating seniors have a return visit to the nation’s capital next year, when they will visit the White House to receive the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy from the president for beating the other service academies in football. Then the seniors will have another important date on their calendars to look forward to: their May 23 graduation.
“For them, it’s all about graduation now,” Calhoun said. It’s all about them becoming second lieutenants and how they will lead and influence others throughout the rest of their lives.”