Dec. 20 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Air Force 38, Western Michigan 24
And You Care Because …With 10 minutes left in the final quarter, Air Force S Dexter Walker returned a fumble 60 yards to thwart a Western Michigan rally and seal the Falcons’ tenth win of the season. The Broncos were on the march toward a possible lead when LB Spencer Proctor stripped QB Zach Terrell for the game’s pivotal play. Air Force reached the end zone again a little over four minutes later to turn what had been a close contest for much of the first 50 minutes into a blowout. Terrell hit WR Corey Davis on a 51-yard strike to close the night’s scoring, but it was too little, too late for Western Michigan.
What Else? With their victory, the Falcons became the first team in five years to win 10 games the year after losing 10 games.
- Western Michigan is now 0-6 all-time in bowl games.
- Shayne Devern rushed for a game-high—and career-high—101 yards and two touchdowns on a dozen carries to earn MVP honors for Air Force.
- In a losing cause, Terrell threw three touchdowns without a pick. However, All-MAC RB Jarvion Franklin was limited to only 26 yards on 12 carries.
Game Rating: C
1. After back-to-back bowl losses, this Air Force team deserved to finish the 2014 season with its first postseason victory since 2010 and its first 10-win campaign since 1998. After losing 10 games a year ago, the Falcons and head coach Troy Calhoun authored one of this season’s biggest turnarounds in the FBS. They defeated Boise State. They knocked off ranked Colorado State to close out the regular season. And, most important, they captured the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy wins over Army and Navy. For this squad of overachieving future officers, anything less than a double-digit win over Western Michigan just wouldn’t have been an appropriate final statement to the season.
2. E-mail Phil Harrison
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When teams play Air Force, it can be a frustrating affair with the fullback playing a starring role. The program is run-heavy if there ever was such a thing, only looking to be a force though the “air” when it looks for the element of surprise, or when it’s third and a sortie mission for a first down. Even so, even with loading up the box, teams have a hard time stopping a running attack that comes at them with relentless intentions. Western Michigan did not get outgained, outcoached, or outmanned in this edition of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, it simply got beat man-on-man with an inability to form a fence consistently against the fullback, tailback, quarterback and water-boy who, by committee, kept battering the door until it fell. To beat Air Force, you have to get ahead early, get your defense off the field by stopping it on third down early in the game, and make the Falcons play catch up. Western Michigan failed to do that in this one. Advantage Air Force, but with ground troops as run support.
3. In the grand scheme of things, absolutely nothing has changed in Kalamazoo. Western Michigan is still a MAC program very much on the ascent. Yeah, the Broncos finished 2014 with back-to-back losses to Northern Illinois in the league championship game and this evening to Air Force in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. And yeah, you never want to close a year with deflating results. But Western Michigan is just getting started for young head coach P.J. Fleck, whose energy and ability to recruit will continue to pay sizable dividends for as long as he’s a Bronco. It’s not often that just being there can have a profound impact on a program’s future. But that’s exactly the case for Western Michigan, which took a quantum leap in 2014 after going 1-11 last season.
4. What’s next for Western Michigan
After a shockingly great step ahead for P.J. Fleck’s program from 2013 to 2014, there’s a chance for even bigger things if two starters up front can be replaced. RB Jarvion Franklin will be a true sophomore after coming up with his breakout campaign, and QB Zach Terrell returns along with Corey Davis, Daniel Braverman and every receiver or tight end who caught a pass.
The defense has far more concerns with three of the top tacklers gone from the secondary. However, leading tackler Grant DePalma is back at middle linebacker, and everyone returns on the line except for big NT Richard Ash. The defensive backfield has a good one to build around in FS Rontavious Atkins. PK Andrew Halderman and P J Schroeder are back.
5. What’s next for Air Force
There’s always a ton of turnover for the Falcons, but it shouldn’t be so bad on offense with top RB Jacobi Owens leading a veteran backfield. QB Kale Pearson was a good one, but Nate Romine should know what he’s doing from the start. Jalen Robinette turned into a real, live receiving weapon, and now he and the top four targets are back. C David Jones and guards Michael Husar and Patrick Noyes are gone from the line, but Matt Rochell and Andrew Ruechel return at the tackles.
Enough key parts are back on defense to make it a decent transition season, but four starters on the front seven and three starters in the secondary are gone. Connor Healy should be the leading tackler at inside linebacker with Jordan Pierce gone, and DE Alex Hansen should be once again be one of the team’s top players. Will Conant if done after handling the placekicking and punting duties.
5 Thoughts On The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
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