(Monday, December 27th)
Final Score: Air Force 14, Georgia Tech 7
Shreveport, LA (Sports Network) - Jared Tew rushed for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter and Air Force held on to upend Georgia Tech, 14-7, in the Independence Bowl.
The anticipated back-and-forth affair between the top two rushing teams in the country did not come to fruition, but Air Force (9-4) capitalized on four turnovers to finish the season with four straight wins.
Tim Jefferson played mistake-free under center, throwing for 117 yards while adding 25 more on the ground for the victors.
"In games like this, whenever you know each other as well as you do, just being able to persevere is gigantic," said Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, referring to the option-heavy attack from both programs. "We were dynamite defensively...[Our defense] was super all season long."
The defeat dropped Georgia Tech to 6-7 on the season -- the program's first losing campaign since 1996 -- and extended its postseason skid to six games.
Tevin Washington, making his fourth straight start at quarterback in place of the injured Joshua Nesbitt, ran for 131 yards but lost a fumble and threw an interception in the red zone in the waning seconds to end a comeback bid.
Georgia Tech's Daniel McKayhan muffed two punts in the third quarter. The first one came near midfield and didn't lead to any Air Force points.
The second fumble, though, was lost at the Yellow Jackets' 14-yard line, allowing the Falcons to punch in the go-ahead score on Tew's three-yard run 1:36 into the final frame. Jonathan Warzeka's two-point jaunt made it 14-7.
Orwin Smith rumbled for 23 yards into enemy territory on the next play from scrimmage, but the Yellow Jackets netted just two yards on the next three snaps, resulting in a punt with 11 minutes remaining.
The Falcons chewed up over nine minutes on their next touch and had a chance to put the game away with a field goal, but Zack Bell was wide left on a 37- yard try.
The Yellow Jackets took over at their own 20 with 1:48 remaining and no timeouts. Washington used his arms and legs to move the ball to the Air Force 21-yard line, but his jump ball near the goal line was intercepted by Jon Davis with 11 seconds showing to essentially seal the outcome.
A 43-yard punt return by Reggie Rembert six minutes into the first quarter set up Bell's 42-yard field goal for an early Air Force lead. It was the first field goal attempt of Bell's collegiate career after serving as Erik Soderberg's backup through most of the season.
The Yellow Jackets responded with a 12-play, 69-yard drive that Anthony Allen capped with a five-yard draw to paydirt in the final minute.
The Falcons turned it over on downs three times in the second quarter, but managed to inch closer on Bell's 41-yard kick just before the halftime gun.
Georgia Tech, playing in its 14th straight bowl game, held the ball for the first 8 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, only to come away empty-handed when Washington lost a fumble at the Air Force five-yard line.
"We started the second half and fumbled the ball on the [five-yard] line. It's kind of a microcosm of our season," Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. "I said before the game whoever won the turnover battle was going to win the game, and that's what happened."
Georgia Tech played without four starters due to academic issues: defensive end Robert Hall, linebacker Anthony Barnes, safety Mario Edwards and wide receiver Stephen Hill. Three more -- defensive end Anthony Egbuniwe and defensive backs Michael Peterson and Louis Young -- were on the sideline during the first half for missing curfew...Air Force is 3-0 in the Independence Bowl, having also won in 1983 and 1984...Georgia Tech had won the previous three meetings between the programs...Air Force had just 170 yards rushing, well below its 317.9 yards-per-game average coming in, which was second in the nation. Georgia Tech ranked first with 327.0 ypg on the ground and had 279 rushing yards in defeat...Nesbitt, the most prolific rushing QB in ACC history, missed the final four games after breaking his right forearm against Virginia Tech on November 4...Jefferson was 11-of-23 through the air, while Washington completed 5-of-13 passes for 41 yards...Georgia Tech fell to 22-17 in the postseason, while Air Force is now even at 10-10-1 all-time in bowl games...Air Force earned its first win over an ACC team since a 42-0 win over Wake Forest in 1998.
12/27 23:31:06 ET