Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Unexpected performances lead Rice Owls to victory

By Michael Amato


Tim Heitman – USA TODAY Sports

It’s not too often that the Air Force Falcons are going to lose the rushing battle, but that is exactly what happened in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Coming into today’s game the Falcons ranked second in the nation with an average of 328.8 rushing yards per game. Now Air Force does run the option, so the fact that they pile up a ton of rushing yards shouldn’t be all that surprising. However, the Rice Owls out-gaining them on the ground in a game as big as this, is shocking.

The Owls ran for 208 yards and held the Falcons to just 166 in their 33-14 victory. The 42-yard difference isn’t that big of a discrepancy, but if you consider that Rice held them to 162 yards below their season average, then all of a sudden that becomes a big factor. What makes it even more impressive is that Rice came into the game with just the 89th ranked defense in the nation, and they haven’t faced a team who runs the option all year.

Air Force trailed for much of the day and they are not a team built to play from behind. They barely averaged over 100 yards passing a game in 2012, which ranks near the bottom in all of college football.

Now Rice’s ability to limit Air Force’s running game wasn’t the only reason they picked up a win. They also got a couple of big performances from unexpected sources. After starting quarterback Taylor McHargue left the game because of a concussion, freshman Driphus Jackson came in and threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns.

Jackson also managed to form a quick connection with wide receiver Jordan Taylor. The sophomore did not have a touchdown all season and only had two for his career, before going off today for three scores and 153 yards receiving.

Rice’s victory was a perfect end to a season that looked all but over by early October. After starting the campaign 1-5, the Owls won 5-of-6 games just to become bowl eligible. A win in the Armed Forces Bowl was simply icing on the cake.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike

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