Sunday, December 4, 2011
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
By Andrea Adelson and Kevin Gemmell
Toledo Rockets (8-4) vs. Air Force Falcons (7-5)
Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Toledo take from Nation blogger Andrea Adelson: Toledo overcame a 1-3 start to the season that featured two heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Syracuse to run through MAC play 7-1 for the second straight season.
What cost them a spot in the MAC title game? A wild 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois that featured four lead changes in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. The Huskies scored a 4-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left to cap the game, giving them the head-to-head advantage in the West Division and a spot in the MAC championship game. The 123 points scored was the third most in a game since 2004.
Still, Toledo is happy to go bowling for the second straight season, the first time the Rockets have back-to-back bowl campaigns since 2004-05. Third-year coach Tim Beckman made a two-quarterback system work with Terrance Owens and Austin Dantin -- though Dantin missed the final two games of the regular-season with concussion symptoms. All-purpose player Eric Page was as good as advertised as a returner and receiver -- he set the school record for receptions in a season with 112, and won first-team All-MAC honors as a receiver, punt and kickoff returner. Adonis Thomas played well at running back, winning second-team honors after rushing for 963 yards and 11 touchdowns. He ended the season with four straight 100-yard rushing games, and Toledo ended the season scoring 40 or more points in five straight games, a school record.
Air Force take from college football blogger Kevin Gemmell: A rare three-game losing streak put Air Force's bowl future in question midway through the year -- dropping games to Notre Dame, San Diego State and Boise State in succession. But the Falcons rallied to win four of their final five to become bowl eligible for the fifth straight season. With two FBS teams on the schedule, Air Force needed to reach seven wins.
Quarterback Tim Jefferson has 28 career wins -- a school record -- and commands the nation's No. 2 rushing attack at 320.3 yards per game. The 28 victories is the third best in conference history, putting him in some elite company with TCU's Andy Dalton (42 wins) and BYU's Max Hall (32).
Thousand-yard rusher Asher Clark (six touchdowns) headlines the triple-option scheme, averaging 91.3 yards per game. Mike DeWitt (10 touchdowns) goes for 45.2 a game and Jefferson check in at 41 yards per game.
But the Falcons aren't just the traditional triple-option team. Jefferson has an arm, and used it to throw 12 touchdowns this season.
Linebacker Brady Amack ranks among the top tacklers nationally -- but despite a slew of injuries on defense, the Falcons retained the Commander in Chief Trophy for the second straight year, notching wins over Army and Navy.