- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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A quick look at Georgia Tech's 14-7 loss to Air Force in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl on Monday.
How the game was won: Georgia Tech unraveled with three fumbles in the third quarter, and sealed its fate with an interception on the Air Force 2-yard line in the fourth. The Falcons’ ability to pass the ball was a difference in the game, but the four turnovers were too much to overcome. Georgia Tech’s defense played remarkably well for three quarters, but Daniel McKayhan, filling in for injured starter Jerrard Tarrant, fumbled twice on punt returns, and his second turnover led to an Air Force touchdown and the Falcons’ 14-7 lead. In addition to the two fumbles on punt returns, Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington also lost the ball on the Falcons’ 7-yard line and ended an 18-play, 77-yard drive. His interception with less than a minute remaining ended any hope at a comeback.
Turning point: The final play of the third quarter was McKayhan’s second fumbled punt return. Joshua Freeman recovered it on Georgia Tech’s 14-yard line, and Air Force scored four plays later for the 14-7 lead. At that point, the Falcons had all of the momentum.
Stat of the game: Four turnovers for Georgia Tech. It changed the game and was too much for the Jackets to overcome.
Player of the game: Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson. The Falcons threw about twice as much as their regular-season average, and Jefferson made some key throws throughout the game to sustain drives and eat the clock. Despite being a triple option team, Air Force was hardly one-dimensional. Jefferson completed 11 of 23 passes for 117 yards, and added 25 rushing yards.
What Georgia Tech learned: The Yellow Jackets need to be able to pass the ball to come from behind. It didn’t help that leading receiver Stephen Hill was suspended, but even with Hill in the game, Georgia Tech’s passing has struggled all season. Air Force was able to line up in the shotgun and run an effective two-minute drill better than Georgia Tech. Pass protection and route running weren't where they needed to be, and Correy Earls had a big drop on third down in the final minute. Air Force deserves credit for an incredibly athletic play on the interception.
What it means: The ACC is off to a bad start in its bowl season, and Georgia Tech has now lost six straight bowl games. Not only have the Jackets failed to beat the big boys – LSU and Iowa – but now they couldn’t beat an unranked Mountain West team. The loss gave Georgia Tech its first losing season in 14 years.