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Toledo holds off Air Force 42-41 in Military Bowl

December 29, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WASHINGTON (AP) - Air Force is a go-for-it kind of team. So is Toledo.

So when Air Force pulled within a point on a touchdown with 52 seconds to play in the Military Bowl, Toledo knew to expect that the Falcons might attempt a 2-point conversion, trying to win then and there instead of settling for overtime.

The Rockets were ready. Air Force lined up as if to kick, but holder David Baska took off and got bottled up trying to run the option. The ball squirted toward kicker Parker Herrington, who chased it until it went out of bounds in the end zone.

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Toledo could start to celebrate. The Rockets' 42-41 win Wednesday night was their first bowl victory since 2005.

"We talked about it, first and foremost, because they fake some extra points and fake some field goals," Toledo coach Matt Campbell said. "Ironically, we were in the same situation last year in our bowl game. I give credit to our staff. We got ourselves into a defensive call. We were not in a 'block' look."

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun wasn't about to second-guess himself.

"I thought we had an excellent chance to seal and win the game right there. It didn't work out," Calhoun said. "We didn't convert it, so you better be able to live with it. We're a group that over the last six years, we're going to go for it on fourth down if we think there are chances we can take. When we have a pretty darn good opportunity to convert one, we're going to do it. That's the way we're going to play."

The victory marked a successful debut for Campbell, the youngest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The 32-year-old coach, who has been the Rockets' offensive coordinator for three years, was promoted to the head job after Tim Beckman left this month for Illinois.

Bernard Reedy's third touchdown of the game - a 33-yard catch, spin and run on a pass from Terrance Owens - gave Toledo a 42-35 lead with 5:01 remaining and put the Rockets (9-4) over the 40-point mark for the sixth straight game.

"We have 1,000 playmakers on our team," said Reedy, who had a career-high 126 yards receiving on four catches and was selected the game's MVP. "You never know who's going to step up. It's fun to watch everybody catch and run with it."

The game matched two of the top 25 scoring teams in the country, and they wasted little time living up to their reputations. It was Mid-American Conference member Toledo's spread offense against Mountain West Air Force's triple option, and the idea of a huddle seemed a quaint, antiquated concept.

Toledo's Adonis Thomas finished with 108 yards on 22 carries. Paul Hornung Award finalist Eric Page caught 13 passes for 59 yards, but his biggest play was an 87-yard kickoff return in the first half.

Owens, getting most of the work at quarterback, completed 19 of 24 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Owens got the nod over Austin Dantin, who started the first 10 games of the season before sitting out the last two because of a concussion.

Tim Jefferson, the first quarterback in service academy history to lead his team to four consecutive bowl games, completed 13 of 22 passes for 159 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for Air Force (7-6). Jonathan Warzeka had a career-best 60-yard run to set up one touchdown, and his 37-yard reception on fourth-and-3 tied it at 28l heading into halftime.

There was even room for a defensive score: Toledo safety Jermaine Robinson's 37-yard interception runback after he corralled a tipped pass deep in the secondary.

But it all came down to a gutsy decision on a 2-point conversion, a play run by a special-teams unit while the offense stood on the sideline and watched.

"Sure I would have liked to go to overtime, but I'm the type of person who doesn't really like the overtime period," Jefferson said. "If we would have hit that 2-point conversion, I would have been just as happy."

 
 

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