Fumbles, back-up quarterbacks and lots of running plays summed up the first half of today’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth..
Air Force leads Rice 14-7 halfway through the game.
After an ineffective first three drives, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun inserted sophomore Kale Pearson at quarterback. The Tulsa native led the Falcons on two touchdown drives to overcome an early 7-0 deficit.
Rice had to turn to its back-up quarterback, Driphus Jackson after Taylor McHargue was hit on a QB keeper in the second quarter. Jackson appeared poised to lead the Owls to a game-tying touchdown at the end of the half, but a pitch to Turner Petersen at the Falcons 2 was fumbled in the closing seconds. Rice had three fumbles in the first half.
The Owls first two drives ended with McHargue getting sacked, but the Owls were giving decent field position when Gabe Baker recovered a fumble by Air Force’s Jon Lee. After going nowhere on two plays, McHargue dropped back to pass on 3rd and 10. With all receivers covered, he took off to the right for a 20-yard gain.
A pass interference call moved the ball to the Falcons 22 and Rice scored two plays later when McHargue hit Jordan Taylor on a 15-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone. The play was reviewed and the touchdown call stood.
The Falcons picked up just three first downs and 54 rushing yards in the first quarter. And despite being the least penalized team in the country, they hurt themselves with three penalties for 25 yards.
Air Force appeared to get a break early in the second quarter when McHargue fumbled the ball. However, replays showed his knee was down. It didn’t matter because two plays later he fumbled again.
This time Air Force got the ball at the Owls 44, but they managed to lose one yard in three plays. Calhoun gambled by calling for the punter to try to run for the first down. He gained three yards before Fort Worth native linebacker Michael Kutzler tackled him at the 42.
After the fake punt, Rice strung together a couple of first downs, but the drive stalled at the Falcons 34. Rice’s Chris Boswell missed a 52-yard field goal with 9 minutes to go in the second quarter.
Calhoun inserted Pearson and he immediately put together a 10-play, 64 yard touchdown drive. Pearson scored himself on a 9-yard run.
Another McHargue fumble gave Air Force a short field. They took advantage with a 35-yard touchdown drive. Wes Cobb scored on a 1-yard touchdown run after Rice had stopped them on two goal line runs.
Jackson completed a big 23 yard pass to Taylor to move the ball to the Falcons 22 with about a minute left in half. He then hit Donte Moore on a 10-yard route to the 2. But the drive ended when the Falcons Chris Miller recovered the fumbled pitch.
Rice ran for 108 yards on 29 attempts in the first half. McHaruge had 39 yards rushing, while Jackson and Charles Ross had 33 rushing yards apiece. Rice was 6 of 11 on third downs and completed 8 of 11 passes for 64 yards.
Air Force has 141 yards on the ground, led by 41 from Ty Macarthur and 37 from Cobb. The Falcons only threw two pass, with one completion. Pearson connected with Drew Coleman on a 15-yard gain.