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Air Force rallies, flies by South Alabama, 45-21, in Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Falcons’ aerial attack sparks comeback against Jaguars

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-South Alabama vs Air Force
After falling behind 21-3 early in the second quarter, Air Force exploded for 42 unanswered points and cruised to a 45-21 victory over South Alabama in the Arizona Bowl.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

When playing a potent triple option attack like the one Air Force possesses, it’s even more important than usual to start quickly.

Seeking the first bowl victory and winning season in its program brief FBS history, South Alabama produced that ideal start.

The Jaguars (6-7) jumped on the Falcons right away, as Dallas Davis found Josh Magee for a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first-play from scrimmage.

Air Force responded with an 11-play, 55-yard drive, but South Alabama’s defense stood tall in the red zone to force a 25-yard field goal by Luke Strebel.

Over the next few possessions, the USA defense put the clamps on the Falcons’ vaunted attack while its signal-caller Dallas Davis continued to complete throws down the field to set up a pair of touchdowns that allowed the Jaguars to take a 21-3 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining in the first half.

Triple option teams often possess tremendous big play potential in their passing games. Air Force’s Arion Worthman and company took advantage of several such opportunities.

Worthman found Jalen Robinette for a 49 yard gain that placed the Falcons just outside the red zone. A few plays later, the South Alabama defense generated another goal line stand that forced Air Force to settle for a 22-yard field goal that made it 21-6.

Things really began to unravel for the Jags over the final couple minutes, as Air Force took advantage of a couple of short fields provided by its defense to knot things at 21-21 as the teams headed to the locker room.

That momentum spilled over into the second half and South Alabama just couldn’t get the bleeding stopped.

Worthman, who attempted just ten passes but completed 7 for 207 yards, would hook up with Robinette for a 75-yard touchdown to open the second half and give the Falcons a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

They built their advantage from there, as the passing attack opened up things for the ground game and Air Force—which ran for 253 yards in the game and had 460 yards of total offense—seized control of the game with a commanding 38-21 lead through three quarters.

After surrendering quite a bit through the air in the first half, Air Force was able to take that away as the game wore on. The Falcons made the Jaguars one-dimensional (68 yards rushing) and USA needed to throw the ball late to rally from its large deficit.

Jacobi Owens led Air Force with 74 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

Jalen Robinette finished with a pair of receptions for 124 yards while Tyler Williams caught three balls for 66 yards.

South Alabama’s Dallas Davis lit up the Falcons early, but concluded the game just 10-of-24 for 245 yards. He threw a touchdown, but was also picked off and lost a fumble.

The Jaguars’ Josh Magee was the game’s top receiver after tallying five receptions for 154 yards.

With the victory, Air Force won 10 games for the second time in the last three seasons under tenth-year head coach Troy Calhoun.