Dec 23, 2023; Fort Worth, TX, USA;  Air Force Falcons wide receiver Jared Roznos (13) catches a touchdown reception late in the second quarter with James Madison Dukes safety Jacob Thomas (27) defending at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force runs all over James Madison

Emmanuel Michel rushed for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 35 carries as Air Force beat James Madison 31-21 on Saturday at the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.

Michael headlined a fierce rushing attack for the Falcons (9-4), who totaled 351 yards on the ground. John Lee Eldridge III had 78 of those yards on eight touches, and quarterback Zac Larrier ran for a touchdown.

Larrier attempted just five passes, completing three for 45 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Dukes (11-2) totaled just 35 yards on 19 carries in their first-ever bowl game in program history. Jordan McCloud went 20-for-33 passing for 248 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Elijah Sarratt had eight catches for 115 yards for James Madison. Phoenix Sproles was on the receiving end of two of McCloud’s scoring passes.

McCloud’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Kaelon Black pulled the Dukes within 21-14 with 9:11 remaining in the third quarter.

But Air Force kept JMU at arm’s length, as Larrier’s scoring plunge from 1 yard out punctuated a 75-yard march and re-established the Falcons’ 14-point cushion.

Matthew Dapore provided some insurance with a 26-yard field goal with 8:20 left in the game to make it 31-14.

McCloud forged the final score with 3:10 remaining, connecting with Sproles for a 7-yard touchdown.

Michel gave Air Force a 7-0 lead when he rushed for a 1-yard touchdown with 8:11 left in the first quarter.

The Dukes responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended with McCloud’s 18-yard scoring strike to Sproles.

McCloud was picked off by Johnathan Youngblood early in the second quarter, and the Falcons turned the takeaway into points, going up 14-7 thanks to another 1-yard TD from Michel. Eldridge had rushed for a gain of 51 two plays earlier.

Larrier closed the first half with a bang, finding Jared Roznos for a 42-yard touchdown that sent Air Force into the break with a 21-7 advantage.

–Field Level Media

September 9, 22023 in Charlottesville, Virginia; James Madison Dukes offensive lineman Tyshawn Wyatt (52) blocks Virginia Cavaliers defensive end Paul Akere (1) during the first half of the game at Scott Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Hannah Pajewski-USA TODAY Sports

New-look James Madison aims to jolt Air Force in Armed Forces Bowl

Just two weeks after being brought in as James Madison’s new head coach, Bob Chesney is looking forward to seeing what the Dukes can do in their first bowl game in program history.

However, Chesney won’t be calling the shots when James Madison faces Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas.

Dukes offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski will serve as acting head coach with Chesney getting settled in after six seasons at Holy Cross. Chesney was hired on Dec. 7 and is taking over for Curt Cignetti, now the head coach at Indiana.

Chesney has made it clear he doesn’t intend to toy with Wroblewski’s game plan for Saturday.

“I’m not gonna get involved in things I see schematically,” Chesney said at his introductory press conference. “For me, it’s really gonna be about just evaluating our coaches, evaluating our players and … building those relationships.

“I will watch energy, I will watch effort and I will watch our competitive spirit.”

Wroblewski has assembled a coalition of coaches to help James Madison (11-1) prepare for the Falcons, adding John Reagan, Brian Ginn, John Strollo, Matt Hachmann and Stone Mannello to his staff.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever find the words of gratitude and thanks for these people,” Wroblewski said. “But they left their families, they left their jobs to come be here for three weeks with us and help us have a great bowl experience.”

Strollo and Hachmann are responsible for helping the Dukes get ready for Air Force’s triple option. The Falcons (8-4), who have lost four in a row after an 8-0 start, ranked second among FBS teams in total rushing yards (3,309) and rushing yards per game (275.8) during the regular season.

Fullback Emmanuel Michel headlined the rushing attack, racking up 747 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Running back John Lee Eldridge III, who totaled 521 rushing yards and six scores, is in the transfer portal and will not play against James Madison.

Air Force starting quarterback Zac Larrier is expected to be under center after missing the past two games with an undisclosed injury.

A trip to Fort Worth will feel like a homecoming of sorts for the 16 players on the Falcons’ roster who hail from the Lone Star State. Loading up with talent from Texas is no mistake, according to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun.

“We are a national school. You look, certainly, our roster, we’re represented from all five time zones,” Calhoun said. “But the most prevalent is right here from the Lone Star State in Texas. That’s where I am right now. That’s where I spend a good bit of time whenever it is we do have the opportunity to go into homes.”

Air Force will play in the Armed Forces Bowl for the seventh time in program history. In last year’s game, the Falcons doubled up Baylor 30-15 to improve to 2-4 in the event.

Air Force is 15-13-1 overall in bowl games.

–Field Level Media

Dec 22, 2022; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Air Force Falcons safety Camby Goff (11) celebrates after tacking Baylor Bears quarterback Blake Shapen (12) for a loss during the first half in the 2022 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force freezes out Baylor in Armed Forces Bowl

Hazziq Daniels threw for one touchdown and rushed for another Thursday night as Air Force pulled away in the second half for a 30-15 win over Baylor at the Armed Forces Bowl in frigid Fort Worth, Texas.

Daniels rushed 15 times for 81 yards in the Falcons’ triple-option ground game and threw efficiently, hitting 4 of 7 passes for 103 yards. Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year Brad Roberts added 116 yards and two scores on 37 attempts.

The teams kicked off with 13-degree temperatures and a wind chill of 4 below zero. It missed being the coldest bowl game ever at kickoff by one degree. However, the arctic conditions didn’t hamper the Falcons (10-3) as they finished with a 379-230 edge in total yards against the Bears (6-7), controlling the ball for more than 40 minutes.

Leading 9-7 at halftime, the Falcons used a 20 mph wind at their back to generate two third-quarter touchdowns. Daniels found Amari Terry for a 68-yard completion to the 2, setting up Daniels’ scoring run on the next play just 2:32 into the period.

Daniels upped the advantage to 23-7 with 2:29 left in the quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Rillos. Roberts tacked on the clinching score on a 1-yard run with 12:40 left in the game, the only points either team managed into the wind.

Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen struggled most of the night, hitting only 11 of 23 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns. One score came on an 8-yard strike to Hal Presley with six seconds left in the first half and the other was a 14-yard connection to Gavin Holmes with 3:34 remaining in the game.

Air Force set an instant tone by producing points on its first two possessions. The Falcons melted nearly nine minutes of clock on their first drive with Roberts capping it on a 2-yard run at the 5:20 mark of the first quarter. Matthew Dapore hit a 37-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining in the opening period to make it 9-0.

–Field Level Media

Baylor's head coach Dave Aranda walks along the sideline at the game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Baylor’s Armed Services Bowl mission: Stop Air Force run game

One could say that Baylor coach Dave Aranda has returned to his roots for Thursday night’s Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas.

Aranda will serve as his own defensive coordinator after canning Ron Roberts following the Bears’ 6-6 season. Aranda ascended to the Baylor job after running the LSU defense for Ed Orgeron during a 15-0 national championship season in 2019.

“You go into my office now, my desk, I’ve got fits and drawings all over,” Aranda said. “I remember those days. It used to be a clean desk. It’s not like that anymore.”

Playing against a true triple-option desk could turn even the most stringent neat freak into a messaholic. The Falcons (9-3) led the FBS in rushing, averaging 330.9 yards per game, and have the nation’s third-leading rusher in fullback Brad Roberts and his 1,612 yards.

Taking away the fullback in an option attack is always paramount, but even more so when you talk about Air Force. It’s 9-1 when Roberts runs for at least 100 yards. The only teams to hold him under three figures? Wyoming and Boise State.

“For our players, we have to inspire them to the point where they can execute the mundane, play after play after play,” Aranda said.

At the same time, the Bears can’t get caught rocking the mundane all the time. Falcons quarterback Haaziq Daniels averages more than 20 yards per completion and has accounted for 13 touchdowns — seven of which have come on the ground.

Air Force was seen by some before the season as being the Group of Five’s top candidate to earn a New Year’s Day bowl bid. But it was beaten in mid-September at Wyoming to end those hopes and then couldn’t win its division in the Mountain West Conference.

However, the Falcons still have a shot at a 10-win season, which is an impressive accomplishment at a service academy. And it would be a nice footnote to the fact they’ve already claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after beating Army and Navy.

“For us to be able to encounter someone like this for one game, our guys realize we are extremely fortunate to be in this situation,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.

Baylor has won all three meetings between the two teams, but this is their first matchup since 1977.

–Field Level Media

Dec 22, 2021; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Elijah Young (4) breaks through a hole in the line against the Missouri Tigers during the first quarter of the 2021 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Army’s last-second field goal downs Mizzou in Armed Forces Bowl

Cole Talley’s 41-yard field goal as time expired lifted Army past Missouri 24-22 in the Armed Forces Bowl on Wednesday night in Fort Worth, Texas.

Third-string quarterback Jabari Laws came off the bench to lead the winning drive for the Black Knights (9-4).

No. 2 quarterback Tyhier Tyler threw a 14-yard touchdown pass and starting quarterback Christian Anderson had a 22-yard TD run before sustaining an ankle injury in the third quarter.

Brady Cook completed 27 of 34 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown for Missouri (6-7). He also rushed for 53 yards and a score.

Missouri played without running back Tyler Badie, who ranked third nationally with 1,604 rushing yards and second with 161.6 all-purpose yards per game. On Tuesday, Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz announced he would protect Badie from injury ahead of the NFL Draft.

Drinkwitz also chose to play Cook over Connor Bazelak, who started 11 of Missouri’s 12 regular season games at quarterback.

The Tigers opened the game with 72-yard touchdown drive capped by Cook’s 30-yard scoring run on an option keeper.

After Talley missed a 43-yard field goal attempt for Army, the Tigers increased their lead to 10-0 by marching 69 yards for Harrison Mevis’ 22-yard field goal.

The Black Knights countered with a 75-yard touchdown drive to cut their deficit to 10-7. The key play was Anderson’s 42-yard pass to Tyrell Robinson, and the finishing play was Anderson’s 22-yard TD run.

Missouri controlled the rest of the half while taking a 16-7 lead on 25- and 39-yard field goals by Mevis. The Tigers outgained the Black Knights 272-132 while scoring on all four of their possessions before the break.

But Army flipped the script in the second half.

The Black Knights opened by moving 75 yard to cut the deficit to 16-14 on Jakobi Buchanan’s 10-yard TD run.

After stuffing Missouri a fourth-down run, Army moved downfield to take a 21-16 lead on Tyler’s 14-yard TD pass to Brandon Walters.

The Tigers got the ball on their 17-yard line with 2:44 left. Cook completed 7 of 9 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown to put Missouri up 22-21 with 1:11 left, but he missed a wide-open Dawson Downing on the two-point conversion pass attempt.

That left the door ajar for Laws to come off the bench and lead the winning rally.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) hands the ball off to running back Tyler Badie (1) during the first quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri RB Tyler Badie to enter draft, skip Armed Forces Bowl

Missouri record-setting running back Tyler Badie said Tuesday he will enter the 2022 NFL Draft, and will not play in Wednesday’s Armed Forces Bowl.

The Tigers (6-6) will face Army (8-4) in the bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.

He announced his intention on social media.

Badie set a Missouri single-season record with 1,604 rushing yards. He had 14 rushing touchdowns, plus four more scores on 54 receptions for 330 yards. He was named first-team All-Southeastern Conference.

The 5-foot-8 back from New Orleans had one year of eligibility remaining.

At an Armed Forcces Bowl news conference on Tuesday, coach Eliah Drinkwitz said he and running backs coach Curtis Luper made the decision to hold Badie out of the game due to the risk of injury.

“I know that if we asked him to play, he would play and he would take every rep just like he did against Arkansas with over 40 carries,” Drinkwitz said. “But I cannot do that to that young man and as a program we’re not gonna do that. We thank him for all that he’s done. He’s been a tremendous leader and captain for our football team and will continue to do that for us tomorrow. He’ll just be serving our football team in a different way.”

Dawson Dunning will start at running back. He had 10 carries for 83 yards with one touchdown on the season.

Drinkwitz also said redshirt freshman Brady Cook will make his first start at quarterback in place of sophomore starter Connor Bazelak. The job was up for grabs after Bazelak, who started 11 games this season, threw for just 65 yards and an interception in a 34-17 loss to Arkansas to end the regular season.

In 2021, Bazelak threw for 2,548 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Cook completed 19 of 24 pass attempts for 107 yards and a touchdown.

“Brady Cook has had really an outstanding past two weeks whether it was the Saturdays and Sundays that we practiced during the recruiting weekend or the way he’s put himself out there to lead,” Drinkwitz said. “And everybody competed for it, but I think for our football team right now it’s his opportunity to play, and we’ll be ready if something else presents itself, but going into the game, Brady will be our starting quarterback.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 11, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Army Black Knights running back Jakobi Buchanan (33) carries the ball against the Navy Midshipmen during the second half of the 122nd Army-Navy game. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Army’s run game takes aim at Mizzou’s defense in Armed Forces Bowl

The Army Black Knights regard their annual showdown with Navy as their marquee game.

So after Army (8-4) fell to the Midshipmen 17-13 on Dec. 11, the team had to regroup before preparing to face Missouri (6-6) in the Armed Services Bowl on Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas.

“They’re hurt,” Army coach Jeff Monken said of his players regarding the loss to Navy. “For most competitors that really care, it’s not going to go away in 24 hours. It’s not going to go away for a while. And that’s OK. It tells me that they care.

“I mean, if they came in and they were laughing and joking and it didn’t bother them, I’d be worried. But it bothers our guys. It bothers me. I’m mad and dejected. You’re gonna feel that way. It’s our biggest game of the year, our biggest rivalry. We want to beat them more than we want to beat anybody.”

However, Monken added, “I’m glad we don’t have to finish the season on that disappointing loss. We get a chance to play again. There will be motivation to try to win the last one, try to beat Missouri in the bowl game.”

The matchup will send one of the nation’s top rushing attacks against one of the country’s worst run defenses.

Army averages 286.4 yards rushing per game, second in the nation, with its triple-option attack. Missouri ranks 125th out of 130 FBS teams in run defense, allowing 228.8 yards per game.

The Black Knights have a balanced ground game with running backs Tyrell Robinson (603 yards, three touchdowns), Jakobi Buchanan (438 yards, 11 TDs) and Anthony Adkins (347 yards, five TDs) joining with quarterbacks Christian Anderson (586 yards, seven TDs) and Tyhier Tyler (478 yards, seven TDs).

Both Anderson (28-for-59, 653 yards, five TDs, no interceptions) and Tyler (17-for-20, 285 yards, four TDs, no interceptions) can make plays in the passing game as well.

“They’ve got two dynamic quarterbacks,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “Both of them present different strengths. We’re going to have to prepare for the option, but they do spread out and run some conventional offense, too, which creates a whole other set of issues.”

Army struggled against the Midshipmen on the ground, gaining just 124 yards on 33 carries.

“They beat blocks, they just destroyed blocks,” Monken said. “They just did a much better job defending us than we did attacking them on offense. We tried different things and none of them worked. We just got outplayed.”

Missouri’s offense is more focused, with running back Tyler Badie (1,604 yards rushing, 330 yards receiving, 18 total touchdowns) doing the heavy lifting.

Quarterback Connor Bazelak has passed for 2,548 yards and 16 TDs this season, but he has been pushed by backups Tyler Macon and Brady Cook during the bowl practices.

“It’s been really good, great competition,” Drinkwitz said. “And been wide open, been rotating who goes with the (first team). … We’re continuing to improve our decision-making and accuracy downfield.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back Corey Taylor II (24) runs the ball in the first half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State brings losing mark into bowl battle with No. 24 Tulsa

At Mississippi State, bowl appearances are an annual occurrence.

No. 24 Tulsa, meanwhile, is set to end a brief postseason hiatus.

The Bulldogs (3-7) will make a school-record 11th consecutive bowl appearance, while the Golden Hurricane (6-2) will play in their first bowl since 2016 when they meet on New Year’s Eve in the Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, Texas.

Tulsa beat Central Michigan 55-10 in the Miami Beach Bowl in 2016. Then the Golden Hurricane went 2-10, 3-9 and 4-8 before having a breakout season this year.

“Throughout this time I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs,” senior running back Corey Taylor II said. “It’s been a blessing to see how a championship team is created, and I believe this Tulsa team is definitely a championship team.”

Tulsa isn’t an official championship team, but it did go 6-0 in American Athletic Conference regular-season play to reach the conference title game against undefeated Cincinnati on Dec. 19. The Bearcats escaped with a 27-24 victory on a field goal as time expired.

“It has been a magical year for this group,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “Now we get an opportunity to continue to play one more game.”

The Golden Hurricane had four games canceled because of COVID-19 issues, including a contest at Houston. Tulsa has 62 Texans on its roster who get a chance to play in their home state after all.

“Generally we’re playing at least one game a year down there whether that’s an SMU or a Houston,” Montgomery said. “For the guys (from Texas), it will be special to play this game in Fort Worth.”

Any location would be special for the Bulldogs, who usually have a winning record going into their bowl game.

Mississippi State played the two best games of coach Mike Leach’s first season in the first and last games of the season. The Bulldogs opened with a 44-34 road victory against defending national champion LSU, then lost seven of eight before finishing Dec. 19 with a 51-32 home victory against Missouri.

“We have been competitive all year,” said Leach, who has led 17 of his 19 teams as a head coach to bowl games. “We practice hard and play hard, we just do it incongruently. We just do it in spurts and kind of segmented.”

In between the first and last wins came a victory came against Vanderbilt. None of the Bulldogs’ triumphs came against a team that currently sports a winning record.

Mississippi State gained 446 total yards in the finale, including its first 100-yard rushing game of the season (151).

“It’s been a gradual process,” Leach said. “We’re not there yet, but we took a step (against Missouri).”

The season began with KJ Costello, a graduate transfer from Stanford, passing for a Southeastern Conference-record 623 yards against LSU, but gradually Leach transitioned to a youth movement.

Freshman Will Rogers took over the starting position at midseason, and he has passed for 1,828 yards. The Bulldogs’ true freshmen have combined for 146 receptions, the most among any team in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

–Field Level Media