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2011 Military Bowl Recap

Toledo Rockets vs Air Force Falcons - Toledo 42, Air Force 41

The Mid-American Conference simply insists on playing the most entertaining collegiate football in the United States of America, and there's nothing anyone else can do about the matter. The Air Force Academy Falcons didn’t have a chance to prevent the Toledo Rockets from playing a fun game on Wednesday afternoon at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., but they did have an opportunity to defeat their MAC opponent in the 2011 Military Bowl.

They dropped the ball.

The only thing Air Force had to do with 52 seconds left in an insanely entertaining game was execute one option pitch play. The Falcons, down 42-35, pulled within a point of Toledo on a 33-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Tim Jefferson to receiver Zack Kauth. The bold fourth-down conversion brought a shootout to its final, fateful moment of reckoning.

Air Force lined up to kick a game-tying extra point in this, the final minute of regulation, but AFA coach Troy Calhoun dialed up a fake. Toledo – according to new head coach Matt Campbell – lined up in a defensive (non-block) formation on the play. Campbell, who took over as the Rockets’ head coach after Tim Beckman took the open job at the University of Illinois, said in the postgame press conference that his film study told him the Falcons could very possibly fake a kick at some point in the proceedings. For this reason, the fake PAT initially looked as though it would fail. Holder David Baska ran to the left side and was cut off by multiple Toledo defenders. Moreover, the cornerback who had responsibility for far-side containment was staying in place. Toledo stopped the keeper by Baska, the holder, and also had the pitch man, kicker Parker Herrington, under control. However, this is when the play took a pair of abrupt turns.

First, the Toledo corner providing containment for Herrington, the pitch man, choose to move toward the middle of the field to wall off Baska. The panic move allowed Herrington to become an open pitch man on the edge. Baska – who was turning upfield at the time – turned to his left and made a quick pitch, setting the scene for this game’s final plot twist. Herrington, perhaps resigned to the notion that Baska was going to keep the ball on the option play, was not ready for the pitch. Had Herrington caught the ball, he would have walked into the end zone for a successful two-point play, but he booted the pigskin and then – in the attempt to recover it – kicked the ball out of the side of the end zone. The conversion was no good, and Toledo – thanks to three receiving touchdowns by Bernard Reedy and a 19 of 24 passing performance by quarterback Terrance Owens – survived. Everyone in attendance enjoyed a fun game at the end of another spectacular Mid-American Conference season, but what was even better for the MAC is that it won its third bowl game over the past 12 days.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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