by Ralph Routon
Air Force junior safety Jon Davis intercepted a pass at the AFA 2-yard line with 11 seconds left, preserving a taut but memorable 14-7 victory for the Falcons over Georgia Tech on Monday afternoon in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La.
Tech had driven from its 20 to the AFA 22 in the final two minutes, after a missed field goal by the Falcons that could have sewn up the victory. Tech quarterback Tevin Washington, who ran for 131 yards in the game, completed three passes and ran for a key first down on the final drive. But the Yellow Jackets' last chance ended with Davis making a great athletic play for the interception.
That errant pass was Tech's fourth turnover of the second half, two inside the AFA 5 and the other two coming on fumbled punts.
After Georgia Tech's third turnover, Air Force senior fullback Jared Tew bulled into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown, and a 2-point conversion by Jonathan Warzeka gave the Falcons a 14-7 lead with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Tew was playing for the first time in two months, since suffering a broken leg in midseason. He was named the offensive player of the game.
Air Force had punted from its 46, but Tech mishandled the kick and the Falcons recovered at the GT 14. Earlier, after Tech took the second-half kickoff and marched from its 18 to the AFA 5, quarterback Tevin Washington lost a fumble to end that drive.
The victory was Air Force's second consecutive bowl win, and its first bowl victory against a team from a BCS conference since beating Washington in the 1998 Oahu Bowl. It gives the Falcons a 9-4 record and a combined 34-18 over the past four seasons.
"That's a remarkable year when you look at the schedule we played," AFA coach Troy Calhoun said. "It's a real credit to the kids. We played tremendous defense today."
Air Force shut out Georgia Tech, the nation's top rushing team, in the final three quarters and held the Jackets to 320 total yards (287 rushing), well below their average. Air Force finished with 287 yards, including 117 passing from Tim Jefferson.
Air Force's Zack Bell kicked a 41-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, bringing the Falcons to within one point of Georgia Tech, 7-6, at the break.
After three straight series of being stopped on downs, Air Force put together a good drive in the final minute of the half led by quarterback Tim Jefferson. He completed four passes, two to Kyle Halderman, as the Falcons moved from their 19 to the Tech 24. After two throws into the end zone that fell incomplete, Bell was perfect on his kick.
Air Force led in total yards, 201-141, but was plagued by mistakes and slips. Receiver Jonathan Warzeka dropped a pass inside the Tech 20 that could have been a touchdown, then later lost his footing on a fourth-and-2 from the GT 18.
Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen scored on a 5-yard blast up the middle, capping a 69-yard drive to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-3 lead over Air Force in the final seconds of the first quarter.
After a field goal gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead, Tech took over at its 31 and quickly faced a fourth-and-1 at the 40. Quarterback Tevin Washington sneaked for the first down, and suddenly the GT option began clicking, with back-to-back gains of 16 and 17 yards putting the Jackets in scoring range.
Allen, a first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick, had seven carries for 38 yards on the drive.
Air Force's Zack Bell nailed a 42-yard field goal with 6:37 left in the first quarter, giving the Falcons an early 3-0 lead against Georgia Tech in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La.
AFA All-American cornerback Reggie Rembert broke a 43-yard punt return to set up the Falcons at the Georgia Tech 39. After a first down put Air Force in field-goal range, Tech stiffened and forced the kick.
So far, both teams look a little sluggish on offense, especially Air Force, which hasn't played since a road win at Nevada-Las Vegas to end the regular season on Nov. 18.
At least 40,000 people were in the stands, and the game-time temperature was 47 degrees.
The game's top defensive player was Air Force senior lineman Rick Ricketts, who had a career-best 10 tackles and a sack.
Air Force is now 3-0 in the Independence Bowl, having won it in 1983 over Mississippi (9-3) and 1984 against Virginia Tech (23-7). The last time the Falcons won consecutive bowls was 1990-91, beating Ohio State and Mississippi State, both in the Liberty Bowl.