by Ralph Routon
Air Force's fourth consecutive football bowl game will take the Falcons back to the site of some special memories for the AFA program.
Air Force (8-4) accepted an invitation Wednesday evening to play in the Independence Bowl on Monday, Dec. 27, at Shreveport, La., against a still-unnamed team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Latest speculation centers on either Clemson or Georgia Tech as the Falcons' opponent.
The game kicks off at 3 p.m. Mountain time and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
In all likelihood, Air Force will be embraced as an unofficial "home team" for the game, because the Shreveport-Bossier City area also happens to be home to sprawling Barksdale Air Force Base, which includes about 15,000 active-duty and civilian personnel.
This game, at Independence Stadium (50,000 capacity), also hosted Air Force in consecutive years, 1983 and 1984, which produced two memorable AFA victories.
In 1983, amid a driving rain that turned the field into a quagmire, the Falcons knocked off Mississippi of the Southeastern Conference, 9-3, to wrap up a 10-2 season. That also turned out to be the final game at Air Force for head coach Ken Hatfield, who left soon thereafter for Arkansas, his alma mater.
The next year, Fisher DeBerry's first as Hatfield's replacement, Air Force pulled another surprise with a 23-7 win over a very good Virginia Tech team led by All-American (and future NFL Hall of Famer) defensive lineman Bruce Smith.
Nobody will be concerned about the playing surface for this year's game, because the stadium has recently installed FieldTurf.
If Air Force faces Georgia Tech, it would be a matchup of the nation's top two rushing teams, with Tech actually No. 1 ahead of the Falcons. GT's head coach is Paul Johnson, who previously was at Navy and enjoyed success against Air Force.
Clemson, which finished the regular season at 6-6, actually defeated Georgia Tech (27-13) and took top-ranked Auburn to overtime before losing 27-24. Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is a first-team All-American and the ACC's defensive player of the year.