The Cheez-It Bowl brought two contrasting styles to Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday night. Air Force and Washington State took part in the 2019 edition of the Cheez-It Bowl.
Washington State came to town with their Air Raid offense. Passing the ball around the field is the name of the game for Mike Leach and his Washington State Cougars. The Cougars don’t need a ton of time to score. In fact, Washington State would rather score quickly, so they can get more offensive possessions.
On the other side of the field were the Air Force Academy Falcons. The Falcons love to run the triple option and chew up the time of possession.
“It is an offense that is very tough to simulate in practice that is for sure.” Washington State head coach Mike Leach mentioned at Media Day.
It was a problem all night for the Cougars.
Washington State took the opening kickoff all the way down to the Air Force two yard line where a fourth down call for Mike Leach’s offense came up empty. The Falcons defense stepped up to the challenge that the Cougars presented to them. The momentum swung to the Falcons early on that fourth down play.
From there, the Falcons controlled the rest of the quarter.
Air Force then proceeded to go on a 20 play, 98 yard, 12:32 drive that ended the first quarter of play. Yes, you saw that correctly. A 20 play drive that lasted twelve and half minutes.
It also ended with the Falcons getting a touchdown early in the second quarter to take the early lead at 7-0.
Washington State only had one possession in the first quarter.
If possessions were going to be hard to come by due to the Falcons controlling the ball and clock so much then the Cougars might have rethought that fourth and goal call on their only possession in the first quarter.
Washington State finally got on the scoreboard with an 11 play, 74 yard drive that ended with a Anthony Gordon pass to Dezmon Patmon touchdown that made it 7-7.
From there the two teams traded scores for the second quarter.
By the time we made it to half it was 17-14 Air Force.
Dealing with an extremely disciplined team as the Air Force Academy is can be dicey. The Falcons are so good at running their triple-option offense that you don’t get many opportunities as the opposing team.
Washington State was realizing this. The Cougars went for it on fourth down three times close to the goal line by the fourth quarter. Washington State came up empty on two of the tries.
The fourth quarter is where a close game gets decided. Air Force had a 24-14 lead going into the last quarter.
Washington State came up with a score with 10:50 left in the game to cut the lead to 24-21 and had grabbed back some of the momentum.
We all know momentum can be a tricky thing to corral.
Air Force knew if they could get a long time consuming drive going and score then victory would be theirs.
With 3:58 left in the fourth quarter that is exactly what the Air Force Academy was trying to do. The Falcons had a fourth and three. Air Force called a time out to decide whether to go for it or kick the field goal. A field goal would increase the three point lead to a six point lead. The Cougars could win the game with a touchdown and extra point.
Air Force decides to go for it.
The large Air Force contingent of fans that showed up roared with approval. The Cougar fans headed for the exits.
The contrast in styles was evident all night. Air Force showed up and were not intimidated by anything that Washington State had to throw at them.
When you think about it, what is going to intimidate an Air Force player with all the different things that they are asked to do just being at the Air Force Academy?
Air Force heads back to Colorado Springs with an 11-2 record and a great 31-21 Cheez-It Bowl win.