The 2019 Cheez-It Bowl made due with eight fewer interceptions than last year but somehow was just as entertaining to watch.
In the postseason game that pitted the starkest contrast in offensive philosophies possible, Air Force played keep away on the clock and did just enough defensively to preserve a 31-21 win over Washington State, closing out the season with eight victories in a row for Troy Calhoun’s program.
The Falcons’ option was humming early and often out in the valley of the sun as the team turned a first quarter goal line stand into a remarkable 20 play, 98 yard touchdown drive that took over 12 minutes off the clock. That effort alone contributed heavily to the team running away with the time of possession (winding up at 43:24 in the end) but it was far from the only impressive drive of the night. QB D.J. Hammond III’s passing numbers paled in comparison to his counterpart (4-of-12, 30 yards, 1 INT) but that certainly isn’t the part of his game that has turned this team into a machine ever since losing to rival Navy the first week in October. The signal-caller had a modest 62 yards rushing but found the end zone twice and was near perfect in his decision making and pitching.
Tailback Kadin Remsberg was Air Force’s leading rusher with 178 on the ground but saved his best for last with a memorable dive for the pylon on 4th down to score the game-sealing touchdown in the final few minutes. Taven Birdow chipped in with 108 yards and a TD of his own as well as the team just rolled over a Pac-12 opponent for the second time this season.
As for Mike Leach’s squad, the Air Raid offense put up some hefty numbers as usual but failed to capitalize on a few chances and didn’t do enough in their limited opportunities with the ball in their hands. QB Anthony Gordon threw for 340 yards and a trio of touchdowns to close out his career on the Palouse, often finding fellow senior Brandon Arconado when in need of a big play. The wideout always seemed to find an open spot and hauled in 11 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown.
Tailback Max Borghi had a very quiet night with under 30 yards rushing and under 35 receiving, including getting stuffed twice on 4th down inside the five yard lines to end a pair of promising drives. As a result, the Cougs fell below .500 on the season for the first time since 2014 and further contributed to the Pac-12’s recent bowl season woes.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Air Force closed out 2019 with an 11-2 record overall for the third best mark in school history. Their two losses came on the road to the Midshipmen and Mountain West champ Boise State and the strong finishing kick should ensure them of a top 25 ranking in the final polls as a result.