Armed Forces Bowl Preview: Bears prep for ground attack by Air Force
Bowl season is here, and for the 11th time in 13 years, Baylor is a part of it. The Bears earned a berth in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, taking on the Air Force Falcons this Thursday, Dec. 22, in Fort Worth.
It’s an intriguing matchup that sees two of the nation’s best rushing offenses pitted against each other. The Bears’ running game, led by Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Richard Reese, averaged 194 yards per game on the ground, among the Big 12’s best. Further, their ability to run the football enabled Baylor to dominate time of possession; the Bears’ average of 32:28 per game ranked 17th nationally. Reese, who already has the Baylor freshman rushing record, could pass the 1,000-yard mark with 38 yards against Air Force. On the defensive side, the Bears are led by first-team All-Big 12 lineman Apu Ika and by Dillon Doyle, named All-Big 12 as both a linebacker and a fullback, making him the first player in Big 12 history to win honors on both sides of the ball in the same year
Air Force, meanwhile, led the nation with 331 rushing yards per game and an average time of possession of 36:16. Led by Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Brad Roberts, the Falcons are are decidedly ground-heavy; they threw the ball only 80 times all season. Air Force runs the triple-option offensive attack, an approach that many modern offenses have abandoned but that works well for them — the Falcons finished the regular season 9-3, and are 30-8 over the last three seasons. This year’s Air Force defense also led the Mountain West Conference, allowing just 13.3 points per game. Among their most meaningful wins were victories over Army and Navy, giving Air Force the Commander-in-Chief Trophy and bragging rights for 2022.
For the Bears, who finished the regular season at 6-6, it’s an opportunity to finish an up-and-down season on a high-note. The additional practices over the month of December provided an opportunity for many of the younger players to gain experience, and injured veterans to find time to heal. Those elements could be meaningful for a team that was within one score of their opponent in the fourth quarter of five of their six losses on the season.
Another interesting bowl connection comes in the game’s clear military ties: 21 Baylor players and three coaches have close family ties to the military, and Baylor’s military tradition runs deep (and is highly valued by the Baylor Family).
One more ride for the 2022 Bears kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Friday, nationally televised on ESPN.
Sic ’em, Bears!