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2022 Armed Forces Bowl Preview

Sports

Armed Forces Bowl Patch on Baylor Uniform | Image by Baylor Proud/Website

Baylor (6-6) from the Big 12 Conference and Air Force (9-3) from the Mountain West Conference will play in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on Thursday, December 22.

After following up a Big 12 Championship in 2021 with a 6-6 season this year, Baylor is aiming to find more consistency and effort.

“We need to fully attack and put forth our best effort,” head coach Dave Aranda said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We’re focused on getting the seniors out with the best performance we can muster.”

Meanwhile, Air Force is thrilled to represent the national service academies in a bowl with military ties.

“It’s an honor to represent the Air Force Academy and play against such a great, great school in Baylor University,” head coach Troy Calhoun said at Wednesday’s press conference. “We have great respect for the people we play against, and we’re happy to be here.”

The matchup will be the fourth time these schools have played each other, the first since 1977. They first met in 1961, with Baylor winning all three previous meetings.

This will be the 20th edition of the Armed Forces Bowl, which seeks to honor the sacrifices made by members of the United States military. The game often features military-themed or patriotic elements such as flyovers, skydiving demonstrations, and on-field tributes and ceremonies.

However, the weather may affect any plans this season. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-teens with a sub-zero wind chill at game time, already causing the annual tailgate to be canceled.

Both coaches will rely on past experiences to help them navigate the frigid conditions.

Aranda, who referred to the game as the “Who Wants It Most” Bowl at the press conference, is drawing from his time as a defensive coordinator at Wisconsin. At the same time, Calhoun will use his experiences in the NFL playing in cold-weather cities like Buffalo and Green Bay.

Baylor is making its first Armed Forces Bowl appearance and becomes the fifth Texas university to do so. TCU, Rice, SMU, and Houston have also participated in the game.

Air Force is playing in the game for its sixth time and first since 2015. The Falcons are 1-4 in their previous appearances, with the lone win coming against Houston in 2009.

Air Force finished the season with a 9-3 overall record and a 5-3 record against Mountain West teams. The team is currently on a four-game winning streak and has defeated teams like San Diego State, Colorado, and Colorado State this season.

The Falcons boast the nation’s best rushing offense, which is not surprising if you follow college football. The offense runs a triple-option scheme, which entails various wrinkles being added to a core of similar plays, and has only attempted 80 passes during the 2022 season.

Baylor linebacker Dillon Doyle, an Iowa transfer, knows the Falcons’ offense will present his unit with challenges.

“I haven’t faced it in a while,” he told reporters at the press conference. “I’m kind of familiar with the gap scheme from playing in the Big Ten and I’m used to reading the guards and things like that. But the things Air Force does with playing with the backer’s eyes and making different schemes look similar… We’ll have to adjust fast.”

Aranda said he is using his past experiences against similar playing styles to help guide his game plan.

“You always appreciate this particular offense,” he said. “You have to be hypersensitive in terms of numbers and angles and the adjustments that go into it.”

Senior quarterback Haaziq Daniels and senior fullback Brad Roberts are the leaders on that side of the ball for Air Force. Roberts has run for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and led the team in rushing in 11 of its 12 games. Daniels has run for over 1,600 yards with 21 touchdowns in his career.

“He’s super talented,” Doyle said of Roberts. “He’ll find the hole wherever it is and we’re going to have to be disciplined about where they’re attacking us.”

Air Force also features a stingy defense– allowing just 13.3 points per game behind linebacker TD Blackmon and safety Trey Taylor.

Baylor finished the season 6-6 after going 12-2 in 2021 and winning the Big 12 Championship.

Sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen — who led the Bears in the conference championship game against Oklahoma State a year ago — won the starting job in spring practices and forced Gerry Bohanon to transfer.

Shapen threw for 2,602 yards, 16 touchdowns, and ten interceptions with a 64.3% completion percentage, failing to meet the expectations the Baylor staff had for the quarterback. There are questions about the quarterback position going forward for Baylor.

The Baylor offense leans more on running the ball. True freshman running back Richard Reese has 962 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, while Qualan Jones and Craig Williams combined for another 980 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns.

Baylor’s defense gives up 194.1 yards per game and will be without nose tackle Siaki Ika and cornerback Mark Milton on Thursday as both players have opted out of the bowl game to focus on the NFL.

Yet, Air Force will not underestimate its opponent.

“They’re big. They move well. They’re exceptionally well prepared,” Calhoun commented. “…[T]he further you study and prepare…how gifted they are, tremendous size, and a great deal of experience. What’s impressive too is just how much they’ve been able to win over the years.”

Baylor is seeking its second consecutive bowl victory after beating Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl last season. Air Force is attempting to win its fourth straight bowl game and fifth in the last six years.

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Jay
Jay
1 month ago

This writer seems to know what’s going on. Great article!