Military Bowl 2011: Complete Preview for Toledo Rockets vs Air Force Falcons

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Military Bowl 2011: Complete Preview for Toledo Rockets vs Air Force Falcons
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

 

Key Storyline

This year's Military Bowl and the DC Bowl Committee had planned on the Navy Midshipmen representing the military academies, and Navy was originally supposed to play one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's teams. That plan changed after Navy's November 29 loss to the San Jose State Spartans, making the Midshipmen no longer bowl-eligible, and the ACC no longer had any bowl-eligible teams when the Military Bowl was to make its selection.

The Air Force Academy Falcons, stemming from the Mountain West Conference, replaced Navy as the game's military academy, and the Mid-American Conference's second place Toledo Rockets were selected to replace the ACC's team.

Even though the Military Bowl is not one of the BCS' most notarized bowls, being that '11 is only the fourth Military Bowl, a headache still resulted when selecting which two teams would square off in this December 28 matchup.

Parity reigns in the college football world.

Where: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN, ESPN3.com

 

Who Might Not Play for Air Force

Michael Hester (C): Hester, Air Force's senior center, hasn't played in a game since the Falcons October 1 matchup against Navy because of an ankle injury.  Hester has been replaced in Air Force's starting lineup by fellow senior center Jeffrey Benson. 

Darius Jones (RB): Jones suffered a foot injury Week 6 against Notre Dame, and he is out for the season.

Zack Payne (DL): Prior to the team's game against Army, Payne missed the previous four games due to an injury. Payne suffered a knee injury against Army and is most likely done for the year, including the Falcons' bowl game.

Drew Coleman (WR): A shoulder injury prevented Coleman from playing in the team's season finale against San Diego State, and that should may prevent him from playing in the Military Bowl.  However, Coleman's status for the December 28 bowl game is questionable.

Ken Lamendola (LB): A hamstring injury prevented Lamendola from playing in the team's final game of the '11 season against San Diego State, and his status for the Military Bowl is questionable. 

Jordan Waiwalole (LB): Waiwalole injured his arm in Air Force's final game of the season, and he's now questionable for the team's December 28 bowl game.

 

Who Might Not Play for Toledo

Mark Singer (S): Singer has missed the entire 2011-12 season for the Rockets due to a should injury he suffered in August. Singer will not play in the Military Bowl.

Danny Noble (TE): Noble suffered a broken ankle in October and underwent surgery to repair the break that held him out for the remainder of the season. Noble will not play in the Rockets' bowl game.

T.J. Fatinikun (DE): The elbow injury that Fatinikun suffered in mid-October has held him out since, and he will not play in the Military Bowl.

Austin Danton (QB): Dantin wasn't able to play in Toledo's final two games of the '11 season because of a concussion, and his status for the December 28th Military Bowl is uncertain.

 

What it Means for Air Force

Coleman's potential absence for Air Force in the Military Bowl won't hurt the team too bad. In Coleman's 10 games played in the '11 season, he recorded just 189 total yards of offense, including one receiving TD. Air Force, who averages more rushing yards per game (320) than passing yards (278), will have to continue to attack on the ground like the Falcons have been doing the entire season.

Waiwalole's potential absence in the Military Bowl could be the Falcons' biggest loss. Waiwalole has recorded a total of 66 tackles in the 12 games he appeared in for Air Force, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a half of a sack. Without Waiwalole, AFA will have less pressure in the middle of the field because of the enforcement he provides at the LB position.

 

What it Means for Toledo

With QB Austin Dantin possibly missing the Military Bowl, Toledo's two-quarterback system will trickle down to a lone QB with Terrance Owens. Though both QBs have each thrown for 15 TDs, Owens has racked up 1,812 passing yards compared to the 1,398 Dantin threw in just two less games. Neither QB provide the high-powered Toledo offense with much of a rushing threat, but the two-quarterback system isn't the same if one of the guys isn't dressed. 

Fatinikun's presence on defense wasn't too much to replace, only recording 23 total tackles in the seven-plus games he appeared in. With Fatinikun potentially out for the Military Bowl, Toledo will have to continue to do what they've done all season—rely on offense.

 

What They're Saying

 

Air Force's Player to Watch: Asher Clark, RB

Asher Clark is the Falcons' lone 1,000-plus yard rusher on the '11 season. Clark racked up a total of 1,096 rushing yard this season, including six rushing TDs. Clark didn't lead the team in rushing TDs, but that doesn't take anything away from his ground-and-pound ability he brings to the run-dominant Air Force offense.

Clark isn't a threat in the passing game, but he has the potential to break off a long run at any point.  The longest run Clark had this season was 67 yards, a run that he ended up taking to the house for six points.

 

Toledo's Player to Watch: Eric Page, WR

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Page has caught 112 passes for a total of 1,123 receiving yards, including 10 receiving TDs. Toledo relies on its offense to win games, and you never know when the junior WR can run after the catch for the score.

Page has caught at least four passes in every game of the Rockets' 2011 season, including his nine receptions for 149 yards and five, yes, five TDs in a 63-60 loss against Northern Illinois on November 1st.

 

Key Matchup

The key matchup in this year's Military Bowl will be Air Force's offense against Toledo's defense. Air Force has scored an average of 27 points per game in 2011, and Toledo has given up nearly 30 points per game.

Toledo's offense is lethal, but Air Force's offense relies on the rushing attack, averaging 320 yards on the ground each game this season. If Air Force can eliminate any offensive turnovers and kill the clock by moving the ball on the ground, capitalizing on any possible points throughout the game, they'll be in a great situation to match whatever offensive production by Toledo.

 

Prediction

The 2011 Military Bowl will not be the typical MAC matchup that Toledo has engaged in throughout the season, averaging a total of 72 points between both teams, but, despite Air Force's rushing attack, Toledo's offense will be able to lead it's team to a bowl victory. Air Force's defense, which allows 27 points per game, will not be able to keep up with the fire-power the Rockets have on offense.

Final Score Prediction: Toledo 28, Air Force 27

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