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Air Force Gashes Washington State on the Ground, Wins 2019 Cheez-It Bowl 31-21

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 28, 2019

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 27: Running back Kadin Remsberg #24 of the Air Force Falcons rushes the football past linebacker Justus Rogers #37 of the Washington State Cougars during the first half of the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field on December 27, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Air Force polished off its best season in 21 years with a 31-21 victory over Washington State at the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix on Friday.

The Falcons ran for 371 yards, including 178 from Kadin Remsberg. The 5'9" junior running back provided the play of the day after withstanding a crushing hit and extending the ball to score a touchdown that gave the Falcons a 30-21 edge with 3:50 remaining.

Taven Birdow added 108 yards and one touchdown for Air Force, which finished its year with 11 victories. That mark is one shy of the school record set in 1985 and matched in 1998.

The Falcons ended on an eight-game win streak, with their only losses occurring against No. 19 Boise State and No. 23 Navy.

Washington State wideout Brandon Arconado had 11 catches for 167 yards and touchdown for the 6-7 Cougars, whose four-year streak of winning seasons ended.

                     

Notable Performances

Air Force RB Kadin Remsberg: 26 carries, 178 yards, 1 TD

Air Force QB Donald Hammond III: 15 carries, 62 yards, 2 TD; 4-of-12, 30 yards, 1 INT

Air Force FB Taven Birdow: 20 carries, 108 yards, 1 TD

Washington State QB Anthony Gordon: 28-of-42, 351 yards, 3 TD

Washington State WR Brandon Arconado: 11 catches, 167 yards, 1 TD

                          

Air Force's Triple Option Bests Washington State's Air Raid Attack

Air Force entered Friday ranking third in the FBS with 292.5 rushing yards per game.

Washington State began the day first in the FBS with 444.3 passing yards per matchup, or 57.5 more yards than second-place LSU.

While neither offense is the most efficient (the rushing and passing honors go to Clemson and Oklahoma, respectively), it's clear how these two teams like to operate.

The question was which offense would win in a clash of disparate styles, and the answer was Air Force thanks to 373 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 67 attempts.

The Falcons made an immediate statement by going 98 yards in 20 plays and taking up 12:23 of the clock en route to a Donald Hammond III one-yard touchdown run.

Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu was a fan of the rushing attack:

Tyrann Mathieu @Mathieu_Era

Air Force run game is fun to watch. #AFvsWSU

That drive helped Air Force dominate time of possession, with the Falcons holding the ball for 43:24. Air Force also mounted three other scoring drives of six minutes or longer.

As for Washington State, the Cougars offense didn't have much trouble moving the ball down the field en route to 366 scrimmage yards. The problem was that they didn't have much to show for it.

A game-opening 71-yard drive ended at the Air Force 2-yard line when a 4th-and-goal conversion attempt proved unsuccessful. A 75-yard drive in the third quarter down to the Air Force 5-yard line finished with WSU getting stuffed on a 4th-and-2 run.

The Cougars did mount scoring drives that combined for 180 yards, with Anthony Gordon tossing touchdown passes to end each one. The final TD was a 13-yard pass to Brandon Arconado, the leading receiver on the night:

Pac-12 Network @Pac12Network

Gordon's go-to guy finally gets his TD. ☑️ @Brandonkainalu has 160 receiving yards tonight and hauled in this 13-yard pass to bring @WSUCougarFB back within three. 📺 ESPN | #CheezItBowl https://t.co/by4PhfDb1o

However, Air Force responded with Remsberg's score on 4th-and-goal to take a two-score lead. Washington State couldn't score on its final drive, and Air Force ended the game in victory formation.