Fort Worth, Texas, December 6, 2009 – The 2009 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will pit the top passing team in the country against the school with the best defense against the pass as this year’s New Year’s Eve game will feature a rematch between the University of Houston and the United States Air Force Academy at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
For only the seventh-time in the history of collegiate football bowl competition, two schools will face each other in back-to-back post-season games as the “pass first” 10-3 Cougars of Houston (ranked 25th in the USA Today poll this week and 27th in the AP rankings) meet the 7-5 “pass defensive first” Falcons of Air Force in the seventh annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl here December 31 for the 11 a.m. (CST) game at Amon G. Carter Stadium to be aired live on ESPN.
Previous bowl games with back-to-back match-ups were the Cotton (1970-1971, Notre Dame and Texas; 1993-1994, Notre Dame and Texas A&M), Rose (1973-1974-1995, USC and Ohio State), Orange (1990-1991, Notre Dame and Colorado; 1993-1994, Florida State and Nebraska) and the Outback (2001-2002, South Carolina and Ohio State). Three of the previous six match-ups featured splits with Notre Dame (Texas A&M), Florida State and South Carolina completing two-game sweeps.
“We are excited about our match up that brings the nation’s top passing team in Houston to Amon G. Carter Stadium to play an Air Force team that has the country’s best pass defense,” said Brant B. Ringler, the executive director of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. “The game also presents two contrasting styles of offensive football as Air Force continues to feature one of the best rushing attacks in the country. It will be a very attractive matchup for the fans.”
With the second-best scoring offense in the nation among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools with 43.9 points a game, Houston will be seeking to duplicate its 34-28 win over the Falcons in the 2008 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. The Cougars compiled 415 total yards against the Falcons last New Year’s Eve to even the series between the two schools at 1-1.
The ESPN Regional Television (ERT) owned-and-operated event will feature Houston’s top-ranked offensive (581.2 yards per game) and passing attack (450.0) against an Air Force defense that is listed first in pass defense (148.1), third in turnover margin (1.42 per game), ninth in scoring defense (15.3) and 10th in total defense (284.8).
On the other side of the ball, Air Force ranks fourth in the nation in rushing offense (273.6) and Houston is 112th in rushing defense (213.1). The Falcons offense in 2009 compiled 355.9 total yards and 28.3 points a game. The Falcons did score 28 points in last year’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl while accumulating 352 total yards.
The past two Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowls have featured record crowds as the 2007 game between Air Force and Cal attracted 40,905 fans while Houston’s win over the Falcons last New Year’s Eve was witnessed by 41,127 in-house fans at the sold out 44,358-seat Amon G. Carter Stadium. Prior to 2007, the best attendance mark was for the inaugural game in 2003 when Boise State defeated TCU 34-31 before 38,028 fans.
Houston second-year coach Kevin Sumlin has utilized the talents of CFP All-American Case Keenum to help lead the Cougars to a 10-3 record this season. Keenum has passed for 5,449 yards by completing 71 percent of his attempts for 43 touchdowns. A junior from Abilene, Texas, Keenum has passed for 12,728 yards and 101 touchdowns in his career.
With three-straight winning seasons under third-year coach Troy Calhoun, the 7-5 Falcons are led offensively by running backs Jared Tew (66.4 yards rushing a game) and Asher Clark (61.3). Air Force also has one of the nation’s top placekickers in Erik Soderberg, who is tied for seventh nationally in field goals made per game (1.7).
With a combined 17 wins, six of the two school’s eight losses were by a touchdown or less. All three of the Houston setbacks were in league play, including a 38-32 setback at East Carolina Saturday in the Conference USA championship game where Keenum passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns. The Cougars opened 2009 with back-to-back wins over Big 12 Conference schools Oklahoma State (46-35 at Stillwater) and Texas Tech (29-28 at home).
Four of the five Air Force defeats were by a touchdown or less with two setbacks in overtime. Three of the Falcon losses were to MWC schools (TCU, BYU and Utah) ranked among the top 25 teams in last week’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings. The fourth and fifth setbacks were to bowl-bound Minnesota of the Big Ten Conference and to independent Navy in overtime.
The 2009 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will be the 20th post-season game for both schools as each owns an 8-10-1 record bowl record. Houston will be playing in its sixth bowl in the last seven seasons while Air Force will be appearing in the post-season for the third-straight year after being absent the previous four seasons.
The Cougars, who snapped an eight-game bowl losing streak by defeating Air Force last New Year’s Eve, will be making their 13th appearance in a bowl game played in the state of Texas. Houston, who also competed in the 2005 Fort Worth Bowl with a 42-13 setback to Kansas, is 5-6-1 in Texas bowls while Air Force is 1-2-1, including a 42-36 setback to Cal in the 2007 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
This year’s New Year’s Eve contest will be the third meeting between the two schools. Air Force won the initial meeting between the two teams in 2008 with a 31-28 victory over the Cougars as the September 13 game was moved from Houston to SMU’s Ford Stadium due to Hurricane Ike. Houston evened the series mark 110 days later as running backs Bryce Beall and Jared Tew were named the most valuable players for the Cougars and Falcons, respectively.
Both Houston (33-15) and Air Force (30-11) have had success against teams from Conference USA and the Mountain West, respectively. In bowl games between the two conferences, Conference USA leads 7-5 with Houston playing in the last two post-season meetings, including a 20-13 setback to TCU at the 2007 Texas Bowl.
Ticket prices for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl are $50 for sideline seats, $40 for upper deck seats and $20 for end-zone tickets. Military veterans receive half off any $50 or $40 seat and active-duty personnel get in free via the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl corporate military ticket underwriting program. A portion of local ticket sales will go to designated military charities (USO & Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund). Tickets for this year’s game can be obtained by calling the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl office at 817/810-0012, or by going to the Web site for more information at www.ArmedForcesBowl.com.