For the only the second time in Air Force history, the Falcons have had back-to-back 10 win seasons, and for the first time in their history, they have won 10 games in three out of four seasons.
The formula was familiar: maintain control of the ball with Brad Roberts, lean on Haaziq Daniels to make key runs for first downs and big throws downfield, and play lockdown defense by taking the rushing game away from the opponent.
Roberts ended up with 116 yards on 37 carries. The Bears were very stout up front, and the yards came slowly in the first half, but ran a lot of time off the clock. As the defense got tired of being on the field in freezing weather, the holes opened up a bit and allowed Roberts to get his 11th 100 yard game of the season. He also added two short touchdown runs.
Daniels had his second straight MVP performance in a bowl game. He made several key runs on 3rd and long, helping the Falcon convert a first down 8 out of 16 times. He only threw 7 times completing 4, including a 68 yarder to Amari Terry and a 12 yard touchdown to Caleb Rillos.
For the fifth straight game, the swarming defense held an opponent to under 100 yards rushing. Baylor came into the game averaging 193 yards per game, and were held to 42 yards. Over the last 7 games, the Falcons allowed only 58 rushing yards per game, and that schedule included rush heavy teams like Boise, Army, San Diego State, and Baylor.
The performance was good enough that a lot of people on social media were expressing their admiration for the program:
Most underplayed story in Colorado college football: All due respect to Norvell and Sanders, the best coach in the state is Troy Calhoun.— Terry Frei (@TFrei) December 23, 2022
From 2019-present, @AF_Football is 34-11 (76%). They also have the highest CBTN Offensive Control Rating score among all FBS #CollegeFootball teams. There a lot of teams that should be studying what Air Force is doing offensively & ditch their Starter Kit Spread playbook. pic.twitter.com/Mi3xCxF6zZ— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) December 23, 2022
Have been asked many times would our offense of 70s and 80s win today? Ask the Baylor Bears! @OU_Football— Barry Switzer (@Barry_Switzer) December 23, 2022
Air Force’s total defensive stats aren’t good just because they aren’t on the field much. They’re great on a YPP basis— Conference Commandos (@ConfCommandos) December 23, 2022
In a world where everything’s either talent or scheme, AFA’s defense is just extremely disciplined & understands assignments. On brand for a squadron of cadets
Mannnn i have to give credit where it's due.....this air force defense is stiff!— Brice Musgrove Sr. (@CoachGreedy) December 23, 2022
I was especially impressed with the performances of three defenders.
Jayden Goodwin led the Falcons with 9 tackles and had a pass breakup. He was one of the freshmen who got a chance to play during the Covid year when many defenders took turnbacks. He played well that year and has improved each year and still has another year left. Very solid tackler, hard hitter with good coverage skills.
Peyton Zdroik appears to me to have All Mountain West potential. He’s undersized as a nose guard at 6’ and 260, but he is very strong and will only get stronger. He looks to be too quick for many of the bigger offensive linemen. A sophomore this season, he has improved a lot as the season progressed. In fact, in the last half of the season, he produced 9 TFLs and 4.5 sacks.
Lastly, Jonathan Youngblood provided a lift to the defense after he came in for an injured TD Blackmon. Youngblood is another defender who got an opportunity as a freshman to play a lot of snaps. Blackmon has been a star on the defense this year, and there was no noticeable difference when Youngblood took over. He was tied for second in tackles in the game with 5.
And so, the season closes on a high note for the Falcons. Several monkeys were removed from the Falcon’s backs this year: the CIC Trophy returned to Air Force for the first time in six years, the team achieved their first victory over SDSU in 13 years, and the Falcons got their first ever victory against Baylor. One more monkey remains, that is a Mountain West championship.