Georgia Tech will face another option-focused team for the first time this season when it takes on Air Force in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27 in Shreveport, La. Tech leads the country in rushing, averaging 327 yards per game. Air Force is second, averaging 317.9. Here are 10 more facts about the Falcons:
1. Smart school: Air Force was second nationally, and first among the service academies, in Academic Progress Rate. The APR is a measurement used by the NCAA to try and ensure that student-athletes are progressing toward graduation at a steady semester-by-semester rate. Air Force posted a 988 multi-year score, second only to Rutgers. A perfect score is 1,000.
2. Trophy that matters: The Falcons won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy this season for the first time in eight years. The Trophy is given annually to the service academy with the best head-to-head record against the other academies. The Falcons have won it 17 times, five times more than Navy and 11 times more than Army. It has been shared four times.
3. High school: True to its name and focus, Air Force plays its home football games in the clouds. Falcon Stadium is 6,621 feet above sea level. The Independence Bowl is practically at sea level.
4. History in the polls: The Falcons have never been ranked No. 1. They reached No. 2 in 1985 before losing to BYU. They finished No. 5 with a 12-1 record.
5. The founding: The Academy was founded on April 1, 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill authorizing the school. Colorado Springs, Colo. was selected over 580 sites in 45 states.
6. Georgians on the roster: There are 14 natives of Georgia on Air Force’s roster, including Darius Jones, younger brother of Tech A-back Roddy Jones. The Falcons’ starting quarterback, Tim Jefferson Jr. (Woodward Academy), and running back, Asher Clark (Peachtree Ridge), are from the Atlanta area.
7. NFL Alumni: The Falcons have had a few players make NFL rosters, but cadets have a five-year service commitment to the Air Force after graduation. Those that that will fly, and almost half of the cadets will, have a 10-year commitment.
8. Marching orders: Each day, the Academy’s 4,400 cadets line up, march to lunch at Mitchell Hall, eat and then march out again. The operation takes 25 minutes and is one of the must-sees when visiting the campus.
9. Playing the Jackets: Tech is 3-0 against Air Force. The Jackets won games in 1977, ‘78 and ‘79. Eddie Lee Ivery rushed for a school record 356 yards in the 1978 game. The Falcons’ defensive coordinator? Al Groh, who is now Tech’s defensive coordinator.
10. Coaching ties: In 1995 and ‘96 Mike Sewak, who is Tech’s co-offensive line coach, was the offensive coordinator at Ohio and Troy Calhoun, now the coach at Air Force, was the quarterbacks coach. When Sewak left to become offensive coordinator at Georgia Southern, Calhoun was promoted to offensive coordinator.
– Doug Roberson, AJC