- - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The thought of doing something daring crossed Air Force coach Troy Calhoun’s mind earlier in the game, but he decided to squirrel it away for the right time.

That happened to be with 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter, with Calhoun’s Falcons down by one after a thrilling drive gave them the opportunity to tie the Military Bowl and force overtime against Toledo.

Faced with the safe choice or the risky one, Calhoun decided to gamble, going all in and calling a fake kick for a two-point conversion that would give Air Force a stunning victory.

“I thought we were better off going for two,” Calhoun said.

The snap went to the holder — punter David Baska — who fumbled the ball as he approached the end zone. Kicker Parker Herrington attempted to grab it but kicked the ball out of bounds, giving Toledo a wild 42-41 triumph Wednesday before 25,042 at RFK Stadium.

“We didn’t convert it, so you better be able to live with it,” Calhoun said.

The call stunned just about everyone, given that the neither team had much trouble moving the ball and that overtime likely would have been more of the same.

“I thought we were kicking it,” Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson said. “To my surprise, we were running the fake. If we would have made that two-point conversion, would we be having this same conversation?”

On the other side, Toledo (9-4) knew that something might have been fishy, preferring to call a standard defense rather than a block.

“We talked about it, because they’ve faked some extra points and faked some field goals,” Rockets coach Matt Campbell said. “I give credit to our staff — we got into a defensive call, and our kids executed with great precision in that situation.”

It was a fitting end to a crazy game that saw the teams combine for almost 750 yards of offense, including a flurry of action in the final minutes that set the stage for Calhoun’s gambit.

With the score 35-35 midway through the fourth quarter, Toledo capitalized on a short field when quarterback Terrance Owens connected with Bernard Reedy for a 33-yard scoring strike with 5:01 remaining — Reedy’s third touchdown of the game on just four catches.

“When Terrance snapped the ball, I just knew when he was going to throw it to me,” said Reedy, who had 126 yards receiving. “For your quarterback to have that passion to get you the ball, you just have to do something with it.”

Air Force (7-6) responded with a 12-play, 78-yard desperation drive that hit pay dirt when Jefferson found a wide-open Zack Kauth for a 33-yard touchdown pass.

“I’m always cool, calm and collected going down the field,” Jefferson said. “I hit that pass to Zack, and I let out a little bit of exuberation. I was happy. … We were on the verge of tying the game.”

Instead of leaving his offense on the field — which gained 407 yards and averaged 5.3 yards a play — Calhoun felt the best bet was with his special teams.

“I thought we had a better chance by running a play that we do an awful lot in film study,” he said.

Toledo was no stranger to wild finishes and high-scoring affairs, and the Rockets seemed comfortable trading blows from the start, when the squads combined for 56 points and 486 yards with relative ease in the first half.

None of Toledo’s five offensive touchdowns went longer than seven plays, and the Rockets received critical touchdowns from their special teams, on Eric Page’s 87-yard kickoff return, and defense, on Jermaine Robinson’s 37-yard interception return.

The Rockets never trailed, but the Falcons tied the game three times and seemed primed to do it a fourth time before the failed conversion.

“They understand it’s a 60-minute football game and anything can happen,” Campbell said. “We’ve been through the wringer, and what you see is a resilient group.”

So are the Falcons, who might understand more than any other team that football is a small step in a much larger outlook on life. Still, sometimes it’s the little things that sting.

“I think we could have gotten 3 yards,” Jefferson said.



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