How the Cal Bears Can Win the Armed Forces Bowl


On Tuesday, the Cal Bears take on the Air Force Falcons in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and here’s how they can win.

After a 5-0 start, the regular season didn’t end as well as the California Golden Bears would have liked. Starting with a week six matchup against the then-fifth-ranked Utah Utes, the Bears lost five of their six games following the red hot opening. They did end the regular season on a high note, though. During their November 28th season finale against the Arizona State Sun Devils, the Bears fought back from a three-touchdown first half deficit, and won a 48-46 thriller when Matt Anderson drilled an easy 26-yard field goal as time expired.

The Bears are hoping that momentum is still on their side a month and a day after their seventh win. In their first Bowl game since 2011, the Bears will match up against the Air Force Falcons in the 13th annual Armed Forces Bowl, from Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. In a contest of two powerful offenses, here’s how the Bears can win their 11th Bowl game in school history.


Priority number one for the Bears will be to stop, or at least slow down the Falcons’ prolific ground attack, which will be a lot easier said than done. Air Force owned the second-best rushing game in the FBS, racking up a whopping 4,183 yards and 321.8 rush yards per game. Running the triple-option, a speciality of the military academies, seven different Air Force players rushed for over 300 yards, led by junior Jacobi Owens’ 1,013 yards.

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The Cal run defense will face a tall task on Tuesday. As a unit, the Bears have allowed 203.5 rush yards per game, ranking them 104th in the nation. Over the last seven games, that total jumps way up to 250.9 rush yards per game. Cal played through their last few games with their two biggest defensive enforcers, linebacker Hardy Nickerson and safety Damariay Drew, at far less than 100 percent. Nickerson has played through a few nagging injuries, and Drew has missed two full games, and parts of others. Drew is still dealing with a knee injury, but he is expected to go in the Armed Forces Bowl. Cal will ned both players at the top of their games if they want to have a chance at slowing down the Falcons ground game.


Cal’s best shot at improving to 11-10-1 in Bowl games is continue their aerial assault against Air Force. The “Bear Raid” offense is the fourth-best passing attack in the nation, gaining 368.8 yards per game through the skies. They are led by junior quarterback Jared Goff, who continues to shred opposing defenses, as well as record books. This year, Goff has broken his own school record with 4,247 passing yards and 37 touchdowns, and should break the school’s completions and attempts record in the Bowl game. Goff is 416 passing yards and six touchdowns from breaking the Pac-12 single season records.

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Goff has no problem spreading the ball around in his offense. Eight Bears’ players caught at least 17 passes, while 11 players grabbed a touchdown from Goff. Junior receiver Kenny Lawler led the team in both categories, with 47 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

Air Force has a good defense, ranked 23rd in the nation by allowing 337.1 total yards per game. The Bears’ defense likely won’t be able to stay step-for-step with the Falcons’ offense for the entire game, so the Bear Raid will have to crack the tough Air Force defense if Cal wants to win their eighth game for the first time since 2009.

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For seniors, like Stefan McClure, Bryce Treggs, Daniel Lasco, Kyle Kragen, and Stephen Anderson, this will be their last game in college, and for some, their last game as football players. For others, like Goff perhaps, they will choose to forego their senior season and head into the bright lights of the NFL. There’s no better way to end your college tenure than with a Bowl win.