BY JOHN-LAURENT TRONCHE
December 31, 2008
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The sour economy and a general nationwide malaise proved no match for perfect weather and a good game of football as more than 40,000 fans turned out for the 2008 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl where the University of Houston defeated Air Force Academy 34-28.
The University of Houston Cougars’ victory was their first bowl win since 1980 – ending eight consecutive bowl losses – and Air Force Academy’s second consecutive loss in the Armed Forces Bowl; in 2007, a record 40,905 people filled Amon G. Carter Stadium on a cool, sunny day to watch the University of California-Berkeley Golden Bears defeat the Air Force Academy Falcons 42-36 at the second annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
In the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl, as the Armed Forces Bowl previously was known, Houston lost to the University of Kansas Jayhawks 42-13.
The third Armed Forces Bowl, hosted Dec. 31 at Texas Christian University’s Amon G. Carter Stadium, is a celebration of all things military, with shows of patriotism and gung-ho Americana second only to Independence Day. There were tributes aplenty for all branches of the military, helicopters from Bell were on display, perks for attending service members and a halftime show in which Gen. David Petraeus received the Armed Forces Insurance Great American Patriot Award. Previous recipients of the Great American Patriot Award are Gordon England, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of the U.S. Army Preston “Pete” Geren, a longtime Fort Worth resident and former four-term U.S. congressman from the 12th district in Texas.
The game kept fans standing until the final minutes of the fourth quarter as the Air Force Academy Falcons consistently fought back to trail the Cougars by less than a touchdown at most times. Eventually, however, the University of Houston was able to pull ahead enough to let the clock wind down to a final difference of just six points.
More than 80 companies and organizations sponsor the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl, including lead partner Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., the Fort Worth-based aeronautics firm that already presented the game in 2006 and 2007 and is signed on as bowl namesake through 2009. Many more sponsors, returning and new, made the game possible, including First Command Financial Services Inc., Hawk Electronics, the Omni Fort Worth Hotel and XTO Energy Inc.
In addition, a host of military and military-related organizations stepped up to support the event, such as the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, Lockheed Martin Corp., Armed Forces Insurance and Humana Military Healthcare Services Inc.
Armed Forces Insurance signed on to sponsor the military-themed event for the next three years, while Hawk Electronics extended its sponsorship to cover bowls through 2010.