The Air Force Falcons are no strangers to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
As the bowl celebrates its 10 year anniversary, the Dec. 29 meeting between the Rice Owls and the Air Force Falcons will be their fourth Armed Forces Bowl in six years.
“We joked, but it’s serious, when we got the invitation, we said ‘we’re looking forward to going home,’ Troy Garnhart, Air Force associate director for communications said. “If there was ever a bowl made for us, it’s this one.”
What some have taken to Twitter to coin “The Battle of the Birds,” will be the eighth meeting between the Owls and the Falcons since 1998. This, however, is their first bowl competition together and Rice’s first time in the Armed Forces Bowl.
“What’s great about these two outstanding universities is that their football program, their football players are going to make great contributions to society long after the football game,” Brant Ringler, executive director for Bell Helicopter, said.
The Falcons (6-6) overall finished fourth this year in the Mountain West Conference (5-3). Head Coach Troy Calhoun, in his sixth season for the Falcons, led the team to two bowl victories in the past, including an Armed Forces Bowl win against Houston in 2009. A victory this year will be the second for the Falcons in their Armed Forces Bowl history.
“It’s more than an honor to have an opportunity to be a part of this bowl game,” Calhoun said. “I tell you what, anybody, the first time you get to be a part of this, it’s absolutely first class.”
Going into the 2012 season with only five returning starters, Calhoun said he knew of the possibility of a Mountain West team making it into this bowl game yet saw the even bigger picture.
“I just thought, if we could ever get to that point, it’d be a pretty good ending,” Calhoun said. “And yet getting here is not what you want to complete, you want to play well and also enjoy all the festivities of the week.”
Calhoun contributes the experience of this particular bowl game not only to Bell Helicopter, but also to the individuals in combat being represented by what this bowl stands for. He also took a minute of Tuesday’s press conference to thank John Garrison, Bell Helicopter CEO for that.
“To understand their dedication, to really be supportive of our service members, our current service members, those who have served in the past and those who have given up an awful lot,” Calhoun said. “Thank you immensely for that.”