By Troy Phillips
FORT WORTH, Texas – As a drizzly, grey day turned to night at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on Friday, you couldn't help notice something stark.
They'd put on a pretty good game – again.
Louisiana Tech (9-5) and Navy (9-5) turned the 14th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on its ear, now something of a regularity under the third-year title sponsor.
Two years ago in Lockheed Martin's first year with the bowl, Houston rallied from a 25-point hole in the fourth quarter to beat Pittsburgh 35-34. Last year's 13th edition of the bowl wasn't a particularly close game, but eventual top NFL draft pick Jared Goff threw six touchdown passes in California's win over Air Force.
“We get a great show every year,” said Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed Martin Executive VP/Aeronautics Division, following Louisiana Tech's last-second field goal to beat Navy 48-45.
“Both teams played their hearts out. What a way to end the season. Win or lose, it was great to see both of these teams fight it out until the end. What a great game to play in, all the back and forth.”
An announced crowd of 40,542 witnessed four ties and six lead changes. Most returned after seeking refuge underneath the upper decks during a short rain storm before halftime, and weathering a little weather was worth it.
“It was a great game and opportunity for our employees,” said Rick Edwards, Lockheed Martin Executive VP/Missiles and Fire Control Division. “We sold out all of our employee tickets. We had another big crowd and were able to show everyone here and at home what we're all about. Just another special day to show how we feel about our military and veterans.”
The bowl is set to host Army next postseason for the event's 15th season, pending the Black Knight's bowl eligibility in 2017. Army (7-5) will face North Texas in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl on Dec. 27, and the outlook seems good for the Black Knights to win at least six again.
“We're gratified to have them next year,” Edwards said of Army. “They're back to bowl eligibility for the first time in six years, and they've got a young team. We've also extended our sponsorship another three years (through 2019), so this just continues to be a great event for Fort Worth and for Lockheed Martin.”
This year, the pre-bowl events drew more than 4,000 one evening to Sundance Square for an F-35 aircraft demonstration. Word seems to be getting out each year about the bowl, despite its bumping around the bowl calendar.
“We have immediate stability moving forward,” Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl executive director Brant Ringler said. “Our sponsorship base continues to grow. Our ticket base continues to grow. This year we were able to underwrite over 20,000 tickets for our military members and their immediate families to come and enjoy the game.”
“All 20,000 were signed up for online by those families and distributed. So it's a record for us as well. The game is strong and will continue to be.”