By Troy Phillips, www.armedforcesbowl.com
If on the surface the 13th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl didn’t get its expected down-to-the-wire contest, it might have reaped something else.
Time will tell, but perhaps a future NFL great is now splashed all over the bowl’s record books.
While clearly more than Air Force could handle, California quarterback Jared Goff left a lasting impression on the LMAFB on a day that drew football-perfect weather and an announced crowd of 38,915.
The Golden Bears (8-5) pulled away from the Falcons (8-6) in the second half as Goff, who at one point had thrown three touchdown passes in five plays, for a 55-36 victory.
Cal knew what it had in Goff and put him to good use, while Air Force buckled against his ability to spread the field and use every weapon at his disposal – in this case nine different receivers.
Goff’s sixth touchdown pass in the third quarter left little doubt as to the outcome – Cal led 52-29 – but by then many in the crowd appeared to be hanging around to catch one last pro-ready moment in what was expected to be his final college game.
Likely to no avail, Cal fans showered Goff with chants of “One more year!” after the trophy presentation.
After a half-week of seasonably uncommon weather (fatal tornadoes, hail and snow) in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Tuesday’s game at Amon Carter Stadium was spared. Clear skies allowed the pregame jump team and four-ship F-35 flyover to go off as scheduled.
“What happened earlier in the week [with weather-related tragedies] reminds us of why this is so important, to honor the men and women of the armed forces,” said Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed Martin VP/Aeronautics division. “We put on a great event and game, but you have to put everything in perspective.”
Crowded bleachers and a sun-covered east stands gave ESPN’s broadcast a festive look, and Goff’s arm was the headliner. His 467 yards passing and six TDs were new LMAFB records. Goff and Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts (three total TDs passing and rushing) were named the game’s most valuable players. One from each team is chosen.
Air Force fans have mostly helped give the LMAFB five of its six largest attendance figures, including the largest (41,414) in 2009 against Houston.
Second-year title sponsor Lockheed Martin, which through the bowl game and its employees raised $25,000 for a local charity, The Mission Continues, that helps place veterans in new jobs and careers, has now had top-level involvement in the latest two Armed Forces Bowls.
A year ago, it helped put on one of the bowl season’s best shows – at least unwittingly – as Houston recovered two onside kicks in the final minutes and scored two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to steal a 35-34 victory over Pittsburgh.
This time, it was Goff , Cal receiver Kenny Lawler (five catches, three TDs) and the rest of the Bears’ offense that set or tied 16 individual or team LMAFB records. Cal and Air Force also had the most combined points (91) in the game’s 13 years.
“Last year we had a great game with the big comeback,” said Rick Edwards, Lockheed Martin VP/Missiles and Fire Control division. “This year, good weather, good crowd and a real good game. We couldn’t have asked for anything more from Lockheed Martin’s standpoint.
“As a Cowboys fan, I’d like to see more of him (Goff). We’ll see how that plays out.”
Edwards said great players like Goff in the bowl can draw a bigger TV audience that helps Lockheed Martin and its 126,000 employees “get our message out about what we do every day and why we do it, which is making sure we support the men and women of the armed services.”
For the 2016 game (or if it falls on or after New Year’s Day 2017), Navy is set to return to the LMAFB pending bowl eligibility. Based on recent history, that’s unlikely be a problem for the Midshipmen. If available, a Big Ten team will be Navy’s opponent.
Navy’s only appearance in the LMAFB in 2013 drew more than 39,000 fans.
“That’s the beauty of being the sponsor of this game,” Carvalho said. “We have this [unofficial] rotation with the academies, we’re looking forward to having Navy next year, and hopefully after that Army. It looks like Army is definitely on the right trajectory [to be bowl eligible again]. We’re excited about the future.”
Around 12,000 veterans or active-duty personnel registered with the bowl for game tickets through Lockheed Martin’s distribution program. Along with Goff’s, the game highlighted the accomplishments of those men and women too.
“It brings all the core values of Lockheed Martin together in one event,” Edwards said. “We’re thrilled with it.”