Scroll Top
19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA

LMAFB Bowl Notes/Quotes: Air Force 31, James Madison 21

All photos by Keith Higgs – See full gallery here.

Head Coach Troy Calhoun, Air Force
“We knew up front we had do some things with the running game, and Emmanuel Michel just had a great game with some of those big early runs. Bo Richter had a lot of quarterback hurries and some sacks, and Bo and P.J. Ramsey pressured the quarterback the whole game. This team has hung in there, and I keep thinking about all those on-score games we had late in the season. We played hard the whole season and in this game.”


Air Force (9-4) is now 433-342-13 in its 69th season of football and 55th among NCAA FBS members with a .557 all-time winning percentage. James Madison (11-2) is 369-221-4 (.625) in 52 seasons of varsity football in NCAA Divisions II-III, FCS and FBS (the last in both 2022 and ’23). Among current FBS members JMU’s winning percentage ranks 15th for competition in all four NCAA divisions.

James Madison was seeking to become the third school in the last seven days to capture its first FBS bowl victory in its first FBS postseason trip. The Dukes have made 18 appearances in the NCAA FCS tournament from 1987-2021 before moving to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference in 2022. Earlier, Jacksonville State (34-31 overtime winner over Louisiana in overtime at the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl) and UTSA (35-17 victor over Marshall in the Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas) each captured their initial FBS bowl triumphs. The last time two post-slate games went into extra stanzas (both single OT) in the same year found TCU 10, California 7 (2018 Cheez-It); and Nevada 16, Arkansas State 13 (NOVA Home Loans Arizona).

James Madison and Air Force never have met on the gridiron prior to Saturday.

Air Force is 4-0-0 against both teams it has played from the Sun Belt Conference (Georgia State 2-0. JMU 1-0 and South Alabama 1-0). JMU is 1-1-0 against Mountain West Conference opponents with a 45-38 win at Utah State earlier this season and today’s result,.1612168

Air Force is 16-13-1 in 30 bowl appearances and played its 10th bowl game in the state of Texas with a 5-4-1 record since first playing in a Lone Star State bowl during a 0-0 tie with TCU in the Jan. 1, 1959, Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas. The Falcons have won each of their last five bowl games (2016, 2019, 2021 2022, 2023) and six of their past seven invitations. This is the combined 31st bowl berth for the two competing 2023 schools, and JMU has made postseason activity 19 times (18 FCS playoffs, one FBS bowl).

Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun is 130-82-0 (.613 winning percentage) as he finished his 17th season at AFA. He is second all-time in wins as Falcons head coach behind NFF College Hall of Fame head coach Fisher DeBerry with a 169-109-1 mark over 23 years at the Academy. Calhoun has more bowl victories (8-5) than any other Falcons head coach.

James Madison’s Damian Wroblweski made his college head coaching debut today after assisting programs at Bryant (2000–2002), Pennsylvania (2003), Hofstra (2004–2005), Stony Brook (2006), Delaware (2007-11), Rutgers (2012-13), Elon (2014–2018), and JMU since 2019.

Wroblewski starred as a center as a student-athlete at Lafayette from 1995-99.

Calhoun and Wroblewski join a cavalcade of head coaches with dozens of national honors such as Pac-12 and National Coach of the Year Kyle Whittingham, Utah; National Coach of the Year at Hawai’i and coached SMU, June Jones; National Coach of the Year Sonny Dykes, California; National Coach of the Year Willie Fritz, Tulane; College Bowl Association Distinguished Service Award the late Mike Leach, Mississippi State; 2023 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic coach Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri; and Calhoun, who has coached in a NCAA-record seven Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowls. Taking over as Dukes head coach after the bowl is former Holy Cross head coach (2018-23), Assumption (2013-17) and Salve Regina (2012-12) Bob Chesney who returns to a secular assignment after three stints at famed Roman Catholic institutions of higher learning. He also demonstrated his wisdom as assistant coach at legendary Johns Hopkins from 2005-09.

James Madison is the fifth nationally-ranked team to played in the Armed Forces Bowl. The

Dukes join No. 18 Boise State (2003), No. 19 TCU (2003), No. 22 Army West Point (2018) and

No. 24 Tulsa (2020). JMU is ranked 24th in the AP Poll and 25th in the AFCA Coaches poll.

The 19 combined wins prior to Saturday’s activity between James Madison (11) and Air Force (8) are tied for the second-most wins by opponents heading into the game in the 21 years of the LMAFB. The only game with more regular season wins (22) came in the inaugural 2003 game when 11-1 Boise State played 11-1 TCU. The other 19-win combination came in 2017 when 10-2 San Diego State squared off against 9-3 Army West Point.

Air Force has played in Amon G. Carter Stadium 12 times over the years (seven Armed Forces Bowls as well as five games against TCU). The Falcons are 3-9 inside AGC, including 3-4 in the bowl game. JMU is 2-4 in all games played in Texas with a Homecoming upset triumph at SMU in 2015 and a 28-14 NCAA FCS championship win over Youngstown State for the 2016 season title in Frisco, Texas, at Toyota Stadium as memorable victories. This is the fifth time in the last eight seasons that the Dukes have played their final game in Texas.

This marks Air Force’s seventh appearance in the game, which is the most by any school. It is the second straight invitation for the Falcons, who prior to last year had not played in the game since 2015. Air Force competed five times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2015) between 2007 and 2015, including three straight years. The Falcons are 2-4 in the game with victories coming in 2009 (Air Force 47, Houston 20) and 2022 (Air Force 30, Baylor 15).

This contest featured 17 Texas residents on both teams’ rosters. Air Force has 16 Lone Star State standouts while JMU has one Texan on the roster. Two of Air Force’s all-time greats at quarterback were brothers and option offense aces Beau and Blane Morgan. Blane served as head coach at Lamar U. from 2019-22 and assisted with Air Force teams in the early 2000s. Older brother Beau also was an assistant for Air Force early in the 21st Century and was a practice squad player for the NFL Dallas Cowboys from 1997-99. Their father Barry was a highly-successful head coach at Addison (Texas) Trinity Academy for several decades.

The 12th annual FWAA Armed Forces Merit Award (created to honor an individual and/or group that has brought distinction and recognition to both their service in the armed forces and/or the sport of football), was on display today with winner and bowl attendee Tyler Huff, the Furman quarterback star who was 2023 Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Huff, who was commissioned from Presbyterian College into the U. S. Army Reserves in 2022, transferred to Furman prior to the ’22 season and has racked up 615-of-969 career passing totals for 46 touchdowns along with 370 rushes for 1,8-8 yards and 20 TDs. He will be leaving Fort Worth to report Jan. 8, 2024, to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., for six-month active duty training and is a desired member of the 2024 transfer portal via his hometown of Orange Park, Fla., near Jacksonville.

Also honored today with several presentations to veterans and active service personnel before, during and after the Bowl of the Brave was 2023 Great American Patriot Award recipient (presented by Armed Forces Insurance at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl since 2006), was retired Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg who received the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor, for his extraordinary gallantry and one of just 64 living Medal of Honor awardees, for intrepidity and heroism while serving in combat operations during the War in Afghanistan.

On Aug. 8, 2012, Groberg was responsible for protecting a group of 28 coalition and Afghan National Army personnel, including two brigade commanders, three battalion commanders, an Afghan general, two GS-15 State Department individuals and two majors with his element of six other soldiers. During the advance to a provincial governor’s compound, the patrol was attacked, and Groberg charged and tackled a suicide bomber, thereby distancing the attacker from his personnel.

The bomb detonated, severely injuring Groberg, who spent the next 2.5 years recuperating from his injuries at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., but his selfless actions prevented more deaths from the patrol.

He joins such previous recipients as U.S. Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff General David Petraeus, United States Army, 2008; Adm. Michael G. ‘Mike’ Mullen, U.S. Navy, the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accepted the award on behalf of the Armed Forces, 2009; Navy Admiral William H. McCraven, United States Special Operations Command and later chancellor at the University of Texas, 2013; the late Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL, 2016; Kay Granger, United States Congresswoman, 2017; and famed U.S.O. supporter, Academy Award nominee and world-renowned humanitarian Gary Sinise, 2018; among others.

Team Rubicon, International disaster response organization. Groberg was the featured speaker at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Kickoff Luncheon at the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth Friday and recognized longtime friend and mentor as well as fellow Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia, United States Army (2019 Great American Patriot) at the event.

Today’s bowl trophy honors and recognizes the enormous sacrifices that America’s military personnel have made on the battlefield. It is the most unique bowl team award honoring all six branches of the United States Armed Forces and is composed of material from battle-experienced military equipment, space materials, uniforms, and other items related to the U.S. Armed Forces.

Mountain West Conference teams are now 28-26 against non-league opponents (including today’s game and post-2023 bowls) while Sun Belt Conference members (represented by a loop-record 12 teams during the current bowl campaign) are 36-29 overall outside SBC activity.

Designated home teams are now 12-9 (.571) all-time in the Armed Forces Bowl with seven consecutive victories from 2017-23. Air Force was designated as the 2023 home team and used the east sideline and the south end zone locker room. James Madison assumed visiting team honors and was situated on the west sideline entering the field from the northwest corner locker room.

There was a 53-degree temperature difference from kickoff for the 2022 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl between Air Force and Baylor on Dec. 22 to today when it was 66 degrees (F) at 2:35 p.m. (CST). Official temperature for the 7:03 p.m. (CST) kickoff in 2022 was 13 degrees, and the all-time bowl record low at opening was 12 degrees at the 1983 Liberty Bowl between UCLA and Alabama in the final game for UA NFF College Hall of Fame head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Ten of the first 21 of the Armed Forces Bowl games have been decided by a touchdown or less with seven of these decided by three points or less. The Army West Point win over Missouri contest in 2021 at 24-22 and Louisiana Tech’s 48-45 victory over Navy in 2016 are the only two tussles decided on “buzzer-beater” field goals on the final play, and there have been no overtime games in the 21-game set. Of note, two of the first seven post-2023 bowls ended in overtime for the most since the 2018 season.

The longest bowl overtime classics in history remain with three overtime stanzas each: 2003 – Hawai’i (54) vs. Houston (48), Hawai’i; 2006 – Penn State (26) vs. Florida State (23), Orange; 2012 – Michigan State (33) vs. Georgia (30), Capital One; 2015 – TCU 47, Oregon 41, Valero Alamo; and 2022 – Arkansas 55, Kansas 53, AutoZone Liberty.

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl became the first collegiate football bowl game to host all three U.S. Service Academy football teams when it chose Navy in 2013. In all, the academies have combined to make 13 appearances in the game – Air Force (7: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2022, 2023), Army (4: 2010, 2017, 2018, 2021) and Navy (2: 2013, 2016).

In 2020, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl became the second bowl to host all three academies.

In all, the Armed Forces Bowl has featured teams from 10 difference FBS conferences, plus independents, in its first 21 tests, and James Madison is the first team from the Sun Belt to compete. The Big Ten Conference is the only circuit not represented since 2003 at the LMAFB. the only league yet to play in the game

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl was known initially as the Fort Worth Bowl. In 2006 it changed its name to become the only postseason game to honor all branches of the United States armed forces. It proudly is known across the country as “More than a Bowl Game” and “Bowl For the Brave.” This is the 10th season of sponsorship for the bowl by Lockheed Martin, which has 114,000-plus employees protecting America in the defense industry worldwide.

There have been 96 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl players selected in the NFL Draft with six in the 2023 selections. 2023. Nine former bowl participants were NFL first-round picks, highlighted by California quarterback and 2015 game MVP Jared Goff (No. 1 overall by the L.A. Rams in 2016), Kansas DB Aqib Talib (2008), Cal center Alex Mack (2009), Cal DT Tyson Alualu (2010), and BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah (2013), among others.

This year’s game is being played on Dec. 23 for the seventh time. It is the 10th time that the game has been played pre-Christmas. In all, the game has been played on Dec. 22 (3 times), Dec. 23 (7), Dec. 29 (2), Dec. 30 (3), Dec. 31 (4), Jan. 2 (1) and Jan. 4 (1).

From 2014-22, the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl has been the second-highest scoring bowl game of the more than three dozen in the nation with a combined total of 602 points scored. Only the Rose Bowl Game has seen more points scored (633) for an average of 33.4 per participating team. Today’s game did not disappoint with 52 combined markers to bring the 10-year tally to 654 points.

Air Force’s Emmanuel Michel, listed as No. 4 fullback on the AFA pregame depth chart, became the bowl’s 19th 100-yard rusher in the third quarter, and this included a game-long carry of 54 yards and 66 yards on five carries (of the 86-yard, eight-play drive) during the Falcons first scoring drive of the clash. Michel (54 yards) and John Lee Eldridge III (51 yards) had two of the bowl’s longest rushes in the first half, and Michel carried for 84 net yards and two TDs in the first half.

He ended with 203 yard on 35 rushes to lead all carriers for the second-highest rushing in LMAFB annals (also an Air Force individual bowl record) behind Rashaad Perry of San Diego State with 221 yards in 2017 vs,. Army West Point. Michel passed Ahmad Bradshaw of Army West Point for second place with 180 yards in that same game against SDSU.

Michel’s 35 rushing attempts are second-most in LMAFB history behind Air Force’s Brad Roberts with 37 rushes for 116 yards against Baylor in 2022.

JMU quarterback Jordan McCloud started the contest at 10-for-11 passing for 126 yards and one touchdown during the first 18 clock minutes. AFA quarterback Zac Larrier attempted just one pass in the first 29:33 of the opening half before completing his first aerial of the skirmish for a 42-yard TD to WR Jared Roznoz with 27 seconds left before intermission.

JMU wide receiver Phoenix Sproles is a cousin of Kansas State and NFL standout RB Darren Sproles, and Phoenix Sproles led all receivers with two TD catches today along with five total receptions for 55 yards.

Air Force kicking specialist Matthew Dapore ends the season as the Falcons leading scorer with 83 points, 15-of-19 on field goals and 34-of-35 on PAT kicks. JMU’s Camden Wise reached the century mark with 101 points by kicking 53-of-53 extra points and hitting 16-of-18 field goals. Until the final minutes of the contest, there almost was a NCAA record tied by many with no field goal attempts in a bowl or regular-season collegiate encounter.

The scheduled pregame flyover and parachute game ball presentation had to cancelled today due to overcast, low ceiling and foggy conditions.

Here’s a rarity for bowls and college sports: neither team today sports punter from the Punting School in Australia. Air Force’s Luke Freer is from the Mobile, Ala., suburb of Fairhope while JMU punter Ryan Hanson is the only Texan on the Dukes roster from the Austin suburb of Elgin via Taylor (Texas) HS – the alma mater of late Rice All-America RB and NFF College Hall of Fame member Dicky Maegle. Air Force currently is not accepting foreign exchange students.

Records by conference (at their times of conference membership) and FSB independents in the LMAFB are now American 3-3, ACC 0-1, Big Ten 0-0, Big 12 1-1, CUSA 4-8, Independents 5-0, MAC 0-1, MWC 5-5, Pac-12 2-0, SEC 1-1, and Sun Belt 0-1.

The Armed Forces Bowl has returned to a day game this year after two consecutive primetime kickoffs in 2021 and 2022. Those two games came after 14 consecutive day games from 2006-20, which included 10 starts before noon. The first four games (2003-2006) were played at night.

This also is the second of four bowl bouts in the DFW Metroplex along with the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl at Ford Stadium in Dallas and the 88th annual Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. In 2021 a record five bowls were played in the DFW area as the Frisco College Classic pitted North Texas and Miami (Ohio) in an additional bowl game after four other FBS bowls were cancelled by continuing COVID-19 health concerns.

Gaines Estridge, son of ESPN Radio play-by-play man Brian Estridge for today’s game, is a freshman right-handed pitcher for Air Force’s 2024 baseball squad.

Air Force defensive standout ILB Bo Richter hails from the same hometown as famed ate Conference USA associate commissioner for media relations Russ Anderson – the namesake of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Russ Anderson/Wilbur Snypp Award for national contributions to college baseball. Anderson also worked in pressbox operations for several years with the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces and several other bowl tilts. Richter finished with five total tackles, 4.5 tackles for losses, three sacks, and four QB hurries.