The Cougars won their first bowl game in 28 years with a 34-28 win over the Falcons last season. "When you look to play a bowl game, you always seek out the following criteria: quality of experience for your student-athletes, ability for ours fans to travel to the game and the quality of the opponent you are playing," Rhoades said. "In this case all three of these conditions are extremely positive. "The student-athletes had a great experience last year, and they'll have an even better experience this year. The fans can drive to Fort Worth to watch the game, and Air Force is a nationally known opponent with a great football history.
"Our fans have been tremendous this season, coming out to Robertson Stadium in record numbers this year. And, they should be excited to rally around a team that enters this bowl game with a 10-3 record and ranked No. 25 in the country." UH head coach Kevin Sumlin agrees with Rhoades." We are excited about returning to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl," Sumlin added.
"We had a great experience last year and we played in a great game against a formidable opponent. We look forward to another great game this season, and we expect a great challenge from a very good Air Force team."
The No. 25 Cougars captured the Conference USA West Division and played for the league title yesterday, falling short in their attempt for a championship at East Carolina, 38-32. Houston will enter the bowl game with a 10-3 record, while the Falcons head to Fort Worth for the third straight season with a 7-5 record. "We look forward to the No. 25 Houston Cougars returning to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl to defend its title," Brant Ringler, Bell Helicopter Armed Forced Bowl Executive Director said. "We are excited about the match up of the nation's top passing team in Houston playing an Air Force team that has the nation's top pass defense."
This Cougars-Falcons matchup marks the third time in the last 16 months that the two teams have faced one another. Air Force knocked off Houston, 31-28, on Sept. 13, 2008, in a game that was relocated to SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium after Hurricane Ike took aim on the Southeast Texas coast.
A nationally-ranked team during 11 weeks this season, the Cougars boast the nation's number one offense in total offense (581.23 yards per game) and passing (450.00 ypg.) and number two in scoring with 43.92 points per game. UH will be countered by the Air Force's number-one ranked pass defense, which allowed just 148.67 yards per game through the air.
The Falcons also are ranked number four in the nation in rushing with 273.58 yards per game. Houston quarterback Case Keenum will enter the final game of his junior season leading the nation in total offense (429.31 ypg.), passing (419.15 ypg.) and touchdown passes (43). He is a finalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, Manning Award and the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Player of the Year.
Overall, the Cougars are 8-10-1 in bowl games. Houston's first bowl appearance was a 26-21 wins over Dayton in the 1952 Salad Bowl in Phoenix. This is the 13th time Houston has played a bowl game in the Lone Star State.
Houston will enter the bowl game as a ranked team for the first time since 1988, when the Cougars traveled to Honolulu to play in the Eagle Aloha Bowl. The No. 14 Cougars dropped a 24-22 decision to Washington State in the bowl game.
Sumlin is 1-0 in bowl games, becoming the first head coach since Bill Yeoman to win a post-season bowl contest in his first year as a head coach. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl ticket information will be released tomorrow.