SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
The 2021 SERVPRO First Responder Bowl features Air Force against Louisville in Dallas. The game will be played at Gerald J Ford Stadium on the SMU campus and can be seen at 3:15 PM ET on Tuesday on ESPN.
Air Force finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and tied for first place in the Mountain West's Mountain Division with a 6-2 conference record. The Falcons lost to Utah State 49-45 earlier in the season--which cost them a chance at the conference championship.
Like most of the military academies, Air Force runs an option-based offense that is heavy on the running game. The team has only attempted 103 passes all year and has over 4,000 rushing yards. Junior running back Brad Roberts leads the team with 1,279 yards and 13 touchdowns while quarterback Haaziq Daniels is second on the team with 705 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground.
Air Force has an outstanding defense that holds opponents to just 19.1 points per game and under 300 total yards per game. Those numbers make the Falcons the fifth-best defense in the country. Linebacker Vince Sanford has 9.5 sacks this year and will look to make life miserable for Louisville QB Malik Cunningham.
Louisville compiled a 6-6 record this season and finished in fourth place in the Atlantic Division in the ACC. The Cardinals have an offense that can score points but can also be shut down rather easily because of a lack of depth. Quarterback Malik Cunningham has basically been the entire offense--leading the team in passing and rushing in 2021. TE Marshon Ford leads the team in receiving, and freshman Jalen Mitchell has been the best running back.
The Louisville defense is the team's main weakness. They will give up points to just about any offense and force their own offense into panic mode. The Cardinals give up 156.7 yards per game on the ground, which could be an area that is exploited by Air Force often in this game.
Overall, Louisville has the more balanced offense and has played the tougher schedule this season, However, AIr Force has distinct advantages defensively and with its rushing offense. Malik Cunningham will have to keep Louisville in this game and would greatly benefit from someone else emerging to help him on offense. Air Force should be able to run its offense well, so the defense will be the key for them.