Former Sailor part of bowl magic


— Former Sailors football player Erik Svendsen couldn't have dreamed up a wilder conclusion for his first college bowl game as an Air Force Falcon.

Svendsen, who led Steamboat to the state playoffs in 1997 as quarterback, was part of the Falcons' 37-34 victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs in the inaugural Silicon Valley Classic.

The game was played in San Jose, Calif., on New Year's Eve.

Svendsen, a junior, plays special teams and backup strong safety.

Against Fresno State, his team was outscored 27-3 in the second half, but it held on for the win after a fake play by the Bulldogs ended up falling short.

Fresno State trailed 34-7 at halftime but clawed its way back after rallying behind quarterback David Carr, who brought his team to within three points with 14 seconds to go. But Carr spiked the ball on third down and then called for a timeout.

The Bulldogs could have used that play to take a shot at the end zone before calling

a timeout, which still would have left them enough time for a fourth-down play.

After the timeout, the Bulldogs lined up for what could have been a game-tying 33-yard field goal. But holder Jason Simpson took the snap from center and surprisingly attempted a pass toward the end zone.

Two Bulldogs receivers were open, but Simpson's pass was off, thus making the Falcons the Silicon Valley Classic champions.

"All I was thinking was, it will probably go to overtime unless we block it or something," Svendsen said. "I just couldn't believe the coach went for (the touchdown). It was the most gutsy call I've seen in a long time, maybe ever at least in a game that I've been in."

The Bulldogs dropped to 7-5 after the loss. Air Force finished the season 9-3.

Fresno State coach Pat Hill said his team showed a lot of heart during its comeback.

"At halftime, I just told them we needed to start playing Bulldog football and to die hard," Hill said. "I think the second half is indicative of the type of team this is and the type of character we have."

Falcons quarterback Mike Thiessen threw for 204 yards and added 99 yards rushing.

Bernard Berrian had 162 yards receiving for Fresno State.

Hill said the fake call was preplanned.

"We talked about it all week," Hill said. "If we found ourselves in that position, we were going for the win. And that's exactly what we did. We just fell a little short.

"That was the decision we made, and I have no second thoughts about it."

Ken Foersch, assistant offensive line coach, agreed with the final call.

"It's not something that we drew up on the sidelines," Foersch said. "It was something in a certain situation, if it was there, we were going to call it.

"I think everybody that was involved agreed that's the chance you got to take. That's why you play and coach football. Everybody that ever has played or coached knows what I'm talking about."

Svendsen, who appeared on special teams during the bowl game, said the victory was special even though his team squeaked it out in awkward fashion.

Spending New Year's Eve with his teammates in California was a great way to enjoy the holidays, he said.

"I had a great time," Svendsen said. "The weather was real nice. It was a nice change from here in Colorado where the weather is cold. It was a great time overall just being together with the team."


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