SHREVEPORT, La. - When Troy Calhoun took the Air Force job in 2007, he heard people say sustained success at a service academy was next to impossible.
Four years, 34 wins and four bowl games later, it sure seems different now.
"These seniors have you convinced differently," said Calhoun, himself a 1989 graduate of the academy.
Air Force cashed in when Georgia Tech muffed a punt in the second half of Monday's Independence Bowl, getting a go-ahead touchdown run from senior fullback Jared Tew in a 14-7 victory.
The Falcons (9-4), who forced four Yellow Jackets turnovers, closed the season with a four-game winning streak.
"My number got called on the 3-yard line and Coach says when you get the ball in the red zone you don't want to get stopped," said Tew, the game's offensive MVP. "I was lucky enough to get my number called and get a touchdown in my last game."
Air Force fought through plenty of adversity to win its second straight bowl, shaking off a so-so first half that included several missed scoring opportunities. Jonathan Warzeka let a sure touchdown catch slip through his fingers.
The Falcons' only points at halftime were two field goals by backup kicker Zack Bell, who converted the first two attempts of his career, and Georgia Tech led 7-6 at the break.
"These guys aren't going to get too riled up," Calhoun said. "They love to play. You're not going to be around guys who are any more passionate, any more disciplined, guys that have any more care or pride in them than these guys."
In the second half, the Falcons were the beneficiary of a handful of Georgia Tech mistakes.
Joshua Nesbitt, the ACC's career leading rusher for a quarterback, missed the game because of a broken right arm. Tevin Washington played fairly well in his place, rushing for a team-high 131 yards. But his fumble at the Air Force 5 stopped a nearly nine-minute drive in the third quarter.
"It's very disappointing," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "At the start of the third quarter I thought we had the game right where we wanted it."
Daniel McKayhan fumbled two punts in the third - including one on the Air Force 14-yard line that led to Tew's go-ahead touchdown. McKayhan was filling in for the injured Jarrard Tarrant.
"He misjudged the first one and then he probably lost confidence after that," Johnson said. "He has been the backup returner all year and it is just one of those things. We had our chances, so don't lay the loss on him."
Georgia Tech (6-7) came into the game hobbled by injuries, academic casualties and misbehavior.
Top receiver Stephen Hill and starting safety Mario Edwards were among four players declared ineligible because of various academic issues. Hill's absence certainly appeared to hurt Georgia Tech's passing game. Washington completed just five of 14 passes for 41 yards and one interception.
Defensive end Anthony Egbuniwe and defensive backs Michael Peterson and Louis Young missed the first half because of curfew violations.
Even with all those issues, Georgia Tech probably would have won if not for the turnovers, outgaining the Falcons 320-287. Instead, the Yellow Jackets dropped their sixth consecutive bowl and posted their first losing season in 14 years.
It was the latest disappointment in a string of setbacks for the Yellow Jackets, who had high expectations after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2009 and playing in the Orange Bowl.
"Sometimes things don't go your way and at this point we should know how to grow and mature as a team and learn how to handle those things better," defensive tackle Jason Peters said.