SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- The gamble failed for Fresno State coach Pat Hill.
Fresno State's furious second-half comeback fell short as Jason Simpson overthrew a wide-open receiver in the end zone on a fake field goal in the final minute and Air Force held on for a 37-34 victory in the inaugural Silicon Valley Classic.
The Bulldogs (7-5) rallied for 28 points after halftime and set up for a potential tying field goal with 33 seconds left. Simpson, a sophomore punter, took the snap, rolled right but overthrew linebacker Giachino Chiaramonte. Tight end Donnell Burch also was open in the vicinity.
"We especially worked on that play for two weeks, especially for Air Force because they were good blockers on field goals," Hill said. "Simpson was to roll out and his first option was (tight end) Alec Greco, but he collided and fell out of the play. Jason looked at his second option, Chiaramonte. Simpson chose the right option.
"We had no second thoughts on going for the win. We just came up short."
Mike Thiessen helped Air Force (9-3) build a seemingly comfortable 34-7 halftime lead, throwing two touchdown passes and running for a pair of scores.
But David Carr led Fresno State back, throwing four of his five TD passes after halftime. He hit sophomore Bernard Berrian for scores of 47 and 51 yards in a 3 1/2-minute span of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 37-34.
Carr completed 22-of-33 passes for 391 yards with an interception for the Bulldogs, who have lost three straight bowls and have not recorded a postseason win since defeating Southern California, 24-7, in the 1992 Freedom Bowl.
"When we went to the locker room we had to search for answers," Carr said. "We got a spark in the locker room and we hit the big plays in the second half."
Thiessen accounted for 303 total yards, completing 12-of-24 passes for 204 yards without an interception and carrying 18 times for 99 yards.
Dave Adams sandwiched field goals of 37 and 46 yards around Thiessen's 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scotty McKay as Air Force raced to a 13-0 lead. Thiessen and McKay hooked up again 65 seconds later for a 13-yard score that opened a 19-point lead.
Carr got Fresno State on the board in the final minute of the first quarter with a 73-yard strike to running back Paris Gaines.
Thiessen scored on runs of one and nine yards, then hit Chris Jessop for a two-point conversion that gave the Falcons their 27-point halftime lead. Air Force held on for its second straight bowl win after a three-game postseason losing streak.
"We were ready to play and we caught them off-guard," Thiessen said. "Fresno State came out with a different attitude (in the second half). They were much more aggressive and they were a different team. They had a great second half defensively."
The Bulldogs had only 59 rushing yards, but Berrian caught seven passes for 162 yards and Gaines added four catches for 102 yards.
"We were very proud coming back in the second half after we were thoroughly outplayed in the first half," Hill said. "We did things out of character, but we regrouped. In the end we came up short."