FORT WORTH, Texas - DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan had touchdown catches to help California erase a three-TD deficit sustained while the starting receivers watched from the sideline, and the Bears rallied to beat Air Force 42-36 in the Armed Forces Bowl on Monday.
California (7-6), ranked No. 2 in the nation in October before losing six of seven games, managed to finish with its sixth straight winning season.
Jackson, Jordan and leading tackler Thomas DeCoud were held out of the starting lineup and didn't play the first quarter because of unspecified violations of team rules that occurred before the team got to Fort Worth for the bowl.
Helped by a botched kickoff, Air Force (9-4) led 21-0 after scoring twice in a 2-minute span early in the second quarter - before Jackson and Jordan even got on the field.
But Jackson made an acrobatic 40-yard TD catch to cap his first drive, and Jordan had an 18-yard scoring grab in the third quarter. Jordan finished with six catches for 148 yards, and Jackson caught five passes for 81 yards.
Justin Forsett, playing his final collegiate game only about half-hour from his home with about 300 family and friends watching, ran for 140 yards and two TDs on 23 carries. His 1-yard score with 1:33 left in the third quarter gave the Bears their first lead and put them ahead for good at 28-27. He added a 21-yard TD on Cal's next drive.
Freshman quarterback Kevin Riley, who took over for Nate Longshore in the second quarter, was 16-for-19 passing for 269 yards and three TDs and ran for a score. Longshore had been hampered by a sprained right ankle and coach Jeff Tedford wanted to get Riley some action.
Forsett's go-ahead TD came after Air Force lost four-year starting quarterback Shaun Carney because of a right knee injury when his leg buckled awkwardly while being tackled near the Cal goal line.
Carney was running right on a third-and-goal keeper from the 1 when he was hit head-on by two defenders and from the side by another defender, that impact bending Carney's leg. The quarterback immediately grabbed his right knee and didn't put any weight on his leg while being helped off the field.
Ryan Harrison kicked a 19-yard field goal on the next play to put the Falcons up 27-21, but Riley's 52-yard pass to Jordan right after the kickoff set up Forsett's first touchdown.
Carney had 15 carries for 108 yards rushing and a TD, a 1-yard keeper on the Falcons' opening drive of the game. He was 5-of-8 passing for 68 yards.
After Carney's 7-yard TD pass to Travis Dekker for a 14-0 lead capped a 65-yard drive following a failed fourth-down conversion by Cal, the Falcons kicked off into a stiff wind.
The high-arching kick bounced off a Bears player who apparently never saw the ball while he retreated to blocking formation. Aaron Kirchoff recovered at the Bears 40, and five plays later Jim Ollis, who ran for 101 yards on 16 carries, scored on an 8-yard run.
Jackson caught three passes on his first possession, including the TD on which he turned and backpedaled a few steps in the end zone before twisting and diving to make the catch.
Air Force was then forced to punt for the first time, and the Bears drove 70 yards in 10 plays, Riley's 5-yard pass to Lavelle Hawkins making it 21-14.
The Falcons, denied their double-digit win season since 1998, won six of its last seven regular-season games under first-year coach Troy Calhoun and played in its first bowl since 2002.
Cal has six straight winning seasons for the first time since 1947-52. The latest streak, which includes five consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in school history, has come since Tedford took over a team coming off a 1-10 season.