November 2, 2019 Army at Air Force
Can Air Force end the streak?
When you think of the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, most college football purists default to the spectacle that is Army versus Navy, America’s game. And rightfully so, the pageantry that has surrounded this game doesn’t seem to lose its luster with the rich history of these programs.
However, history would suggest that the path to the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy actually runs through Air Force. Their matchups with Army and Navy does not get the national attention equal to ‘America’s Game’, but maybe it should. After all, the Falcon’s have won the outright trophy 20 times since its inception in 1972, significantly more than Army’s 8, and well ahead of Navy’s 15.
In full transparency, I am one of the purists who absolutely loves Army vs. Navy. But hey, I love America, so shouldn’t I? I also love Air Force versus anybody, but I have digressed.
My point is, the Falcon’s matchup versus either Army or Navy will never match the history that has followed America’s game since they first played in 1890. Nor should it, Air Force didn’t begin playing football until 1955, which makes it that much more impressive what they have accomplished in this rivalry. So don’t let nostalgia dilute the reality that Air Force has been top dog in pantheon of Military football since they joined the party.
Know the ‘Knights
Record vs. Air Force: 16 wins- 36 losses- 1 tie
Head Coach: Jeff Monken
Offensive Philosophy: Triple Option
Defensive Philosophy: 3-4
Mascot: Army Mules
Location: West Point, NY
2018 Record: 11-3
Army versus Air Force has to be highlighted on the schedule if you are fan’s of either of these Academies. As much as the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy means to these schools, the satisfaction of victory in this matchup has amplified significantly since Jeff Monken arrived at Army.
These two teams simply get after one another. The product on the field is an absolute reflection of the coaches who have no love lost for one another. It can’t be understated how positive Jeff Monken has been not only for the West Point football program, but these Military Academies overall rivalry. Army being relevant is good for college football.
If you ask those siding with Air Force, Army going from the likable underdog who posed no real threat may now be a novelty you miss. I’m obligated to remind everyone, Army has won the last two head to head meetings with the Falcon’s in route to collecting just as many trips to the Whitehouse.
Who to Watch
The Black Knights lost a lot of talent to graduation, but the cupboards are definitely not bare in 2019. One of the players that Falcon fans should know is Cole Christiansen. Army seems to keep churning out playmakers at the linebacker position; King, Timpf, Nachtigal and now its Christiansen’s turn. Again.
Over the past two seasons the linebacker from West Point has accounted for over 160 total tackles and 17 tackles-for-loss. He’s garnering attention as a potential NFL draft pick, and someone Air Force ball carriers will surely become familiar with.
On the offensive side of the ball, Army returns Kelvin Hopkins under center. Since taking over for Ahmad Bradshaw, Hopkins has kept the Black Knights offense hitting on all cylinders. Accounting for 17 scores on the ground last season, the offense runs through Hopkins.
Even with a lot of turnover in the backfield, especially at fullback, Kelvin Hopkins brings a lot of stability and confidence to their running attack. Army’s new crop of fullbacks will do their damage, but its their quarterback who could break the the back of a defense. He may not pose much of a threat through the air, but Army prefers it that way. In fact, coach Monken delights at the prospect of keeping the game grounded without a pass attempt.
Win the conversion battle, win the game
Possessions could be at a premium again in this seasons game against Army, and if the Falcons want to end the Cadets from West Point’s reign, they need stops. A major ingredient in coach Monken’s winning formula last year seemed to be fortitude. His team attempted and converted a lot of manageable fourth down conversions.
Consequently, Air Force didn’t seem to match that fortitude when it came to those ‘money’ downs. I would be shocked if the Falcons didn’t have a different approach, and frankly more success overall moving the ball this bout. Even if they are effective on offense though, their chances could be limited if Army executes its offense.
At the end of the day I think this has all the makings of a prizefight. I think the pedigree on the Air Force sideline is a little better though, especially in the passing game. Look for Air Force to try and stay on schedule offensively to allow whichever trigger man is under center, be it Sanders or Hammond, to take some shots. And consequently make Hopkins and Army do what they don’t want to do, throw the ball.
Two years away from Colorado Springs is way to long for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. Like the Prodigal Son, its time to come back home.
Falcons sing second.
Air Force 24 – Army 17