Can Air Force Sink Navy?
The first skirmish in the War for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy
Contact/Follow @Sean or @MWCWire
Game Day Details
Series Record: Navy 22 wins- Air Force 30 wins
Commander-in-Chief Trophies: Navy 16- Air Force 20
When: Saturday, October 3rd @ 4 p.m. MT
How to Watch on TV: CBS Sports Network
Game Notes (PDF): Navy | Air Force
After much speculation on whether or not a season would even happen, we are finally here, game week at Colorado Springs.
Throw out suspensions, coach Niumatalolo’s ranting, COVID-19 and Academy Turnbacks, because on Saturday, Air Force and Navy are playing football. And they are playing my favorite brand of football; uber intense Military Academy rival football!
Navy is two weeks removed from the greatest comeback in their history, a 24-point turnaround victory over Tulane. This was especially encouraging for the Mids as just four weeks ago, they were as embarrassed as a team can possibly be in their opener against BYU.
After a round robin at quarterback which saw senior Dalen Morris start week 1 against BYU and get replaced by Perry Olsen, Olsen then transfers the program before their game against Tulane, freshman Xavier Arline gets the start versus the Green Wave in week 2, only to be replaced by previous starter Dalen Morris. Its been quite the roller coaster for those in the quarterback room at Annapolis, but by the end of their game against Tulane, Navy seems to have settled on their quarterback as Dalen Morris looks to have gained traction.
Air Force on the other hand leaves plenty more to the imagination when it comes to expectations for Saturday. With the aforementioned turnbacks, the Falcons will have a very different looking team now, compared to when they completed spring camp back in March. There are just a handful of starts across the whole returning defense, though there are still enough guys with game experience to hopefully complement the newcomers. And while the offense is a lot more fortified with experience, using a Troy Calhoun issued depth chart as reliable as Enron stock. That builds the excitement for Saturday, that much more though when all the cards become revealed.
Similar to Navy, the Falcons may be experimenting with multiple quarterbacks, as this is a position completely devoid of any substantive game experience. Junior Warren Bryan (or) sophomore Haaziq Daniels are listed atop the depth chart presently, but again, they are probably one week from being replaced on that thread by Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck if your trusting an Air Force released depth chart.
It's always a dogfight with @NavyFB 👊#LetsFly #SinkNavy pic.twitter.com/Eaab4Hs2qB
— Sink Navy (@AF_Football) September 30, 2020
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. Don’t be BYU’s Navy, to Navy
In their opening loss to BYU, the Mids defense looked disinterested in tackling and absent any chemistry on offense. It was almost hard to watch their week 1 disaster. The Falcons cannot show up so ill-prepared.
Think of the triple-option offense like a good symphony, everyone has to be in sync to make good harmony. Ideally, the way to get this harmony is with game repetitions. The Falcons will be trying to calibrate on the fly. Fortunately for them, they have a quartet of studs in Parker Ferguson, Nolan Laufenberg, Kadin Remsberg and Timothy (Duval) Jackson to help get in tune.
Defensively though, they knew they were replacing a lot of starters even before the exodus of opt outs. One would have to believe this left the practices a little more live with the pads to account for the lack of returning snaps on that side of the ball. Don’t let those practice reps go to waste, when the live rounds are firing the instincts and muscle memory from all those practices have to take over.
2. Let the Quartet Make Music
I mentioned the quartet of Ferguson, Laufenberg, Resmberg and Jackson earlier, and for good reason. These are All-Conference performers who have proven they can dominate games. The offensive line and running attack will be a strength of this team, and especially critical in allowing some very skilled pieces around them get acclimated.
This will be especially true to minimize the amount of pressure placed on the defense too, while they get their footing. In some ways, this group will be the most critical component to their defenses performance. The more settled this run attack becomes, the better off the defense will be for. And certainly the more effective a completely re-engineered pass game may reveal.
Let the quartet carry the load and lead the way.
3. Win 1st Down
It doesn’t matter if its on offense or defense, it is essential to be successful on first down. Offensively, this as simple as consistent and even modest gains of three yards or better. The success rate of 1st downs lays the foundation for a much broader playbook offensively, as well as keeping successive movements of the chain attainable.
Defensively, a lot of success may be predicated on the Falcons ability to limit gains on first down. BYU bottled Navy up all game, but in particular early downs, which kept the Mids off schedule. If Air Force can find its way to their backfield and disrupt the gains of Jamale Corothers in particular, it will go a long way to securing the W.
Air Force has recruited very well by Academy standards, especially on the defensive side of the ball over the past few seasons. It will interesting to see if an increase in talent (by prospect rating standards) manifests in a cast of more underclassmen playing significant roles than are conventionally expected. The youths ability to progress will be the narrative for the season, not just the Navy game.
I see this game as a toss-up, but give the edge to the Falcons. I simply think Air Force has more proven talent as ironic as that may sound. I also weigh heavily on what I have seen (or not seen) from the Mids so far this season. Navy has an elite linebacker in Diego Fagot, but Air Force has a handful of players on offense that can still make the difference.
I’m also not convinced Navy can run the ball as effective as necessary to succeed. Combine that even more notably, with the Naval Academies less than impressive start to the season, even with their narrow win against Tulane, and I just am not convinced this is a team that the Falcons should lose to.
Air Force sings second.
Navy 20- Air Force 24