Air Force vs. Navy: Winners and Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired in the first Mountain West football game of 2020?
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
Finally, Mountain West football is back! Sure, it was just one game, but it’s hard to think of a more emphatic statement of intent than the world hurt that the Air Force Falcons put on the Navy Midshipmen.
Here’s who shined and who had their shine wear off in the tilt between the Falcons and the Midshipmen.
1. The Air Force offensive line. There was so much being made in the days leading up to Saturday of the fact that the Falcons were literally starting over with 11 new starters on defense that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that one of the nation’s best offensive lines was 100% back and ready to put people on notice.
It wasn’t just that they racked up 369 rushing yards, at seven yards a pop no less, as much as how they did it, taking it straight to Navy in a no-frills, up-the-gut fashion. The interior linemen — Nicholas Noyen, Nolan Laufenberg, and Kyle Krepsz — created running lanes so large that I could probably get five yards running through them. Against a rival like the Middies, that must have been immensely satisfying.
2. Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels. Taking over for one of the conference’s best overall players under normal circumstances would’ve been a tall task, but doing it under these circumstances certainly added another degree of difficulty. In his first start, the sophomore from Franklin, Missouri didn’t have an A-plus performance but easily held his own as the operator of the offense, going 4-of-9 through the air for 41 yards and rushing ten times for 96 yards and a touchdown. He brought a healthy dose of speed that Mountain West defenses are going to have to mind in the future, which should only be good news for the rest of the Falcons backfield.
3. Air Force kicker Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl. Speaking of tall tasks, the new Falcons placekicker looked right at home replacing Jake Koehnke, tying a program record with four fields in the win over Navy. Two of those kicks came from 40 and 48 yards, too, so Troy Calhoun must feel good about having that option when he needs it on the opponent’s side of the field.
1. BYU. Yes, the Cougars have put together three straight blowouts to start their 2020 campaign, but Navy putting together five bad halves of football out of six at this point probably dims their overall resume a little bit. In other words, maybe we should wait to be sure they’ve actually played someone good before we start considering their place in the big money bowl picture.
2. The six Mountain West teams that have to play Air Force this fall. If anyone was expecting a 2013-type collapse from these Falcons, they may want to think again. I may have shorted the winners section just a touch but it seems clear that they’re as loaded as ever at running back and tailback — Kadin Remsberg had his quietest performance since last year’s Navy game and it didn’t matter all — and should continue to pose a challenge on offense. They’ll hang around and cause headaches in the race to the top of the conference.
3. Navy head coach Ken Niumatololo. Maybe he had a point about playing Air Force after all.