Air Force Football: Reflecting on the 2020 Commander-in-Chief's Trophy

Air Force Football: Reflecting on the 2020 Commander-in-Chief's Trophy

Air Force

Air Force Football: Reflecting on the 2020 Commander-in-Chief's Trophy

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The Drought Continues


The Good, Bad and Ugly of this Year’s CiC


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In a year like no other, 2020 presented plenty of new challenges to all those competing in the College Football landscape, and Air Force certainly wasn’t immune. Originally, the Falcons saw a third of their nine game schedule lost due to cancellations related to the COVID-19 protocols.

That was before their hotly contested matchup with Army was rescheduled for late December. This didn’t happen without a lot of posturing, accusations and word play in between the cancellation and resurrection of the ballyhooed battle of Military Academies.

As the calendar accelerates towards spring camps and any potential scrimmages, we are going to look back at this past seasons round robin for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy from an Air Force vantage point.

THE GOOD

I’m going the lazy route in kicking off the good with a reference to the Falcon’s season opening dismantling of Navy back in October. The one blemish of this game came by the way of a a 73 yard touchdown pass from Navy quarterback, Tyger Goslin.

This was a microcosm of what you could expect from the Falcon defense in the CiC series in particular. The completely renovated defensive unit surrendered just 17 points in the series. You could not ask more of any defensive unit, much less one that was leaning on freshman and first time starters at every position group.

The defense wasn’t the only unit to get off on the right foot in 2020’s opener, as Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl connected on his first four career field goals, starting with a 48 yarder. Unfortunately this was not the narrative in the kicking game for the rest of the year, as we will revisit this aspect later.

Contrary to the kicking game, probably the best player surprise of the 2020 year came by way of Brad Roberts who made his Falcon debut in the opener averaging more than 10 yards per carry on his way to a 100 yard day. This was a sign of things to come as Roberts led the team in rushing, including racking up another 83 yards versus Army on just 11 carries. Maybe we would be talking more about the Army game under the ‘good’ heading if Brad Roberts touched the rock more than a mere 11 times? You can enter an inquisitive emoji here.

And of course, we can’t forget the Red Tails uniforms, honoring the Tuskegee Airmen!

THE BAD

It may still be an unhealed wound to revisit the game against Army that somehow was a month ago already, but there lies a lot of the bad. In particular the play-calling on the offensive side of the ball which saw the Falcons turn the ball over three times by way of interceptions.

In reality, when Air Force is at their best, they don’t even need to throw the ball three times in total all game. True to their identity was Army in this matchup, and it paid off. Though yards and points were very hard to come by, the Black Knights never wavered from what they do, and it paid off in the end.

While as an Air Force fan, you can only be left to wonder, “what if”. What if Brad Roberts and Kade Remsberg got more carries? What if they had a more reliable kicking game? What if they didn’t throw the ball with a lead in the fourth quarter?

The last one looms large, as that turnover led to the lone Army touchdown, and the deciding points. A true identity crisis on one sideline was obvious, as standing opposite them was a team who was rewarded with the ultimate spoils of victory for staying steadfast to theirs. At the end of the day, it’s reasonable to question those things.

A lot of time could be spent focusing on the Army debacle, but I’m going to move on from that heartbreak. A constant shuffling of the lineup was something that most teams had to endure. But injuries to star players in this series also added to some of the disappointment.

The oft injured Timothy Jackson wasn’t available most of the season, in particular against Army. When in the lineup, Duval is an absolute difference maker, and one of the MWC’s best runners. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get to see him play more.

You can’t talk about standout players without a tip of the cap to Diego Fagot of Navy. The Midshipmen’s linebacker has been a stud in the middle of their defense for three seasons now. His game was cut short against Air Force with injury, and while it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, it’s fair to be disappointed when you are shorted an opportunity to observe true and rare talents like Fagot.

Between Fagot and Army’s Jon Rhattigan, the Falcons faced two of the countries best linebackers. And by country, I don’t just mean their military academies teams. These are two of the best at what they do in all of the NCAA. You don’t have to like the team your watching them play to appreciate the talent that may exist on their roster.

THE UGLY

It’s unfortunate that were revisiting the kicking game here because it started off so well. However, outside of that Navy contest, the kicking game struggled mightily connecting on just 1/5 attempts outside of extra points, which to his credit, TSR was a perfect 15/15 on the year.

One of the benefactors of the kicking inconsistencies noted, was coach Jeff Monken and his cadets at West Point. Though prior to securing the deciding victory for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy in December, he had a lot of misguided comments about the Air Force Academy and it’s culture.

The comments by Monken about the way Air Force conducts itself were bordering idiotic when they were made earlier this fall. But then to learn he said these things while West Point suspended the very policy which prohibited players (cadets) found to be in violation of the ‘Honor Code’ to represent the Academy at the very same time does nothing but surface very valid questions about the character of Army’s head coach.

Make no mistake, Jeff Monken is a very good coach, and he’s done a fantastic job restoring the Army program back to a peak of competitiveness. But allowing players who were found guilty of a large scale academic cheating scandal play by subverting your ‘Honor Code’ is a very bad look. And its especially tone def to criticize another program when these activities are ongoing within ones own. Sports Illustrated was one of many noted publications to cover these findings, here. 

Finally, it doesn’t get uglier than missing out on the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy yet again if you are Air Force. While they have won the CiC 20 times in its history, which is the most of the three Military Academies, they have not been back to the White House to celebrate it’s victory since 2016.

When by their own admission, winning this series is their single most important athletic goal every year, this type of dry spell defines ugly.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With plenty of experience and the additional juice from the players who took turnbacks in 2020 returning, it could be a special year. Spring practice is upon us, and the Falcons will start the building blocks that hopefully provide a sturdy foundation to a team that can once-again capture what surprisingly now has become elusive to them in 2021; The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

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