Air Force needs to get back on track after losing 56-38 to New Mexico last Saturday. The Falcons have dropped from 2-0 to 2-3 after a good start to the season and playing against Navy is not exactly ideal at this point. This is the first of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy games this season, a trophy that the Falcons are looking to defend with Navy seen as the most likely of the other two academies to take it from them.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Stop the Navy rushing attack
It is not often that Navy gets stopped its tracks when trying to run the triple-option. When it does though it is more often than not against a team that knows the system inside out and that has the advantage of playing the Mids on a yearly basis. This is exactly what happened in 2016 against Air Force as the Falcons shut down the Navy option and gave the Mids no realistic way of winning the game.
After holding Navy to 57 yards rushing on 38 carries last season, the Falcons will be looking to try the same trick again. Navy has a different quarterback now in Zach Abey, a player who is almost exclusively an inside runner in the Navy system. It has worked so far for the Mids as they lead the country in rushing at exactly 400 yards per game. Their 16 touchdowns and 6.15 yards per rush are worrying numbers, but Troy Calhoun knows how to stop the Navy offense in its tracks.
Run the ball better
The Air Force version of the option is a little different to the rest. The Falcons have more looks from which to throw the ball than the likes of Army and Navy. When that strategy is working it makes the Air Force offense very difficult to defend as they can be far more varied than is possible in the traditional option style. This season though, Air Force does need to work on running the ball better.
Being behind the other academies in rushing at this point in the season is not too much of a worry. The problem is that Air Force is only tenth in the country in rushing yards per game at just under 275 yards per contest. This puts the Falcons behind teams like UNLV, Tulsa, and Arizona, teams that Air Force should always rush better than given the style of their offense. Getting back to basics in the running game- and feeding Tim McVey – should be a priority on Saturday.
Air Force started the season with a couple of wins. Since then, though, the Falcons have dropped three straight and visit Annapolis having not won a game on the road yet this season. Competitive losses to Michigan and San Diego State were impressive, but the Falcons lost a bad one against New Mexico last week when they gave up over half a century of points to New Mexico in a 56-38 loss.
Air Force cannot afford to let Navy get out ahead by a couple of scores early. If they do then the Mids will ball control the life out of them as they are prone to do. Confidence and momentum are tricky things, but it is fair to say that the Falcons have little to none of either given the way the last three games have gone. Air Force needs this win to springboard for the rest of the season and scoring early would be a big confidence boost towards that goal.