Air Force needs to win the second leg of its Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy campaign to have any chance of holding onto the Trophy it won last season. The Falcons have beaten the Black Knights 18 of the last 20 times the two academies have met, but Army has a strong team this year and will be looking to spring an upset on the road.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Win the quarterback battle
The first, key whenever two triple-option teams meet, is to win the battle at the quarterback position. Ahmad Bradshaw (Army) and Arion Worthman (Air Force) are both excellent option quarterbacks and whichever performs better on the day will give his team a great platform from which to go on and win. Turnovers will be key – Worthman needs to make sure his passes are crisp – as giving away extra possessions in a battle of ball control offenses is a big no-no.
It is interesting that while Bradshaw is a run only option at quarterback (867 yards rushing and seven touchdowns), Worthman does a little bit of everything. The Air Force quarterback has 830 yards and nine touchdowns through the air, while rushing for 759 yards and 13 scores. Stopping Army is as simple as taking Bradshaw away and letting the players around him try to beat you.
Stop the run
The Falcons have been brutally bad against the run on defense in 2017. There are 129 teams in the FBS and Air Force is dead last among those teams in yards per rush giving up 6.37 yards per carry. That is a huge chunk of yardage to give up on the ground. Overall, the Falcons rank 118th in rushing defense as they give up 231.9 yards per game.
Next up for the Air Force rushing defense is the little matter of the No. 2 team in the country in rushing yardage. Army puts up 362.1 yards per game on the ground and averages 6.2 yards per carry. This one is a case of the unstoppable force meeting the very moveable object and if Air Force is to have any chance to win this then the defense needs to step up and stop a running game for just about the first time all year.
Win the turnover battle
This one is pretty simple. Ball control offenses need the ball to work properly. Air Force is good at hitting big plays – they have 93 runs of 10 yards or more which is the best mark in the country – but it is still not an offense that you would call explosive on a down by down basis. Air Force and Army are teams that want to grind a defense down by running option play after option play until an assignment is missed and a big play is broken. The best way to do this is to ensure you have more possessions than your opponent and to this goal, turnovers will be key.
Army will give Air Force chances to take the ball away. Bradshaw has games at the quarterback position where he is a walking turnover machine and if the Falcons can force Army to take to the air and pass the ball then literally anything can happen with his passes. On the ground, he is also susceptible to making bad decisions, so the Falcons should be getting to the ball en masse and forcing the issue.