The first leg of the 2012 Commander-In-Chief Trophy competition comes early Saturday morning at Falcon Stadium. The Navy Midshipmen face the two-time defending CIC Trophy winners, the Air Force Falcons at 9:30am MT. Luckily the game will be broadcast on CBS for those who want to sleep in and skip the early morning tailgating.
So far the 2012 season has not gone well for the Middies, who come into this game at 1-3 with their lone victory against Virginia Military Institute two weeks ago. The Navy offense has struggled to get things moving averaging 216.8 yards per game rushing, 96 yards per game less than their average in 2011. But when they do run they have relied on quarterback Trey Miller, running back Gee Gee Greene, and fullback Noah Copeland. The three have combined to account for 141.5 yards per game and 4 of the 6 touchdowns Navy has scored this season. Miller does have 1 touchdown pass, but has also thrown 3 interceptions.
As is the case for Air Force (2-2) in almost every CIC Trophy matchup over the past 25 years, the Falcons will win if they can stop or at worst slow down the Navy rushing attack. The Falcons have struggled this season tackling and allowing plenty of yards after contact. The 152 yards allowed per game on the ground by the Falcons is masked by the fact that in both week 1 against Idaho State and last week against Colorado State they stormed out to early leads and forced the opponent to pass the ball. Linebackers Alex Means, Austin Niklas and Josh Kusan are going to have to be very attentive to their tackling assignments, fill the gaps at the line and wrap up the Navy rushers.
Offensively, not much needs to change from the start of the season. Cody Getz has been an incredible asset each week with a 170.8 yard average and 7 touchdowns. Getz is second in the nation in rushing average and is coming off of a career high 222 yards last week. Getz was held out of the endzone by the Rams and will be looking to added to his total against the Midshipmen. Quarterback Connor Dietz has done an excellent job of taking control of the offense which is averaging 37.8 points and 500 yards per game. His passing has been modest but adequate. Dietz threw his first 2 touchdown passes last week and is 23-44 for 416 yards and no interceptions this season.
This game will come down to who gains more yards on the ground and who can protect the football. The needle in both of those categories points toward the Falcons. Navy has had 12 turnovers through 4 games including 9 fumbles. Air Force has only lost 3 fumbles accounting for its only turnovers of the season.
This is a rivalry game that transcends college football. Every player on both sides knows the importance of this game and the likelihood of a blowout is small, despite the offensive numbers in the Falcons favor. There are bragging rights to be had for both academies and both branches of the armed services. The time of the game shouldn't be a factor, except for maybe the fans in the stands, but even many of them are former military personnel and won't be too bothered by the early start. In the end the Falcons successes on offense should push them over the top and put them one step closer to securing the CIC Trophy for another year.
Make sure the alarm clock is set Friday night and put on a big pot of coffee; Air Force vs. Navy is never a disappointment.