When the military academy schools meet on the football field, it's special. It's so special that the Army and Navy game gets its own weekend to showcase the pageantry of the event. That's the historical game in the three team rivalry. But it has been the Air Force Falcons versus the Navy Midshipmen game that has been the most important in the acquisition of the Commander-in-Chief trophy. Air Force (3-1, 1-1 MWC) has won the trophy 18 times, most among the teams, while Navy (2-3) has captured it 14, including the last two times. For Air Force to take the advantage in the trophy race, there are three key things they must accomplish this weekend.
Game Time/TV - 1:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
Series Record - Air Force 27-19
Last Meeting - Navy 28 Air Force 10
Last Week - Air Force 28 Boise State 14; Western Kentucky 36 Navy 27
Break the Mirror
You would really have a hard time telling the teams apart if they didn't have their team names on the front of the jersey. They run basically the same offense with the same emphasis on the running game and rocket sweeps off of running back motion. You have to stop the fullback and then you always have to have in the back of your mind about the play action pass. Both teams run a 3-4 defense and both teams pride themselves on their mental and physical toughness. So how does Air Force break the mirror? They have started to implement more of a pistol formation look with Jacobi Owens being the inside dive option and Garrett Brown being the pitch option for quarterback Kale Pearson. Also, the Falcons can run a more conventional passing game out of this attack, taking advantage of Brown's receiving ability in tandem with the super talented sophomore Jalen Robinette on the outside. Giving Navy a look that they don't practice against every day could be of great benefit to the Falcons.
Continue superior run defense
Defensive coordinator Steve Russ has made stopping the run the first and second priority for the Falcons this season. It has worked almost to perfection for the Falcons, as they are ranked seventh in the NCAA in rushing defense, giving up 82.2 yards per game. Air Force will have its hands full as Navy is the leading rusher in the NCAA averaging 358.4 yards per game. Navy is most dangerous when quarterback Keenan Reynolds is in open space, as evidenced by his three touchdown performance last year against the Falcons. Safeties Weston Steelhammer and Christian Spears will play a big role for the defense as they take turns being the eighth man in the box to stop the triple option game of the Midshipmen. Steelhammer is becoming very adept at making plays for the Falcons, following his three interception performance against Boise State last week. On top of those picks, Steelhammer also has three sacks and four tackles for loss on the season. His play making ability will be needed for Air Force to slow down the Navy offense.
Home Sweet Home
The Falcons are finding the home field advantage they seemed to have misplaced last season. The team is coming off one of the finest victories in their football history, as they played a clean tough game while taking advantage of their opportunities when Boise State committed seven turnovers. The Falcons have not trailed at home this season, and a fast start against Navy is a must. Both teams are built to play with the lead, as evidenced by Navy's failed comeback effort against Western Kentucky last week. The Midshipmen had cut the game to a 29-27 deficit, but a failed two-point pass attempt by Reynolds was followed on the next possession by a pick-six interception by the Hilltoppers to clinch the game. Getting a lead and running the ball are important for both teams.
Navy has won nine of the last 11 games against Air Force
Air Force and Navy have won the last 17 Commander-in-Chief Trophies
Air Force is 32-14 at home under Troy Calhoun