The Air Force Falcons took the first step in capturing their 20th Commander-in-Chief trophy by defeating the Navy Midshipmen 28-14 in Colorado Springs on Saturday afternoon. The Falcons improve to 4-0 on the season for the first time ever under Troy Calhoun and as a team since 2003, while Navy drops to 3-1.
Both the Falcons and the Midshipmen came out and changed up their tendencies on offense early in the game. Navy would find early success in the passing game, hitting two passes of over 30 yards taking advantage of the absence of safety Weston Steelhammer due to his first half suspension for a targeting ejection versus Utah State last week. But, the Falcons would stiffen defensively in the first quarter behind big plays from Haji Dunn Jr. and Ryan Watson.
For Air Force, they would turn to some trickery on one of their only deep drives early in the game. But, the reverse pass by Air Force's receiver Tyler Williams would be intercepted by Daiquan Thomasson in double coverage to squelch a real opportunity to take the lead in the game. In fact, the only scoring in the first half would be a field goal by Air Force that was set up by a blocked punt by Brodie Hicks deep in Navy territory. The Midshipmen defense would stiffen after the blocked punt and send the game to a 3-0 Air Force advantage at the half.
The Falcons would take advantage of getting the ball first in the second half, and it would be Jalen Robinette who would step up and become the story for the Air Force offense. Robinette, who would finish with five receptions for 163 yards, would become the target for quarterback Nate Romine. Robinette would come up with a huge 43 yard reception that extended the first drive of the second half that would be capped off with a Timothy McVey one-yard touchdown drive to extend the game to 10-0. After two defensive stops by Air Force, one of which included a diving interception by Steelhammer who had two in the second half when he returned, Romine to Robinette would strike again. Robinette would catch a long pass and when he was surrounded by three Navy defenders, he would stop on a dime, reverse his field and beat the defense to the corner of the end zone for a 75 yard touchdown that would extend the lead to 17-0 for the Falcons.
Luke Strebel would hit a field goal to up the Air Force lead to 20-0 early in the fourth quarter. Navy would finally get on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter with a Shawn White six-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 20-7. The Falcons would quickly regain the momentum and put the nail in the coffin for this game when Romine would target McVey on a deep pass that McVey had to catch behind him one handed and then outrace the defense to extend the lead to 26-7. Ronald Cleveland would add the two point conversion to put the score at 28-7. Navy would add a late touchdown to cap out the scoring, giving the Falcons the 28-14 victory and their 15th home victory in a row.
There were some impressive statistics in this game for Air Force. Romine would have his best passing day as a Falcon, completing 8 of 14 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns. But the statistic that really stood out and was probably the biggest factor in the game was the Air Force defense holding Navy, who came in as a top five rushing offense, to 57 yards for the game. Navy's defense did a nice job against the Falcons top five rushing offense as well, holding them to 173 yards rushing. But, the Falcons defensive domination forced the Midshipmen to throw 31 passes on the day. That is a recipe for defeat if you are a Navy fan.
Air Force will enter back into Mountain West play next week when they travel to Wyoming to take on the Cowboys.