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Falcons Dominate Midshipmen, 40-7

New starters come through in a big way

“Unexpected.” Reading through commentary on Saturday evening’s game between Air Force and Navy, that’s a word you will see a lot of. With a defense that was almost entirely replaced from last year, who would have expected for Navy to end up with one touchdown and less than 100 yards rushing? In my preview, I thought the Falcons would give up 31 points, and I was being generous. But led by a senior defensive lineman/offensive lineman/defensive lineman who had played in only one game and a freshman! linebacker in uniform for the first time, the Falcons held Navy to only 135 yards outside of two long passes that went for 73 and 33 yards. George Silvanic had been a defensive lineman for his first three seasons with the Falcons but practiced at offensive lineman during spring practices. On my spring depth chart, I had him on the two deep at offensive tackle. But with Jordan Jackson and Christopher Herrera taking turnbacks, the Falcons were thin on the D-line, and Silvanic moved back to the position. He was a main factor in holding Navy to just 90 yards on the ground, accumulating 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Another factor in that performance was the inexperienced linebacking crew, led by a true freshman inside linebacker, Alec Mock, who also had seven tackles and one sack. He is the first linebacker I can remember at the Academy with any significant playing time at the position since eventual NFL linebacker Anthony Schlegel. At 6’ 3” and 235 pounds, he is noticeably larger than most other Falcon linebackers.

The scoring started in the first quarter after the first drive of the Midshipmen was halted on 4th and 3 at the Falcon 35 yard line. The Falcons proceeded to march 35 yards on the ground to the Navy 31 yard line before an 4th down incomplete pass from starting quarterback Haaziq Daniels halted the drive. Daniels was making his first appearance in a Falcon uniform. New placekicker Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl then hit a long 48 yard field goal on his first attempt for the Falcons. He went on to hit three more attempt of 35, 32, and 40 yards later in the game, demonstrating that the Falcons have found a replacement for Jake Koehnke who was 13 of 13 last year for the Falcons.

Navy’s only score came early in the second period, on a pass from quarterback Tyger Goslin to a wide-open Myles Fells that went for 73 yards. Clearly, the inexperienced secondary blew that coverage, but settled down to only allow 5 more completions and 78 yards through the air after that.

Air Force’s offense was led by an dominating performance by the offensive line, proving there would be no backtracking from last year’s Mountain West-leading performance. The Falcon play calling was straightforward and designed to rely heavily on the line to provide the holes. Perhaps because of the inexperience of the new quarterback, the triple option was not featured that often, and the two fullbacks, junior Timothy Jackson and sophomore Brad Roberts, in his first appearance as a Falcon, both powered to over 100 yards running between the tackles. Quarterback Daniels almost made it a trio of 100 yard rushers, with 96 yards on mostly designed keepers. The excellence of the offensive line was most noticeable on goal line stands by Navy that ended with most of the Navy defense pushed deep into the end zone by the O-line surge.

In the passing game, Daniels showed a decent arm on mostly short passes. His main target was Daniel Morris, a 6’ 2” senior making his first start. Sophomore tight end Kyle Patterson made the first catch of his Falcon career for 12 yards, and looks set to be a significant factor in the passing game.

The defensive secondary was not tested that often by starting quarterback Goslin, who was subbing for Dalen Morris, out with a non-Covid illness. The two long pass completions are worrisome, and starting cornerback David Eure was ejected early for a targeting call, but will be back for the next game. Safety Corvan Taylor had the first interception of his career, but it looked almost as though he was the intended receiver on the play. Question marks still remain in this area, especially when the Falcons start playing the more pass-heavy Mountain West teams. We will need to see more to get a good handle on where the team is. The next game on the Falcon schedule has them travelling to San Jose (maybe?) to play the Spartans. Last year, the Spartans had no answer for the Falcon rushing attack, so it will be a good opportunity to get some more playing time for their new starters, and hopefully come away with another victory.