The Falcons are coming off a comfortable 35-14 win over FCS Lafayette and Navy is coming off an ineffective 49-7 loss to the Marshall Thundering Herd. Falcon players and fans are impatient with the four year absence of the CIC trophy from the Academy. Navy players and fans are hungry for their team to get back on track after the departure of Malcolm Perry left a big hole in the quarterback position.
The game will be played at 3:30 PM eastern time in Annapolis and televised on CBS.
Navy’s game against Marshall started while the Air Force game was still being played, and I only saw snippets of the action flipping back and forth. What I saw did not put Navy in a good light. Marshall quickly got out to a 14 point lead which forced Navy out of their game plan. Navy had a blocked field goal, they were not sustaining drives, and they had a punt blocked. With the final score of 49-7, I was already chalking up a win for the Falcons this week.
Not so fast. I was surprised to find out, after looking at the stats that Navy ran the ball for 337 yards and had a time of possession advantage of 22 minutes. Their defense forced three turnovers and held Marshall to 3.4 yards per carry on the ground. The big problem for Navy was getting behind and resorting to the pass. That strategy resulted in 5 completions in 16 passes with 2 interceptions, AND Marshall picked up 9 sacks. Navy was only able to score one time in 5 red zone opportunities.
The takeaway is that Navy can still run the ball well and defend the run, so expect a much tighter game than they had against Marshall. Coach Niumatalolo has always been good against Air Force when the game is tight.
Navy used three different quarterbacks against Marshall, Tai Lavatai, Xavier Arline, and Maasai Maynor. Arline appears to be the best runner, and Coach Calhoun raved about his speed and quickness in his latest interview (classic Calhoun). He ran 16 times for 89 yards against Marshall and was running well at the end of last year.
Navy was weak on pass defense, giving up 363 yards and 17 yards per completion, which might provide an opportunity for the Falcon’s excellent set of receivers.
Air Force Updates
The Falcons suffered two injuries in game 1. Lakota Wills, who has suffered multiple injuries in his career at Air Force left the game in the first quarter, and Center Ben Mercer also left the game in the first half. It is unknown if either will play this weekend. Caleb Humphrey replaced Wills and had a strong game with 5 tackles, 1 sack, and .5 TFL. Mercer was replaced with Thor Paglialong, who was in contention in camp for first team center.
The success of Micah Davis in game 1 sets up an intriguing situation for the Falcon passing game. The two leading receivers from last year, Kyle Patterson and Brandon Lewis, were not targeted at all in the first game. Davis caught both passes that targeted him, including the great catch on the sideline. David Cormier was targeted three times, made a nice catch in traffic and was overthrown the other times. I’m guessing the game plan was minimal passing attempts and giving those two the majority of chances for the game time experience. So now the Falcons have four excellent receivers to choose from, which should give defenses big problems if Daniels can put the ball near them.
Against Laffayette, there were some issues with pass protection (one sack and one hit while throwing in only 6 dropbacks). Also Daniels overthrew Cormier on a deep route with Patterson open underneath. So the Falcons still require some work in order to make the passing game a potent threat. It’s something to watch going forward.
Currently Vegas odds have the Falcons favored by 5 1⁄2 points with an over under of 40 1/2. The Falcons have only won once in the last eight tries in Maryland, but I think the quarterback issues at Navy have not been resolved yet and the Falcons can exploit the pass defense enough to come away with a victory. Falcons by 28-21, take the over as well.