Air Force (1-4) at Navy (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 11:30 a.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (30,000) -- Annapolis, Maryland. Television: CBS. Home Record: Air Force 1-2, Navy 1-0. Away Record: Air Force 0-2, Navy 1-1. Neutral Record: Air Force 0-0, Navy 0-0. Conference Record: Air Force 0-0, Navy 0-0. Series Record: Air Force leads, 27-18.
GAME NOTES: The Air Force Falcons take a break from their Mountain West Conference schedule this weekend in order to tangle with the Navy Midshipmen as part of the annual Commander-in-Chief's Trophy series, or at least that's the plan.
With record-breaking crowds expected to descend on Annapolis for this event, word came on Tuesday that the meeting might not take place at all. Seems the shut down of the federal government at midnight on Monday has caused the Defense Department to put all sports on hold for all service academies. A decision on whether or not to travel will be made no later than noon on Thursday in order to give all those involved a chance to make appropriate plans.
Should the game go on as scheduled, the Falcons will arrive on the East Coast hoping to stop a four-game slide. The team opened the 2013 campaign with a win over Colgate, but since then Air Force has come up empty in four straight outings, all of them against MWC foes.
Last weekend, the Falcons tried to keep up with Nevada in Reno, but the Wolf Pack ended up pulling out a 45-42 victory in the final minute. Not only is Air Force riding a four-game losing streak, but the team has bowed in five straight on the road as well.
Meanwhile, the Midshipmen defeated their first two opponents of the season, Indiana and Delaware, by a combined score of 92-42 before taking a week off to recharge. Navy was back on the field last Saturday at Western Kentucky and was taken down by the Hilltoppers in a 19-7 final.
Three of the last four matchups between these two have gone to overtime and in 2012 it was Navy that came out on top with a 28-27 decision on the Falcons' home field. However, even with the setback Air Force still leads the all-time series by a count of 27-18.
The Falcons got caught up in a wild shootout against Nevada last Saturday night and ended up crumbling in the final minute of the three-point setback at Mackay Stadium. Quarterback Karson Roberts, who ran for a game-high 161 yards and scored twice on the ground, also completed 5-of-10 passes for 55 yards and a score, but with the team trailing by three and time running out, the signal caller caught his own batted pass and then threw down field for the second time on the same play. Not only was it a penalty, but the second effort was intercepted by the Wolf Pack and they ended up running out the clock.
Air Force finished with 375 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, upping its season average to 296.0 ypg to rank eighth in the nation in rushing.
Roberts may not have the same experience as his fellow quarterbacks in Colorado Springs, but for now he is the go-to guy under center with Kale Pearson lost for the season with a knee injury and Jaleel Awini suspended indefinitely for disciplinary reasons.
Don't be surprised if the Falcons abandon the passing game altogether this weekend and try to control the tempo with a vast array of running plays that have so far resulted in 15 touchdowns through five outings.
Unfortunately, the run defense for the Falcons has been giving the points right back to the competition, permitting 15 TDs on 216 attempts, but at least the average total yardage per game is more manageable (212.4 ypg).
Keenan Reynolds scored the first points of the game last Saturday for the Midshipmen, a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against Western Kentucky, but the offense was never heard from again as Navy suffered the 19-7 road loss.
Ranked first in the nation in rushing entering the week with an average of 398.0 ypg, the Midshipmen were held to just 107 net yards on 33 attempts, dropping them down to 301.0 ypg after four contests. Reynolds, who accounted for 23 yards on six attempts, also completed two of his four passes for 20 yards, while fellow quarterback John Hendrick saw action for just the second time this season and connected on 5-of-13 passes for 56 yards, but was also picked off twice.
As is the case with all three of the service academies, putting the ball in the air is by no means a priority, with the Midshipmen generating only 128.0 ypg, but this could well be the time for Navy to throw a new wrinkle into the offense at the expense of the Falcons.
Should the government decide that playing a football game might be a good idea while the economy suffers, the Falcons will have a tough time gearing up for the travel and change in mind set, perhaps just enough for Navy to come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 31, Air Force 24
10/02 10:32:28 ET