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Air Force (2-1) at Navy (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 1st, 12:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (34,000) -- Annapolis, Maryland. Television: CBS. Home Record: Air Force 2-1, Navy 1-0. Away Record: Air Force 0-0, Navy 1-1. Neutral Record: Air Force 0-0, Navy 0-0. Conference Record: Air Force 0-1, Navy 0-0. Series Record: Air Force leads, 26-17.
GAME NOTES: The first installment of the annual series between the service academies which determines the winner of the prestigious Commander-in-Chief's Trophy takes place on Saturday in Annapolis, as the Navy Midshipmen entertain the Air Force Falcons in non-conference action.
Hitting the road for the very first time here in 2011, the Falcons are coming off a record-setting effort in their lopsided 63-24 win against Tennessee State last weekend. For Air Force, a winner in two of the first three games of the campaign, the offense was non-stop against TSU as it registered a program- record 792 yards, far exceeding the previous mark of 700 yards the team established versus UTEP back in 1994.
However, as convincing a win as it were versus Tennessee State, the Falcons still have to deal with the fact that they've yet to defeat another program from the Football Bowl Subdivision and already the squad is down in the Mountain West Conference due to a 35-19 setback versus nationally-ranked TCU a few weeks back.
As for the Midshipmen, they are back home for the first time since the opening week of the season when they defeated the Delaware Blue Hens, 40-17. Prior to a bye last week, Navy nearly knocked off the South Carolina Gamecocks on the road, but had to settle for a 24-21 setback which snapped a brief two-game win streak for the academy.
Air Force won last year's meeting rather convincingly, 41-24, which means the Falcons now own a 26-17 edge in the all-time series between the academies. Prior to the loss last year the Midshipmen had won seven straight meetings against the Falcons. The last 14 Commander-in-Chief's Trophy championships have been split evenly between Air Force and Navy.
Not only did the Falcons roll up 595 yards rushing against Tennessee State last week, the third-highest total in program history, the academy also got another superb performance from quarterback Tim Jefferson who converted all but two of his 13 pass attempts for 178 yards and a career-best three touchdowns. Asher Clark was the top ball carrier for the group with 13 attempts for 148 yards and a score, while Mike DeWitt turned nine carries into 57 yards and two TDs as well for the imposing Air Force offense. Needless to say, with their outstanding efforts last weekend the Falcons are now first in the country in rushing with an incredible 411.7 ypg and are fifth nationally with 565.0 ypg overall as well. Everyone knows that Air Force pounds the ball at the line of scrimmage play after play, but what opponents might not be ready for is Jefferson who isn't afraid to put the ball in the air when he needs to. After three games the signal-caller has completed 24-of-37 passes for 357 yards and three TDs, giving the academy another threat when foes least expect it.
By keeping the ball on the ground as much as they did, the Falcons effectively kept possession away from Tennessee State, even though the visitors did control the action for a surprising 32 minutes. However, the Tigers simply could not sustain drives as well as Air Force as the academy limited TSU to just 3-of-15 on third-down plays. Granted, the pass defense did allow 206 yards and a pair of TDs, but compared to how well the AF offense operated the secondary for the hosts wasn't so bad, especially when you consider the unit forced TSU into punts on six of its first seven possessions. At this point in the season Air Force ranks second in the MWC and 18th nationally with three sacks per game, thanks in large part to Zach Payne and Alex Means who both have a pair of quarterback takedowns. Jamil Cooks is also someone the Midshipmen have to be aware of since he's recorded 2.5 tackles for loss, one interception, a forced fumble and one recovery in his travels so far this season.
As is always the case with Navy, the rushing attack stands front and center for the crew as it currently ranks fourth in the nation with 358.3 ypg. Ironically, two of the team's ahead of the Midshipmen on that list are Air Force and Army (372.3 ypg) so you tend to know ahead of time what you're going to get when the service academies get together on the gridiron. At the top of the rushing list for Navy is quarterback Kriss Proctor who has gained 267 yards and scored four times on 55 attempts over the course of three games. Proctor has attempted a mere 23 passes thus far, converting 12 for 207 yards and three scores, but he's also tossed a couple of interceptions along the way. No one on the team has more than three receptions and a single TD, so Proctor isn't playing favorites down the field by any means. Coming out of the backfield, John Howell has been a pleasant surprise with 158 yards and three scores on a mere nine carries, so you can be sure the Falcons will have an eye on him this weekend.
One would think that when a team has such a strong rushing offense, perhaps their run defense would be a bit tougher since it gets to experience all of those plays during practice, but in the case of the Midshipmen they are permitting almost 200 ypg on the ground right now and that has then ranked 101st in the nation. In terms of pass defense, Navy has limited foes to just 166.7 ypg, 16th-best in the country entering the week, but really that's only because the Midshipmen have yet to go up against a pass-oriented program. The unit has been able to limit foes to just 18.3 ppg, but again that's a result of being pitted against low-scoring opponents in general. Tied for first on the team in tackles with 25 is Matt Brewer who also has a knack for separating opponents from the ball with four forced fumbles already in 2011. Because of the efforts of Brewer and Kwesi Mitchell, the latter owning a pair of interceptions, Navy is 13th in the nation in turnover margin with a plus-one per game.
Obviously this is going to be a game that will have plenty of action in the trenches as the teams try to grind out the yards against each other, which means the emergence of Jefferson as a legitimate passing threat will take on even more significance for the visitors.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 27, Navy 20
09/28 10:40:44 ET