Notre Dame (5-2) at Air Force (1-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 26, 5 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Falcon Stadium (46,692) -- United States Air Force Academy, Colorado. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: UND 3-1, AF 1-3. Away Record: UND 1-1, AF 0-3. Neutral Record: UND 1-0, AF 0-0. Conference Record: UND 0-0, AF 0-5. Series Record: Notre Dame leads, 22-5.
GAME NOTES: Desperate to bring an end to their six-game losing streak, the Air Force Falcons hope to put their best foot forward on Saturday when they host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Air Force, which opened the season with a 38-13 triumph over visiting Colgate at the end of August, has been met with nothing but disappointment since. The team was last in action on Oct. 10 versus San Diego State and was dealt a 27-20 setback at home, the first of three straight games to be played at the USAFA.
As for Notre Dame, the team has won two straight and four of its last five outings, thanks to a hard-fought 14-10 victory over visiting USC last Saturday. The win over the Trojans was the first for the Fighting Irish at home in more than a decade.
Two years ago, UND crushed Air Force in a 59-33 final, which means the Irish now lead the all-time series by a count of 22-5.
USC punted the ball on four straight second-half possessions versus the Irish defense and finished the contest by turning the ball over on downs in back-to- back possessions, all while generating just 330 yards of total offense. Coming up big for the Notre Dame defense was Stephon Tuitt who not only finished in a tie for the second-most tackles with seven, he logged the only two sacks for the hosts.
Offensively, Tommy Rees converted 14-of-21 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Troy Niklas and TJ Jones. Notre Dame survived despite posting just 295 yards of offense and converted 4-of-14 on third down. Cam McDaniel led the way on the ground with 92 yards on 18 carries, while George Atkinson III managed a mere 40 yards on eight attempts.
Atkinson, who is considered the biggest running threat for the Irish, leads the team with 363 yards on 64 attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, but take away his one 80-yard run and his numbers drop considerably. Atkinson and McDaniel each have a pair of touchdowns, the rest of the team coming up empty on the ground in that department.
Rees has assumed the leadership role on the field for Notre Dame and even though he has guided the group to just 374.3 ypg in total offense (85th nationally), the squad is still picking up wins on a consistent basis. The quarterback has completed 53.1 percent of his pass attempts with 15 touchdowns against six INTs.
Currently ranked 25th in the country with only 123.3 ypg allowed, the Notre Dame run defense will be put to the test this weekend when the Falcons take the field and grind out yards with their triple-option offense. With Anthony LaCoste posting a career-best 109 rushing yards versus San Diego State the last time out. Air Force now has five players who have run for at least 100 yards in a game this season, the only team in the country able to make that claim.
In addition to LaCoste, the list also includes Jaleel Awini, Broam Hart, Jon Lee and Karson Roberts, matching the single-season team record set by AF squads in 1984, 1988 and 2007. Currently ranked 12th in the country with 268.6 ypg on the ground, Air Force may not be the force that it has been in past years in that department, but still defenses need to focus almost solely on slowing down the Falcons when they keep the ball on the ground.
Unfortunately, the passing offense continues to be a problem for the Falcons, not just because they are 121st with 102.3 ypg, but also due to the fact that they've gone through a laundry list of quarterbacks already and are currently being guided by Roberts who has converted just 46.7 percent of his passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns, against two interceptions.
From a defensive perspective, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun has had his hands full with trying to slow down the opposition this year. Giving up 488.7 ypg has rapidly resulted in permitting 37.6 ppg, the latter ranking the Falcons tied for 113th in the nation. The pass defense has been especially suspect, showing an efficiency rating of just 162.06 which is 122nd in the country.
For a team that has the longest active streak in the country when it comes to consecutive games with at least one rushing touchdowns (54), you can be sure the Falcons will be using that method of attack yet again this weekend. However, trying to tire out the Notre Dame defense may not work for a full four quarters, something the fans in Colorado had better prepare for on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Notre Dame 38, Air Force 14
10/23 10:33:04 ET