Air Force Falcons (3-1, 1-1) vs Navy Midshipmen (2-1, 1-1)
Start Time: Saturday, October 5th, Kickoff @ 3:30pm EST
Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
Line: Air Force -3.5
FPI: Air Force 57.2%
Series: Air Force leads series 30-21
Air Force Falcons
At 3-1, the Service Academy in the Midwest arrives in Annapolis looking to grab the first leg of the 2019 Commander-In-Chief Trophy in their tilt with the Midshipmen. The Falcons are coming off an impressive 41-24 win against San Jose State last Friday. Air Force QB Donald Hammond III threw a mere nine times, connecting on five of those attempts in a 131-yard, one-touchdown performance. As is the case with all of the service academies, the run game holds precedent. It was no different against the Spartans as Air Force used 9 different rushers with junior Taven Birdow going for 124 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns.
Some of the national attention this week has not been on the looming showdown with Navy; but rather the off-the-field issues that are ongoing with former running back Joseph Saucier. Saucier pleaded guilty to cocaine charges and is facing a court-martial with regards to drug charges. Saucier was removed kicked-off the team last December.
Adding to the swirling of emotions was the sudden news of the passing of Aurora, the mascot of the Air Force Academy who represented the school with grace for almost 20 years.
With some of the focus again on the cocaine charge of Saucier and the death of Aurora, the week leading up to this week’s game has been anything but ordinary and it will be interesting to see if the team will be affected negatively in any way.
The Midshipmen are coming off a rough outing against the undefeated Memphis Tigers last week, losing 35-23. Navy had their fair share of chances to capitalize and somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but could not get over the hump in the end.
One positive that could perhaps be taken away from the loss is that the Tigers were favored to win heavily. While they still won by a comfortable 12-point margin, I would garner to say that the game was much tighter than the score indicated for the majority of the night.
The past is the past however and Navy must now refocus and shift their attention to beating the Falcons who put on an absolute thumping on the Midshipmen in 2018, winning 35-7. I am sure that was one focal point in the preparation for this weekend’s game and Navy will certainly hope the outcome will be different this time around.
The Commander-In-Chief Trophy will also be on the mind of the Midshipmen as they hope to get off to a strong start in their 2019 quest to get the hardware back in their cabinet. After winning the CIC 9 times between 2003 and 2013, Navy has not been king of the hill since 2015.
A definite issue in last week’s Memphis game were mistakes that reduced yardage for the Mids and brought back huge plays. A perfect game is not plausible but a game with fewer mistakes and a heightened amount of discipline is what Navy will assume to portray on the field.
Service academies are disciplined and focus-driven institutions. Nevertheless, they are also human. Despite the fact that Saucier’s situation happened in 2018, the reemergence of the story this week will certainly put a tend in Troy Calhoun’s squad. I look for Air Force to not let that affect their play on the field too much and for the Falcons to be ready for the fight in Annapolis.
I believe last year’s rout means Air Force has had this game circled on Navy’s calendar since the spring. Coupled with their CIC drought, I look for Mids to bounce back from last Thursday’s loss and get the win at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Navy 35 Air Force 31