Navy (2-3) at Air Force (3-1) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Falcon Stadium (46,692) — United States Air Force
Academy, Colorado. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Navy 0-2, Air Force 2-0.
Away Record: Navy 2-0, Air Force 1-1. Neutral Record: Navy 0-1, Air Force 0-0.
Conference Record: Navy 0-0, Air Force 1-1. Series Record: Air Force leads,

GAME NOTES: Coming off one of the most monumental wins in program history, the
Air Force Falcons now turn their attention towards fighting for the Commander-
in-Chief’s Trophy as they host the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday afternoon.

Having defeated both Nicholls State and Georgia State as expected, the Falcons
began their Mountain West Conference schedule with a setback to Wyoming in
week two by a score of 17-13. Last weekend’s battle with Boise State at home
figured to be another tough fight, particularly since BSU won last year’s
meeting (42-20) and had yet to fall to the Falcons.

Thanks to a staunch defense that came up with a staggering five interceptions
and seven takeaways overall, Air Force somehow pulled off the 28-14 victory,
the worst loss for the Broncos since they joined the MWC in 2011. The last
time AF forced seven turnovers was against Wyoming more than two decades ago.

As for the Midshipmen, they have now fallen below .500 on the season, losing
back-to-back efforts after winning two in a row versus Temple and Texas State.
The most recent defeat came at the hands of Western Kentucky last Saturday in
Annapolis by a score of 36-27.

The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is presented to one of the three service
academies in the FBS (Army), as each team plays the other at one point during
the season. Air Force has won the CIC Trophy 18 times, Navy 14, the Midshipmen
winning each of the last two years.

The series is led by the Falcons by a count of 27-19, with Air Force putting
up a mark of 15-7 at home over the years. However, Navy has taken two straight
and nine of the last 11, winning four of five at Air Force during that
stretch. Last season, the Midshipmen captured a 28-10 victory in Annapolis.

As is often the case, the Midshipmen relied heavily on their running attack to
try and keep up with Western Kentucky in Annapolis last weekend. Despite
converting only 2-of-11 on third down, Navy was able to maintain possession
for more than half the game, thanks in large part to Keenan Reynolds who ran
for a team-best 121 yards and two touchdowns. The quarterback had his troubles
in the pocket however, as he converted just three of his 14 pass attempts for
a mere 55 yards, was sacked four times and intercepted once. The pick came in
the final seconds of the fourth quarter and was returned for a touchdown,
preventing the Midshipmen from coming back from a two-point deficit in the
final minutes.

The pass defense for the Midshipmen was certainly questionable against WKU as
the Hilltoppers produced 387 yards and a pair of scores, even as Daniel
Gonzales led the way with 13 tackles and an interception that he returned 37
yards. A lack of pressure at the line of scrimmage resulted in no sacks and
only two tackles for loss, one each by Brendon Clements and Parrish Gaines.

Failing to collapse the pocket and send the opposing quarterback scrambling is
nothing new for the Midshipmen as they have just a single sack through five
games, compared to 12 quarterback takedowns for the competition.

Reynolds may be the one who is supposed to be putting the ball in the air for
Navy, but as everyone knows this is an offense that runs almost exclusively on
the run, and that’s where the signal caller has shown immense ability.
Reynolds leads the nation’s top running team (358.4 ypg) with 361 yards and
seven of its 15 TDs. However, there have been three TDs scored by way of the
pass already this year, so Navy is no one-trick pony.

Against a team that had dominated the MWC since joining only a few years back,
the Falcons were all over the Broncos last Saturday, scoring the first 28
points of the game before giving BSU a slight chance at a comeback.
Quarterback Kale Pearson threw for one touchdown and ran for another as he led
the way on the ground with 127 yards on 20 attempts. Jacobi Owens added
another 108 yards and a score as the unit generated 287 yards, compared to
just 97 rushing yards for the visitors.

As well as the offense performed, it was the defense that stole the show for
the Falcons, particularly defensive back Weston Steelhammer who tied a
Mountain West and Air Force single-game record with three interceptions. For
Steelhammer, who also had two tackles for loss and a sack, the effort was more
than enough to earn him MWC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Also in the running for weekly accolades was Jordan Pierce who led the Falcons
with 10 tackles, logged one TFL, an interception returned for 56 yards and a
blocked kick.

Through four games, Air Force is seventh in the country in run defense with
just 82.3 ypg allowed, but some of that has to do with the fact that so often
the secondary for the Falcons is left vulnerable, although last week’s
performance should make opponents think twice about testing the defensive
backs, now that Air Force is tied for 16th in the country with plus-1.0
turnovers per contest.

Just like Navy, the Falcons are also a team that thrives on running the
football, ranking fifth in the country at the moment with 323.0 ypg on the
ground. Owens leads the charge with 134.6 ypg and four TDs, placing him among
the elite runners in the FBS in terms of average per contest.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Falcons take a step back this weekend
after their huge upset win against Boise State. Keeping that in mind, this is
a matchup that could easily come down to the final possession given how much
each side tries to control the tempo by running the ball. Unfortunately for
Air Force, Reynolds might be a little better at handling the pressure at this
point in his career.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 27, Air Force 23