The Falcons Look For Their 39th Win Over Army
Can Air Force retain the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy?
WEEK 10: Air Force Falcons 8-0 (5-0) vs. Army Black Knights 2-6
WHEN: Saturday, November 3rd — 12:30 P.M. MT/ 11:30 A.M. PT
WHERE: Mile High Stadium (Denver, CO)
WEATHER: Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 62F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.
TV: CBS Sports Network; John Sadak (play-by-play), Randy Cross (analyst), Tina Cervasio (sidelines)
RADIO: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, 104.3 the Fan in Denver, SIRIUS XM 380, SXM 970
Jim Arthur (play-by-play), Jesse Kurtz (analyst)
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the series record 38-18-1
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 22
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 20.3
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 31, 2023
Air Force is currently riding a 13-game win streak, dating back to 2022 as they are soaring towards securing a place in the Mountain West Championship game. Something the Falcons haven’t done since that magical ride Karson Roberts led them on back in 2015. Forget all of that though, because it’s ‘Beat Army’ week.
Yes, winning their first Mountain West Conference Championship would be an amazing accomplishment for the United States Air Force Academy. But there is universally one athletic objective that is unrivaled each and every season, and that is to win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
Well, they’re halfway there as Bon Jovi famously sings. Two weeks ago, they beat Navy. Now, they must do something they haven’t done in seven seasons if they want to mark this mission accomplished; beat Army in consecutive years.
You couldn’t have two teams going in more opposite directions. Jeff Monken’s bunch are losers of five in a row, failing to score a single point in two of their last three contests. Air Force by contrast has yet to lose a game in 2023, winning every game by multiple scores, with the lone exception of their thriller over Wyoming at Falcon Staduim.
What has been a special run for Air Force can take a quick nosedive if they don’t finish the mission. They must beat Army to win their 21st Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, failing to do so by all accounts will drastically marginalize anything else they accomplish this year.
HERE’S HOW AIR FORCE CAN BEAT ARMY (again)
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) October 31, 2023
One of the major story lines for Army coming into the year was their “revamped” offense. They no longer consider themselves a conventional triple option offense, bringing in Drew Thatcher from Nebraska- Kerney, of Division II to shake things up. It suffices to say, the evolution is a work-in-progress.
In this new offense Army has tried to incorporate a passing attack to keep the opposition honest, operating typically from shotgun formations. They still run the ball, but not as effectively as some of their teams of past. Despite the new offense struggling to just 20 points per game, good enough for 116th nationally, they’ve stayed committed to the new philosophy.
A major reason for the lack of success is the rate at which Army has coughed up the ball. They’ve put the ball on the ground 19 times this year, losing 10 of those fumbles. It’s not been any better throwing the ball either, tossing 10 interceptions, throwing a pick every 13 pass attempts. This has the West Point offense averaging 2.5 turnovers per game.
Air Force has an opportunistic defense, don’t be deceived by the fact they have only forced nine turnovers. The Falcon offense limits opponents’ possessions, so there are less opportunities for takeaways. Whether it’s Bryson Dailey or the Freshman, Champ Harris at quarterback for Army, opportunities should be there to capitalize and steal a possession or two for the Air Force.
On top of taking advantage of an offense that has shown a propensity to be loose with the ball, Air Force needs to rack up steady gains on an underwhelming defensive line. The Black Knights are surrendering almost 200 yards per game (185.6) on the ground. One of the ways you disrupt the Falcon offense is by getting tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Something Army simply has not shown an ability to do.
Their starting trio of Frey, Lewis and Hill have garnered just 3.5 tackles for loss between them. This is something the Diesels should be able to exploit and get blockers on the linebackers creating opportunities for chunk yardage inside. When Air Force is chewing up yards with Emmanuel Michel and Owen Burk between the tackles, it spells certain doom for the opposition.
I would expect Defensive Coordinator Nate Woody to take a similar approach against the Falcons as Navy did, by loading up the box to try and take away the inside game. So to get that inside game going, an effective run game to the outside paired with some timely passes may be needed to soften things up. This is a medley that Air Force has counted on all year to complement one another, with much success.
It doesn’t matter how they get to it though, that inside run is what’s proven to be the dagger to many proverbial hearts. Army will meet the same fate if yards are had between those big Diesel tires.
Both teams defenses always seem to show up for this game. I wouldn’t expect any different this year. But the Army offense has been putting their defense in unenviable positions a lot this year, and there is a chance we’ll see four freshman featured on that unit when they play Saturday. That is not a recipe for success against Brian Knorr’s group.
Air Force Safety @trey_taylor007 just won the Defender of the Nation award, and is one of the best DB’s in college football. This should come to no surprise as Trey grew up around the game learning from his dad @TyreeTaylor19, and uncle Ed Reed. @KKTV11Sports
See his story… pic.twitter.com/V9XAVeypvY
— Corey Rholdon (@Corey_RholdonTV) October 31, 2023
The disparity in the two offenses is what will really make the difference on the scoreboard. Eventually Air Force is going to find a way to generate points, I’m not sure they same can be said for Army. Especially when you consider the personnel in the Falcons defensive unit; Alec Mock, Trey Taylor and Bo Richter all (should be) legitimately considered for MWC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
The Trophy case is getting crowded in Colorado Springs, Air Force sings second.
Air Force 17 – 6 Army