Three Game Keys: Navy
1) The first key for Air Force is to win or at least draw even in the quarterback matchup. While Karson Roberts is relatively new on the college football scene, he made the most of his debut against Nevada, rushing for two scores and bringing fluidity to the Falcons' triple-option offense. As sharp as Keenan Reynolds has been for the Midshipmen, the hit he took last week at Western Kentucky obviously changed the outlook for Navy's offense. Once Reynolds left the WKU game, his offense couldn't (and didn't) score. Reynolds's health will be something to watch this week. It's asking a lot of Roberts to play up to par with Reynolds, given the experience gap between the two men, but it may be the best chance Air Force has to grab win number two.
2) The second key is to convert third downs and control the clock. Navy has won eight of the last ten matchups between these schools. Yet, in that stretch, only one game was decided by a double-digit margin, with the Falcons and Midshipmen locking horns in three overtime games. Recent history shows these games are always close and will likely be decided in the final minutes. You have to take advantage of your possessions in these matchups because they're often fewer in number than your standard (read: pass-filled) football game. The offense that extends drives and controls the clock has a great chance to win.
3) The third and final key is to show a sense of urgency. It's tough to quantify or evaluate a key like this, but in essence, one can't state the matter with more clarity for the Falcons. At 1-4 and with a matchup with Notre Dame left on the schedule, a loss here may all but end the Falcons' bowl hopes. The back end of the schedule is favorable, so a win here would go a long way toward producing a postseason berth. On offense, Air Force must establish the run early. On defense, tending to the basics – don't miss easy or moderately difficult tackles – will enable the Falcons to get off the field and keep Navy's offense on the sidelines. It is especially on defense where Air Force must elevate its level of play; this is the time for Troy Calhoun's defensive 11 to give their offense some help after a lackluster first five weeks. For Calhoun in particular, it's important in this rivalry game to not go conservative; every decision needs to flow from the accurate-enough notion that this is a must-win situation. There's still hope for Air Force this season, and the Army game will naturally be a prize in its own right, but the harsh reality of the moment is plain: If the team doesn't turn things around with a win against Navy, it will face a difficult road to the postseason and could sit at home during the holidays.
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