Head-to-head: Army vs. Air Force

The Army Black Knights travel to Colorado Springs play the Air Force Falcons. For the Black Knights, this is their chance to stake a claim for the annual Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Air Force, which already defeated Navy, can win the trophy outright for the second consecutive year. Army enters the game after a shutout 55-0 victory against Fordham in the snow last week.

Last Saturday Air Force also pitched a shutout in defeating New Mexico 42-0. Air Force has won 20 of the last 22 meetings and leads the series 31-13-1.

Air Force
Army rushing offense
Air Force rushing defense
Army enters this game leading the nation in rushing, averaging over 369 rushing yards per game. Army rushed for 514 yards and piled up 27 first downs last week. Sophomore A-back Raymond Maples ran for 159 yards on just 10 carries. It was his fourth 100 yard rushing game of the season. Freshman B-back Larry Dixon made his first career start. Larry ran with his usual power for 85 yards and a touchdown on his 10 carries. Starting quarterback Max Jenkins did an excellent job in handling and distributing the ball. Max ran for 35 yards, scored two touchdowns and committed no turnovers. Backup quarterback Angel Santiago (3 att., 58 yards) showed his speed and leg strength in leading Army to a touchdown on his only series. Both should see time against the Falcons with Trent Steelman expected to miss the game. Jared Hassin (14 yards, 1 td), in the doghouse for his fumbling, finally scored his first touchdown this year last week Versatile Jonathan Crucitti scored his first career touchdown on a four yard run in the third quarter. Plebe running back Trenton Turrentine had knee surgery and is out the year. Fellow freshman Terry Baggett (53 yards, 1 td) has missed the last few games with a leg injury and is doubtful.

Air Force has defended the option attacks of its fellow service academies very well under Calhoun. The Falcons have been able to limit the pitchback the last few years. This year Air Force has struggled against the run as their front defensive line has been hampered by injuries. The Falcons are ranked 105th in the nation in run defense and are allowing over 204 yards per game. Nick DeJulio has started at nose guard ahead of Ryan Gardner who has missed most of the year with injuries. Senior defensive end Zach Payne (55 tackles 2010) injured his knee and is expected to miss the rest of the year. Defensive end Harry Kehs was knocked out of the New Mexico game with a shoulder injury. It was the fourth major injury the Falcons' defensive line has sustained this year. While the defensive line is battling injuries, Air Force has a group of talented linebacker ready to play. Last year's leading tackler Jordan Waiwaiole (96 tackles) anchors the inside linebacker spot in the Falcons 3-4 defense. Last season against Army Waiwaiole made five tackles and scored a touchdown on a 52-yard fumble return. Next to him the leading tackler on the team, Brady Amack, who has made 80 tackles this year. Alex Means (41 tackles) took over outside linebacker after senior Pat Hennessey (60 tackles in 2010) broke his thumb earlier in the year and kept the job after Hennessey returned. Safety Jon Davis (56 tackles) is active in run support.  
Army passing offense
Air Force passing defense
Army lost starting quarterback Trent Steelman to a high ankle against Vanderbilt. Steelman on the season has completed 51.3% of his passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Backup quarterback Max Jenkins draws the starting assignment. Jenkins has completed just 3 of 13 passes (23.1%) with two touchdowns in spot duty. Max has been victimized by a number of drops. Rich Ellerson also plans to use plebe quarterback Angel Santiago. Angel compiled excellent passing numbers in high school but possesses only a decent arm. His size limits him from the pocket but at the prep school he showed he could pass effectively when he sets his feet. Anthony Stephens caught his first career touchdown last week against Fordham. Davyd Brooks (4 rec., 95 yards, 23.8 avg., 1 TD) was open deep against Fordham last week but the snow covered ball slipped out of Jenkins hand when he attempted to pass. Jared McFarlin (7 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD) has caught only one pass since returning from his concussion. McFarlin is the most talented Black Knight receiver and needs to get back in the mix.

Air Force is ranked 106th in the nation in pass defense. Senior safety Jon Davis (93 tackles, 3 INTs in 2010) was named All-Mountain West Honorable Mention last year. He currently leads the team with two interceptions. Senior cornerback Anthony Wright, Jr. (39 tackles, 11 career INTs) is an All Mountain West conference performer who seems to have been playing for eight years. Sophomore safety Anthony Wooding, Jr. (31 tackles) and junior cornerback Brian Lindsay (33 tackles) are also key members of the secondary for Air Force. Cornerback Chris Miller returned to the lineup after missing a few weeks with a leg injury. Miller was the starter when he got hurt, but Josh Hall (28 tackles, 1 interception) has played well in his absence.
Air Force rushing offense
Army rushing defense
The Air Force football is ranked third in the nation in rushing, averaging over 326 rushing yards per game. Asher Clark (182 carries, 1,032 yards, 5 TDs) led the Falcons in rushing last season. This year Clark once again leads the Falcons rushing. (654 yards, 7.3 avg. per carry, 4 TDs). Clark became the Air Force all-time leader among running backs in rushing yards this year. He's scored two touchdowns against Army in his career. Mike DeWitt (410 yards, 6 TDs) has emerged as the Falcons fullback. DeWitt, who is a strong, physical runner, has played well in recent weeks. He rushed for more than 100 yards against Boise State and had a four touchdown game against New Mexico last week. Senior quarterback Tim Jefferson (298 yards, 7 TDs) suffered a broken nose last week but is expected to start.

Army's defense posted a shutout against an overmatched FCS Fordham team but will be challenged this week by the Falcons option attack. In the last four games new Mike linebacker Geoffrey Bacon has recorded a team high 31 tackles. He has led the team in tackles twice. Bacon was the USMAPS defensive MVP last year and has sideline to sideline range. Steve Erzinger sat out last week, ending his streak of 32 consecutive starts, with a sore hamstring but is expected to start. Erzinger leads the team with 73 tackles. Erzinger's 10.43 stops per game ranks 15th in the nation. He also leads the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. Junior defensive tackle A.J. Mackey (25 tackles, 5 for loss, a quarterback hurry) will have to limit the fullback for Army to have success against the Falcons option attack.
Air Force passing offense
Army passing defense
Tim Jefferson is a very accurate passer for an option quarterback. This year Jefferson has completed 60.8% of his passes for 1,007 yards and has thrown eight touchdown passes. Jefferson is the all-time leader for wins among Air Force starting quarterbacks. At wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka (22 rec., 275 yards, 3 TDs). Warzeka torched Army with two long touchdown catches last season. Mikel Hunter (11 rec, 190 yards 2 TDs) and Zach Kauth (17 rec, 285 yards, 1 TD) offer Jefferson has a number of speedy targets. Preseason All-Mountain West offensive guard A.J. Wallerstein (6-4, 285 pounds) is the best of an experienced group of lineman.

Army's defense has done a nice job limiting its fellow service academies rushing attacks the last few years only to be burned deep over the top by their passing games. Junior cornerback Josh Jackson posted 28 tackles, five passes defensed and an interception this year. Freshman Lamar Johnson-Harris intercepted his first career pass last week against Fordham. L.J. has played with more confidence in recent weeks but lack the deep recovery speed to run with some of the Falcon receivers if he gets caught looking into the backfield.
Special Teams
Air Force has historically been very good on special teams. This year is no exception. Air Force has blocked five kicks this season, the most in a season since 2006 and the most in the Calhoun era. New kicker Parker Herrington has hit 9 of 10 field goal attempts. Punter David Baska has averaged 43.0 yards per punt. Jonathan Warzeka (20.5 avg.) is one of the leading kickoff returners in Falcon history. Jon Davis and Mikel Hunter have both returned punts and as a team the Falcons are averaging 16.7 yards per punt return.

Army punter Chris Boldt had the game off against Fordham as Army never punted. Boldt is averaging 41.4 yards per punt this year. Josh Jackson fumbled a punt last week but has reliable hands for a returner. He is averaging just 3 yards per return as he has seen little running room on returns. Scott Williams is reliable and sure handed on kickoff returns (21.1). On punt coverage Army has done an excellent job covering punts all year. Alex Carlton has struggled with his accuracy and has hit just one of four field goal attempts this year. Army's kickoff coverage unit ranks 12th in the nation this year. The Black Knights are allowing just 18.23 yards per return. Junior kicker Eric Osteen has handled the kickoff duties all year and has done an excellent job forcing eight touchbacks.
Troy Calhoun is the only coach in service academy football to lead teams to at least eight wins and a bowl game in each of his first four seasons. Last season he became the only coach in Air Force history to win at least eight games four straight years. Calhoun has dramatically changed the culture at Air Force from the last few years under Fisher DeBerry era (2004-2006, 13-21 .382 winning percentage). Calhoun's teams are physical, chippy and aggressive.

Rich Ellerson and his staff have been able to get their young team refocused and back on track after difficult road losses this season. Ellerson specifically mentioned that the chronic fumbling that has occurred this year will no longer be tolerated. He's already showed that he's not afraid to make position changes. Ian Shields rushing offense with its wishbone and halfbone looks should give the Falcons more challenges than Navy's spread option. Air Force has been able to take away the Navy pitch back in recent years. Army's offense is less predictable in that they can mix the pitch and the dive back.
Army has been terrible on the road this year. The young Army team is 0-4 on the road and has been outscored 176-96. Army has been consistently outplayed by Air Force. The Black Knights have posted a dismal 2-20 record against the Falcons the last 21 years. An Air Force victory over Army would give them the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

PREDICTION: Air Force, 38-17. Army will have trouble defensively keeping Air Force's running game in check. Air Force is more experienced and battled tested. A healthy Trent Steelman would have given Army a chance in my opinion but Max Jenkins lacks the athleticism to make plays against the Falcons. Army's young defense has been awful away from Michie Stadium this year.

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