The ninth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 124, 3-5) and the rival Mountain West Conference Air Force Falcons (Sagarin 138, 1-7.) Air Force has dominated this series the past two decades, winning 21 of the past 24 meetings. However, last year, the Black Knights blew out Air Force 41-21 at Michie Stadium. This is a must win game for the Black Nights and the coaching staff. With a victory, Army keeps their Poinsettia Bowl and Commander-in–Chief's Trophy aspirations alive. Air Force is having their worst season since 1980 and a win against Army would serve as a terrific consolation prize.
In Philadelphia – The good Army Team did not show up in the first half and Temple Freshman Quarterback P.J. Walker, in his second college start, completed 10 of 16 attempts for 203 yards and two touchdowns for the Owls' first victory of the year 33-14.
The Black Knight offense was terrible, punting or fumbling on its first ten possessions. Angel Santiago was able to get the offense moving, but Terry Baggett dropped a sure touchdown pass on the second possession and Santiago reinjured his ankle in the third possession. Kelvin White took over, but he is a step slower than Santiago and that did not work against the disciplined Owl defense. On the fifth possession White made a pitch to Turrentine's back shoulder, resulting in a lost fumble, and a few seconds Owl linebacker, Nate Smith was in the end zone with the football.
Tevin Long led the offense for a couple of possessions. While he was at center, the team had seven plays, amassed 21 yards and fumbled once. White returned and the offense started to move the ball, but it was far too late to make a run.
On the day, Army rushed for 255 yards on 58 carries, most of which was against the second string defense in almost entirely second half garbage time. Larry Dixon lead the team with 84 yards on 16 carries, but the offense was pretty much throttled. White was 7 for 16 for 79 yards. He had a touchdown pass and two interceptions.
The defense looked awful early, allowing four touchdowns on the first six Owl possessions. To Walker's credit, he made two outstanding touchdown throws, which was the bulk of their success through the air. Walker finished 10 for 16 for 203 yards. They were able to contain the run, allowing 158 yards on 44 attempts. Zaire Williams led the Owls with a season best 94 yards. In the end, the defense played well enough for the Cadets to win, but with four turnovers, a dropped touchdown and a fumble returned for a touchdown, the Cadets were not very competitive.
What was particularly frustrating in watching this game was that the coaching staff had called the right plays, but the Cadets failed to execute. Is execution and being emotionally flat the responsibility of the coaching staff or the Cadets themselves?
In Colorado Springs – The Fighting Irish amassed 466 total yards, 331 through the air, as Notre Dame coasted to an easy victory over the Falcons 45-10.
The Falcon option attack caught the Irish off-guard for the first possession as the Zoomies rushed 71 yards on 12 plays and took a 7-0 lead. A disciplined defense and a couple of fumbles in Irish territory took them out of the game.
The Irish ran the ball to set up the pass and Tommy Reese was unstoppable. With little pass rush from Air Force, he was 17 for 22 for five touchdowns to five different receivers. Air Force did compete for a while in this game, but they would have had to play perfect football to stay in the game, and they did not.
Who is favored?
There is no official line as of Tuesday, as Santiago's ability to play is in doubt. We think that Santiago and Schurr will be ready to play and Air Force will be a three point favorite.
What to look for?
Air Force has had moderate success versus the run and has suffered mightily against the pass. The Falcon defense gives up an average of 210 yards on the ground and 4.8 yards per carry. The Falcons give up 275 yards in the air per game and 11.8 per catch.
The Falcons rush for 271 yards per game (4.9 yards per carry) which puts them twelfth in the country, which is not that impressive for an option oriented team.
They have fumbled 11 times in eight games and have turned the ball over six times. They have struggled at the quarterback position as they have rotated two sophomores (Awini & Roberts) and a Freshman (Romine). Awini has been suspended from the team, which leaves Roberts and Romine. They have a Junior fullback, Broam Hart, who leads the team with 408 yards on 94 carries.
Their one win this season came in the opener against FCS Colgate. Since then, they have been beaten by the better Mountain West Conference teams, by Navy and by Notre Dame. They have competed in several games only to lose in the final possessions. It is hard to argue that Army's record would be any better if they had played the Falcons' schedule.
Trouble signs for Army are when they play on the road, are matched against a big offensive line that can push them around, are matched against a big and fast, disciplined defense that can contain the full-back dive, and when they come out flat - which is pretty much every time they are on the road.
Army will be playing on the road, but they will not be outsized on offense or defense, and coming out flat should not be an issue for this rivalry game.
Army averages 343 yards per game rushing and 5.8 yards per attempt. They have fumbled 11 times and lost seven of them. Dan Grochowski is 7/8 field goals and has converted all 28 PATs. Will Conant is 10/12 field goals and has converted all 20 PATs for Air Force.
If Santiago can stay in this game, we expect that he, Dixon and Baggett will have big games. The Army team should be able to move the ball against Air Force. We expect the drives to be long and tedious with a couple of break-out runs.
The defense should contain Air Force to 250 yards rushing. We expect that this game will come down to turnovers, big plays and special teams. Army has enough talent with Josh Jenkins to single cover, and Geoffery Bacon should be back to help stuff the run. The Black Knights must not lose the turnover battle. If they can do these, Ellerson will get his bonus, the staff will live for another few weeks, and the fans do not have to cancel their hotel reservations for San Diego just yet.
Final Score – Army 24 – Air Force 17 (predictions in 2013, 5-3)
Game will be shown on ESPNU @ 12:00 PM EST.
Key Matchups: Army vs. Air Force
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