Army visits Air Force on Saturday. ArmySports.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.
Black Knights travel to Colorado Springs to meet service academy rival the Air Force
Falcons. The Black Knights dominated Air Force last season as they defeated the Falcons for first time since 2005. The Falcons enter the game following a 45-10 home loss to Notre Dame
. Army had a week layoff following a disappointing road loss to Temple
. The Black Knights hope to have a number of injured starters, who missed the Temple game, back in action. A road victory by Army will give the Black Knights the opportunity to play for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
AIR FORCE PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Army's quarterback Angel Santiago
has completed just 45.8 percent of his passes for 333 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He threw a picture perfect bomb that Terry Baggett
dropped which cost a touchdown against Temple. Santiago left the Temple game after reinjuring his ankle but is expected to start this Saturday. The Black Knights should also see the return of backup quarterback A.J. Schurr
. A.J. has been limited to holding on extra points since being injured against Wake Forest
. Schurr has thrown the ball well, completing 9-of-14 passes (64.3%) for 74 yards and a touchdown, when he's played. Xavier Moss
leads the team with 23 receptions for 303 yards, a 13.2 avg., and a touchdown. Wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence
(6 rec., 63 yards, 1 TD) is questionable for the game.
The Air Force secondary has been torched all season. The Falcons allowed five touchdown passes against Notre Dame last week. They are ranked 107th in the nation in pass defense allowing 275 passing yard a game. One of the reasons for their struggles is their lack of a pass rush. The Falcons have posted just seven sacks all year in the pass-happy Mountain West Conference. Free safety Christian Spears
leads the team with two interceptions and has posted 58 tackles. Air Force tries to generate pressure by using delayed blitzes. Inside linebacker Spencer Proctor
leads the team with two sacks. The Falcons have allowed 22 touchdown passes.
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
AIR FORCE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Black Knights are leading the nation in rushing. They are averaging over 383 rushing yards per game. Army is expected to have Angel Santiago back at quarterback. Santiago has done a nice job limiting turnovers. Army's backup quarterbacks turned over the ball four times against Temple after Santiago left the last game with an injury. Angel Santiago (434 rushing yards, 3.9 avg, 4 TDs) has been a solid if unspectacular runner. His strength is in directing the offense. Running back Terry Baggett earned Mid-season first team All-Independent honors. He's has been one of the best players on the team. Baggett has run for 768 yards, a 9.1 average and six touchdowns. Fullback Larry Dixon
(600 yards, 7.1 avg., 6 TDs) ran for 89 yards and had a touchdown run in last year's victory over the Falcons. The Black Knights hope to have running back Raymond Maples
(1,215 yards, 2 TDs in 2012) back in the lineup this week. He has been out since the Stanford
game. The Black Knight's offense has run the ball well against the Falcons the last two years. Army ran for 314 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 4.1 yards a carry last year against Air Force.
Air Force's 3-4 defense is ranked 107th in the nation against the run. They are allowing over 210 rushing yards per game. They actually did a solid job against Notre Dame's running game holding the Irish to 135 rushing yards, a touchdown and a 3.6 average per carry. The Falcons leading tackler is inside linebacker Joey Nichol
(75 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and a sack). Air Force's defensive line took a hit when it lost Joseph Champaign
(24 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks in 2012) who was injured in the opener. Defensive lineman Alex Hanson (36 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks in 2012) hasn't played as well this season. He has only 21 tackles and no sacks this year. The Falcons defense is allowing 38.5 points per game.
AIR FORCE PASSING OFFENSE
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Air Force has started four different quarterbacks this season. Junior Kale Pearson
started the opener and suffered a season ending injury. Sophomore Jaleel Awini
started the next three games but he was suspended. Freshman Nate Romine
started last week against Notre Dame with Karson Roberts
sidelined with a concussion. Roberts has completed 16-of-32 passes for 219 passing yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Romine has completed 12-of-26 passes (46.2%) for 163 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sam Gagliano leads the Air Force receiving corps with 12 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns. He suffered a concussion against the Fighting Irish and is questionable for this game. Talented wide receiver Ty MacArthur
will miss the rest of the year. Air Force's offensive line does a nice job in pass protection. They've allowed only five sacks this year.
The Black Knights pass defense is ranked 38th in the nation. Army is allowing over 215 passing yards a game. Last game Temple quarterback P.J. Walker
completed 10-of-16 for 203 passing yards. He had two touchdowns with an interception. Cornerback Josh Jenkins
(21 tackles, 2 INT., 6 Pass def.) had his worst game against Temple. On the opening series he was beat on a Jalen Fitzpatrick
45-yard reception tackling him on the 1-yard line. The Owls scored on the next play. Chris Carnegie
(27 tackles) and Hayden Pierce
(30 tackles) were beat by Jalen Fitzpatrick for 37-yard bomb after Temple quarterback faked a quarterback sneak and they both bit. SAM safety Shaquille Tolbert
(40 tackles, INT ) made a coverage mistake when he sat in a zone and let John Christopher
run free for a 39-yard touchdown catch. He has struggled in coverage all year. Rover Justin Trimble
(18 tackles, 2 IN T) has done a nice job filling in for the injured Thomas Holloway
. The Black Knights should play better on defense this week with Kough and Bacon back in the lineup. They should match up better against Air Force's passing game.
AIR FORCE RUSHING OFFENSE
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: AIR FORCE
REMARKS: Sophomore quarterback Karson Roberts is expected to return after missing the Notre Dame game. Roberts has rushed for 215 yards, 5.1 average and two touchdowns on 42 carries. As we publish it's unclear if Troy Calhoun
will start Roberts or freshman Nate Romine. Romine started the near upset against San Diego State
and last week versus Notre Dame. Fullback Broam Hart
is the Falcons' leading rusher with 408 yards and three touchdowns on 94 carries. Talented running back Jon Lee
has rushed for 366 yards and three touchdowns on 56 carries. Anthony LaCoste
(341, 5.1 YPC, 3 TDs) is a fast runner but is prone to fumbling. The Falcons are ranked a disappointing 12th in the nation in rushing with just over 271 rushing yards a game.
Army is ranked 81st in the country versus the run. The Black Knights are allowing over 181 rushing yards per game. They should benefit from the bye week with defensive end Bobby Kough and free safety Geoffrey Bacon (30 tackles) returning from injuries. Both played well last year against the Falcons. Bacon led the team with 13 tackles and had a 31-yard interception return. Army held the Falcons to just 103 rushing yards in 2012 which was well below their season average. Mike linebacker Colby Miller
(16 tackles vs. Temple) has earned the starting job with his play.
EDGE: AIR FORCE
REMARKS: Kicker Will Conant
has hit all 19 PATs and 10-of-12 field goals. He hit a 52-yard field goal against Colgate. Punter David Baska
is averaging 40.9 yards per punt with 16 fair catches and nine punts inside the 20-yard line. Anthony LaCoste has averaged 22.9 on his six kickoff returns. LaCoste ranks third in school history in career kickoff return average. Garrett Brown
(3.5 avg.) handles punt returns. The Falcons do a solid job on coverage teams.
Army kicker Dan Grochowski
has made seven of eight field goal attempts this year. Punter Alex Tardieu
has averaged 37.9 yards on 34 punts. Army ranks last in the FBS in kick returns averaging just 14.6 yards per kickoff return. The punt return game is worse. The Black Knights have been asking sure handed but slow Scott Williams
(2.2 avg.) to just fair catch punts. Army kick and punt coverage has been inconsistent all season. Army's pathetic return game costs them field position.
EDGE: AIR FORCE
REMARKS: Air Force has won 21 of the last 24 meetings and leads the series 32-14-1. Air Force will be primed for a big effort at home. The Falcons will be looking for payback after getting pounded at Michie Stadium last year. The Black Knights have won only one road game since 2010. Army should be buoyed by the return of key injured starters. The Black Knights have outplayed the Falcons in the trenches the past two games.
REMARKS: Troy Calhoun's career record is 48-38 after six plus seasons plus season with the Falcons. Part of Air Force's struggles this year are due to the recent attrition of some of their recruiting classes. Calhoun has been honored as the Mountain West Coach of the Year and was once a finalist for national coach of the year. Calhoun teams are known for their physical, chippy and aggressive play. His offense features multiple formations and looks. Calhoun is the only coach in service academy football to lead his team to at least eight wins and a bowl game in each of his first four seasons. The wheels have fallen off recently with the Falcons winning only one game this year and two of their last 12 contests.
and his staff have done a nice job game planning against Air Force the last two years. They routed the Falcons in 2012 and should have beaten them in 2011. Ian Shields
offensive line has dominated at the point of attack the last two games against Air Force. Defensive coordinators Chris Smeland and Payam Sadaat know how to defend the option. Special teams coach Luke Thompson's kick coverage and return teams have been mediocre.
Army, 35-28. Army should be able to run the ball on the Air Force defense. If Angel Santiago starts and plays the whole game at quarterback they should be able to avoid the turnovers that have plagued Air Force. This should be a close game but I think the Black Knights can outscore the Falcons and should win the turnover battle.