Head to Head: Army vs Air Force

The Army Black Knights are 5-3 and one victory away from bowl eligibility. That takes a backseat this Saturday however as Army tries to pick up a victory in the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy series.



The Army passing offense was far more efficient against Wake Forest than it was against North Texas. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is 28 of 62 attempts for 481 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions. Bradshaw threw his first touchdown pass of the season against an FCS team last weekend with a strike to leading receiver Edgar Poe. Chris Carter still gives Army a boost in the passing game and he is 50% on the season with nine completions for 176 yards and two touchdowns to one pick.

The Air Force pass defense has been good so far in 2016. The Falcons give up an average of just 237.5 yards per game through the air, but they have given up a surprising 16 touchdowns passing. Given the relatively low number of yards passed for by the opposition, this has to be a concern. The best player on the defense is safety Weston Steelhammer. Steelhammer leads the team with 48 tackles and has three interceptions. Another defensive player to watch is linebacker Ryan Watson who has an impressive nine sacks and 11 TFLs.



Army is still rushing the ball better than all but one team in the country and the Black Knights average 342.4 yards per game on the ground. It is a balanced rushing attack with nine different ball carriers having rushed for over 100 yards on the season and 10 players having scored at least one of the Black Knights 28 rushing touchdowns. Most of the work is done by fullback Andy Davidson (662 yards) and quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (561 yards) who gave combined for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Air Force defense is another unit that will challenge the Army ball carriers. This season the Falcons have the #14 ranked rushing defense in the country and the team allows just 110.8 yards per game on the ground. Air Force has also only allowed ten rushing touchdowns to be scored against them. The biggest test of the Flacons rushing defense was one they passed with flying colors when the held the vaunted Navy rushing attack to just 57 yards on 38 carries in the beginning of October.



Air Force has passed for 1,206 yards this season on 110 attempts and has 11 passing touchdowns. All but two of those passes have come from senior QB Nate Romine who has attempted 108 passes, and 45 have been completed sitting at roughly 42 percent. Romine also has thrown 10 of the Air Force touchdowns and he has tossed four interceptions. Air Force throws the ball more than the other academy teams and the go to receiver is Jalen Robinette. Robinette is good enough to play in more conventional offenses and he has 24 receptions for 622 yards and four touchdowns.

The Army defense has played exceptionally well this season and the Black Knights rank 39 in the country in scoring defense as they give up just 16.5 points per game. A huge part of this is a pass defense that ranks fourth in the country and that allows a measly 163 yards per game through the air. Army has also given up just seven passing touchdowns all season, less than one per game.



The Air Force rushing attack is the best part of the team's offense. FB Jacobi Owens is the leading rusher and he has carried the ball 82 times for 505 yards and three touchdowns. He also seems to have been with the Falcons forever. He splits time at the fullback position with D.J. Johnson who has 99 carries on the season for 452 yards but no touchdowns. Johnson is less dynamic than Owens, but he fills his role well. Air Force also has the requisite number of elusive slot backs and quarterback Nate Romine has chipped in 2ith 85 carries for 279 yards and three scores. The Falcons spread out their 19 touchdowns rushing with seven players having scored at least once.

The Army rushing.defense has been spectacular in 2016 and teams (other than Jeffrey Wilson of North Texas) just cannot move the ball on the ground against the Black Knight's defensive front. Army ranked seventh in the nation in rushing yardage allowed, giving up under 104 yards per game and only allowing nine touchdowns. Army is one spot ahead of LSU in rushing defense and that should tell you everything about this unit.



Army's two kickers are still a weakness that leads to decision-making problems for head coach Jeff Monken. Blake Wilson and Howard Mitchell have combined to go 5-of-10 on the season after another missed field goal last weekend. It was telling that Army went for it on fourth down twice (failing both times) when a strong kicker would have had a field goal shot. Punting has also been an adventure with the team averaging just 35 yards net on punts this season.

Special teams have been less of a problem for Air Force in large part because the Falcons have a kicker that has just been named on the Lou Groza semifinalists list. Junior Luke Strebel is 14 of 16 on field goal attempts this season, hitting 87.5% of his kicks. Oddly both of his misses have come on shorter attempts as he is 5 of 5 in the 40-49 yard range. His ability to kick long field goals consistently gives Air Force the edge here.



tenth-year Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun is 72-53 with the Falcons. Last season he won the Mountain West with Air Force for the first conference title of his tenure. Before his time at Air Force, Calhoun worked in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. He also had positions at Ohio and Wake Forest after beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Air Force.

Third-year Army head coach Jeff Monken is 11-21 at Army. He previously was the head coach at Georgia Southern and was 38-16 with the Golden Eagles, but he was winless in the FCS playoffs in three attempts. Monken has had stints all over the country before becoming a college head coach, including putting in time at Navy, Georgia Tech, and Buffalo.



It just feels like Amry has the momentum coming into this game. Air Force knows that it is one win from taking the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy back from Navy, but since the game against the Mids, the Falcons have not looked right at all. Air Force was on a three-game losing streak before beating Fresno State by 10 last weekend, but Fresno State is 1-7 and one of the worst teams in the country, If this game were in Colorado Springs it might be different, but the fact that it is on the Black Knights home field bodes well for the black and gold.

Prediction:  Army 28, Air Force 14. It is hard to score on Army this year. Both teams will run the ball hard, but Army will get enough stops to come away wth the win. That will lead to an epic Army-Navy showdown at the tail end of the season.


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