Head-to-head: Navy vs. Air Force

Navy travels to Colorado Springs to face service academy rival Air Force. The Mids have won seven in a row in the series. This game is the first leg of the annual Commander-In-Chief's Trophy. Navy had a bye week over the past weekend while Air Force grinded out a 20-14 victory at Wyoming. Last year Navy prevailed 16-13 in a bruising defensive battle in Annapolis.

Air Force
Navy rushing offense
Air Force rushing defense
Navy enters this contest averaging nearly 273 yards a game rushing. No player on Navy probably needed a week off more than quarterback Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs has been battling a sprained ankle and groin pull. Dobbs has been battered this year and he's averaged only 2.4 yards a carry with a long run of just 14 yards. Dobbs scored a touchdown against Louisiana Tech extending his remarkable streak of scoring at least one touchdown in every game he started to 16. One of the big questions to this week's game is can the Mids get their running game going against the Falcons? The last two years Air Force has provided the template for limiting Navy's prolific ground game. The Falcons have taken away the slot backs and the pitch and forced a slugfest between the tackles. That worked the last two years as the Mids struggled to block the Falcon's star nose tackle Ben Garland. The Mids struggled this year against Georgia Southern, who employed a similar strategy, with dominate nose tackle Brent Russell. Now that Garland has graduated it will be interesting to see if the Falcons can limit the Mids as they've done in past two years. Last year Ricky Dobbs and fullback Vince Murray carried the ball 52 out of 56 rushing attempts. Navy needs to block better on the perimeter to keep from being one dimensional. The Mids have averaged only 195 rushing yards the last two years against the Falcons. Air Force rushing defense is currently ranked 62nd in nation. They have a physical, active 3-4 front which does a good job getting off their blocks. The Falcons have played well on the defensive line despite having only one starter, defensive end Rick Ricketts, return from last year's squad. This season Ricketts has 24 tackles and was credited with an assist on a sack. Inside linebacker Brady Amack is Air Force's leading tackler with 28. The Falcons had a surprisingly tough time against Wyoming and gave up 174 rushing yards. The Cowboys had only 73 net rushing yards entering the game.  
Navy passing offense
Air Force passing defense
Navy opened up the passing game against Louisiana Tech after the Bulldogs stacked the box to stop the Mids running game. Ricky Dobbs made them pay by completing 8 of 14 attempts for a career high 219 passing yards. Dobbs threw one touchdown and had one interception. Sophomore Brandon Turner first career catch was a 63-yard completion to set up the Mids first touchdown. Greg Jones had two catches for 68 yards including a 47-yard catch that set up a first half field goal. Gee Gee Greene has emerged to replace Marcus Curry as Dobbs new go to receiver. Greene led all Navy receivers with three catches for 58 yards. The Air Force secondary is one of the strengths of their team. They held Wyoming to only 66 yards passing last weekend. The Falcons secondary is led by their two exceptional cornerbacks, Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright. Reggie Rembert was named first team All-Mountain West Conference last year when he intercepted three passes. Anthony Wright has started 27 straight games and finished last year with seven interceptions. He picked off three passes against Houston last year in the Falcons blowout bowl win over Houston. Wright picked off Ricky Dobbs and returned the pass 67 yards for a touchdown last season.  
Air Force rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
Air Force enters the game leading the nation in rushing offense. The Falcon fullback Jared Tew has rushed for 371 yards and scored two touchdowns. Tailback Asher Clark is the Falcons big play runner. Clark is averaging 6.7 yards a carry and has rushed for 353 yards. Quarterback Tim Jefferson leads Air Force with five rushing touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Clay Hendrix deserves a tremendous amount of credit for retooling the entire offensive line with five new starters. While Air Forces's rushing production has been prolific, the Navy defensive front seven have matched up extremely well against them. Last year the Mids controlled the line of scrimmage and held Air Force to 249 yards of total offense. They forced two turnovers and didn't allow the Falcons an offensive touchdown. Air Force hasn't been able to handle Jabaree Tuani. Nose tackles Shane Bothel and Chase Burge have similarity been dominate at the point of attack. While Navy's linebackers are all first year starters they seemed to come together as a group when they shut out Louisiana Tech in the second half. Tyler Simmons has been a rock inside this year with 25 tackles. Aaron McCauley had a terrific game making 14 tackles all over the field against the Bulldogs. Wyatt Middleton continues to be brilliant in run support with 25 tackles this year. I realize that the Falcons have posted impressive rushing totals this year but until they do it against the Mids this matchup is even.  
Air Force passing offense
Navy passing defense
Tim Jefferson like many option quarterbacks isn't a very good passer. Jefferson has thrown two touchdowns but has completed only 49% of his throws and has three interceptions. Wide receiver Kevin Fogler will miss this weekend's game with a knee injury. Last year Fogler had 25 catches, averaged 22.7 yards a catch and scored five touchdowns. Jonathan Warzeka leads the Falcons with five catches for 107 yards and one touchdown. Air Force's new offensive line does a good job in pass protection. Navy ranks 28th in nation in pass defense after two weeks. Rover senior captain Wyatt Middleton, a first team All-East selection last year, has been brilliant. Senior free safety Emmett Merchant who missed last week's game is expected to return. Merchant had a key interception in the opener against Maryland. Defensive end Billy Yarborough recorded 1 1/2 sacks last game against the Bulldogs. Navy cornerback Kevin Edwards is a terrific cover corner who had a huge interception against Louisiana Tech.  
Special Teams
Air Force has a history of excellence on special teams but have really struggled this year. Against Wyoming they missed a field goal attempt, botched a snap on another field goal, had an extra point blocked and failed a fake punt. Place kicker Erik Soderberg missed a 26-yard field goal against Wyoming. He's really struggled this year and has made only 2 of 5 field goal attempts.. The Falcons have given up a few long returns. Anthony Wright and Reggie Rembert are both dangerous punt returners. Johnathan Warzeka has averaged 29.2 yards per kickoff return. Warzeka returned a kickoff for a touchdown in last year's bowl game. Navy punter Kyle Delahooke has a career punting average of 42.4 yards, second all-time at Navy, yet has been very erratic this year. Last game Delahooke averaged just 36.3 yards on three punts. Kicker Joe Buckley hit a 37-yard field goal but missed the first extra point of his career against the Bulldogs. Buckley had three clutch field goals in the win over Air Force last year. Navy kickoff coverage gave up a 56-yard and 41-yard return against Louisiana Tech. Alex Teich and Gary Myers have done a good job on returns  
Both of these teams are extremely well coached and well prepared. Air Force lost all five starters on the offensive line to graduation yet leads the nation in rushing. Calhoun's team is playing at a very high level. Great job of adjustments by Navy in their last game. Louisiana Tech took away the running game early and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper countered by opening up the passing game. The Mids returned to pounding the ball in the second half and held the ball for over 22 minutes. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green settled down his charges, made adjustments and shutout the Bulldogs in the second half.  
Air Force has lost seven straight times against Navy. A lot of observers sense this could be the Falcons' year since the Mids haven't played as well as expected. Navy has had Air Force's number. The Mids have always found a way to beat the Falcons and both teams know that.  

PREDICTION: Navy, 20-13. While all the hype is about Air Force, I still believe Navy is the faster and more offensively diverse team. Navy travels well. I don't believe the Falcons are as dominate on the defensive front as they've been in the past. Navy should benefit from the week off.

See what Navy fans are saying about this upcoming game in the GoMids.com GoMidshipmen FORUM.

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