Navy and Air Force are scheduled to meet on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium if the government shutdown doesn't cancel the game. Last year freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds came off the bench for an injured Trey Miller and led the Mids to a 28-21 comeback overtime victory over Air Force in Colorado Springs. The winner of this game has won the last 16 Commander-in-Chief's Trophies.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
AIR FORCE PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds has completed 14 of 21 passes (66.7%) for 324 passing yards while throwing two touchdown passes. Reynolds hit 2-of-4 passes for 20 yards against WKU before leaving the game with an injury. Keenan's arm strength and accuracy offer the Mids a legitimate passing threat. Reynolds seems very comfortable running plays out of the shotgun sets which offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper has introduced. Wide receiver Casey Bolena leads the team with five catches for 75 yards.
The Air Force secondary has been torched all season. The Falcons are ranked 118th in the nation in pass defense. One of the reasons for their struggles is the lack of a pass rush. The Falcons have posted just two sacks all year. Free safety Christian Spears leads the team with two interceptions and has posted 22 sacks. The Falcons opponents have passed for 14 touchdowns and are allowing over 313 passing yards per game.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
AIR FORCE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Navy's miserable rushing performance against Western Kentucky dropped them from leading the country in rushing to sixth overall. Navy came into the game averaging a 398 yards per game on the ground, but managed just 107 rushing yards against Western Kentucky. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is expected to play after having to leave the game last week. Reynolds has carried the ball 52 times for 259 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns. Darius Staten leads the slotbacks in rushing. He's rushed 11 times for 130 rushing yards, an 11.8 average and a touchdown. Fullback Chris Swain (110 yards, 3.0 avg., 2 TDs) hasn't found much running room inside so far this year.
Air Force has defended Navy's spread option as well as any opponent over the years. This year Air Force has struggled on defense. The Falcons are ranked 106th in the nation and are allowing 212 rushing yards per game. The Falcons 3-4 defense leading tackler is inside linebacker Joey Nichol (53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss). Air Force's defensive line 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 year. He has only ten tackles and no sacks this season.
AIR FORCE PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Air Force has started start three 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. Sophomore Karson Roberts started last week vs. Nevada. He threw the ball well completing 8-of-16 passes for 140 yards. Sam Gagliano leads the Air Force receiving corps with eight catches for 112 yards and one touchdown. Ty MacArthur has seven catches for 99 yards but has missed two games. The Air Force's offensive line is tied for first in the Mountain West conference and is second in the nation in sacks allowed with just three for 32 yards.
Navy's secondary should see the return of cornerback Kwazel Bertrand who has missed the first three games with a knee injury. The Mids are ranked 86th in the nation in pass defense. Parrish Gaines (17 tackles) intercepted a pass in the first half last week. He had a costly interference penalty on WKU's final drive; Gaines was in good position and tried to make a play on the ball. It was a close call but it set a WKU touchdown. Navy has just three sacks but William Tuider has showed excellent speed off the edge as a situational pass rusher with three quarterback pressures.
AIR FORCE RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: AIR FORCE
REMARKS: Sophomore quarterback Karson Roberts was impressive in his first career start last Saturday night against Nevada. Roberts rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries as he helped lead the Falcons to 453 yards of total offense and 42 points. Fullback Broam Hart is the Falcons' leading rusher with 292 yards and three touchdowns on 62 carries. Talented running back Jon Lee has rushed for 278 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries. The Falcons are ranked eighth in country in rushing.
Navy enters the game ranks 72nd in the nation in run defense. They are allowing 164 rushing yards a game. The Mids allowed 219 rushing yards and 5.1 yards a carry last week. WKU's super star Antonio Andrews rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns. His run skills and cutting ability made the Mids look foolish at times. Still despite the numbers Navy did a solid job because they had to spend so much time on the field due to their own offense's struggles. Inside linebackers Cody Peterson (26 tackles) and D.J. Sargenti (24 tackles) have done a nice job against the run.
REMARKS: Kicker Will Conant has hit all 15 PATs and six-of-seven field goals. He hit a 52-yard field goal against Colgate. Punter David Baska is averaging 39.9 yards per punt with eight fair catches and five inside the 20. Anthony LaCoste has averaged 23.0 yards on his six kickoff returns. LaCoste ranks third in school history in career kickoff return average with a 25.7 norm. He has 32 returns for 815 yards. Sam Gagliano has returned one punt return for 8 yards. The Falcons do a solid job on coverage teams.
Navy's punter Pablo Beltran is off to a great start in 2013, averaging 49.0 yards per punt on his six punts. Kicker Nick Sloan has hit three of four field goals. Marcus Thomas has done a good job on kickoff returns averaging 21.2 yards per return. Shawn Lynch has returned five punts for a 9.3 average. The coverage teams have been excellent this year.
REMARKS: Air Force leads the overall series, 27-18. Air Force is enters this game desperate for win after four straight losses. The Falcons won the last game played in Annapolis. The Navy offense had their worse performance of the season against WKU. They should be ready to play and give a big effort.
REMARKS: Troy Calhoun record is 48-35 after six plus seasons plus season with the Falcons. He is 2-4 vs. Navy.
Part of Air Force's struggles this year is 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.
Ken Niumatalolo has a 42-27 (.609) record in this his sixth season as the head coach. He is fourth all-time at Navy in career wins. Entering last year's Air Force game the Mids had lost ten of their previous fourteen games. Niumatalolo was able to get the program back on track behind Keenan Reynolds comeback win at Air Force. Including that game the Mids have won nine of their last twelve games.
PREDICTION: Navy, 28-20. As long as Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds is able to play the
Mids offense should be able to score. Karson Roberts played well but the truth is Nevada can't
defend the option. Navy has the better defense. The Mids should be able to generate more stops and
Beltran can give them the advantage in field position.