Navy-Air Force Is On: The Play's The Thing

How will an anything-but-typical week of preparation mentally affect Saturday's game between Navy and Air Force? That's the biggest non-Keenan Reynolds question which hovers over this contest.


NOT DENIED AND NOT DELAYED: FOOTBALL IS SET FOR SATURDAY

So, Navy and Air Force are going to play this weekend, to the immense relief of the Naval Academy Athletic Association and the locals in Annapolis. Naturally, the big question is if Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds can play the full 60 minutes at normal speed, with a lack of unusual sluggishness or impairment. That's the single biggest factor in this game, but if you take Reynolds out of the equation, the unique circumstances attached to Saturday's contest have now become – if not a factor – a major point of discussion before kickoff.

Last year, Navy certainly looked brighter and more engaged than Air Force in a game that kicked off at roughly 9:40 a.m. local time in Colorado Springs, before noon in the East. This year's game is once again an earlybird kickoff, so that detail in itself could present another body-clock issue for either side. However, there's a twist this time: The fact that this game wasn't officially confirmed until Wednesday night could create a stop-and-start dynamic for either team. Yes, both the Falcons and the Midshipmen have continued to practice, but the point remains that they have lived in a world defined by uncertainty for the past 72 hours. The human mind and body are not impervious to distractions and to outside events that can affect the level of urgency which is brought to the practice field and to film sessions. Yes, it could very well be that on Thursday and Friday, these teams will be able to re-frame their mindsets and adequately prepare for Saturday's showdown. Yet, there's no denying that this has not been a normal week of practice. Coaches and players might say all the right things, but the reality of an irregular backdrop to game week is incontestable.

The emotions you see on the field this Saturday in Annapolis could run deeper and burn hotter because of the fact that this game's status lay in jeopardy for some time. When you get a volatile emotional cocktail – or at least the possibility of one – you're going to see lots of mistakes and big plays, anything but a close-to-the-vest game defined by field position. The team that channels emotions into its performance is the team that will win. You will very likely be able to see which team succeeds and which team fails.

There's also the matter of Army's game against Boston College. The Eagles outplayed the Black Knights most of the way last year in West Point, but Army stole the game late in regulation. Boston College will be out for revenge, and Army's probably going to play at least some of this game fighting uphill. The key for Army is to shut off the big play for Boston College, to the extent that the Eagles have to operate in or near the red zone. If Army can then generate red-zone stops, it can limit the Eagles' point production and carve out a win with a score in the area of 24-23 or 21-16.

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