The Navy Midshipmen overcame a half time deficit to defeat the struggling Air Force Falcons 28-10 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy (3-1) took the lead on the opening drive of the second half when sophomore slotback Demond Brown took a pitch 38-yards for his first career touchdown. The Mids defense forced three turnovers by the Air Force Falcons (1-5) late in the game to secure the victory. The win secures the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for Navy. The winner of this game has won the last 16 Commander-in-Chief's Trophies.
PASSING OFFENSE: C+
Keenan Reynolds completed 6 of 10 passes for 54 passing yards. He completed a short pass to Marcus Thomas on the first drive. Reynolds ended that possession first being sacked for a loss, then throwing an incomplete pass under pressure. Reynolds fired an incomplete pass toward Casey Bolena on a third-and-9 to end the second series as the Mids offense looked out of synch. Matt Aiken did a nice job breaking tackles to take a short pass for a 17-yard gain. It helped set up Navy's first touchdown. Reynolds two minute offense to end the first half fizzled. He hit DeBrandon Sanders for a 12-yard gain but two subsequent throws were knocked down by the defensive line. Keenan hit Casey Bolena for a six yard gain during the opening drive of the second half that ended in Navy's go ahead touchdown. Reynolds connected with Shawn Lynch for a 12-yard gain on a key third-and-8 pass attempt that resulted in a touchdown and extended Navy's lead to 21-10. Early in the game it seemed the Mids planned to try and beat the Falcons by passing like the MWC teams have done this year. It didn't work. Once they settled down and passed off their run game they had much better success connecting on all three pass attempts in the second half. AF was able to generate pass rush pressure. Navy allowed two sacks and Reynolds had to pull the ball down and scramble a few times.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B+
Navy ran for 273 rushing yards, a 5.4 average and scored four rushing touchdowns. Keenan Reynolds ran 28 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns. It was a typical game against the Falcons with their defense limiting the slot backs. Reynolds didn't play well in the first half but was effective running the ball in the second half. Starting B-back Chris Swain ran 8 times for 40 yards. His backup Noah Copeland saw the ball six times for just 13 yards. DeBrandon Sanders (3 att., 39 yards) ripped off a 21-yard run to open Navy's first touchdown drive. Demond Brown took his only pitch 38-yards for his first career touchdown. Senior Darius Staten (1 att., 3 yards) was injured early in the second half. Marcus Thomas (2 att., 21 yards) had a nice 18-yard run down to the AF 1 to set up Navy's initial touchdown. Sophomore Brandon Greene was solid in his first career start at right tackle. The Mids lost talented Graham Vickers last week with a career ending concussion.
PASSING DEFENSE: A
Air Force quarterbacks completed 7-of-16 for 82 passing yards with two interceptions. D.J Sargenti (9 tackles, 2 QBH) had a key quarterback hurry early in the third quarter to help end a promising AF drive at midfield. Chris Johnson (8 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INTs) continues to impress with his athleticism and play making ability at linebacker. Johnson made two interceptions to end two consecutive fourth quarter drives which secured the win. Linebacker Jordan Drake (3 tackles, FF) forced a fumble from AF receiver Sam Gagliano which was recovered by safety Lonnie Richardson (6 tackles, FR). Paul Quessenberry (4 tackles, QBH) has continued to improve and provided some pass rush pressure off the edge.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B+
The Mids allowed 231 rushing yards, 4.1 yards a carry and just one rushing touchdown to the Falcons. In the first half the Falcons had 202 yards of total offense and converted 7-of-11 third down chances while controlling the clock. Kwazel Bertrand (4 tackles, 1 pass def.) returned from an injury at cornerback and made a huge tackle stopping AF fullback Broam Hart on fourth-and-2 for no gain early in the third quarter. Cody Peterson was busy as usual with 10 tackles. Evan Palelei (4 tackles) and nose Guard Bernie Sarra (2 tackles) did a nice job in limiting fullback Broam Hart, the Falcons' leading rusher, to just 67 yards. Safety Chris Ferguson led the Mids with 11 tackles. He made a nice tackle on Garrett Brown to help force a field goal on AF's opening drive. In the second quarter he dropped Jon Lee for a five yard loss on third down. The ensuing Falcons 50-yard field goal attempt by Will Conant fell just short. AF quarterback Karson Roberts ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns against Nevada but was only able to muster 31 rushing yards versus the Mids. Back-up nose guard Travis Bridges (1 tackle) was buried on Anthony LaCoste 18-yard touchdown run.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Pablo Beltran continues to demonstrate he's one of the best punters in Navy history. Beltran averaged 42.5 yards on his six punts. He nailed one punt 56 yards and placed three inside the 20-yard line. Nick Sloan didn't attempt any field goal and hit all his PAT's. Punt returner Shawn Lynch return a punt for just two yards. Marcus Thomas returned one kickoff for 19 yards. Austin Grebe had two touchbacks on five kickoffs. Navy's coverage teams did an excellent job covering kicks.
Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper initially looked like he was trying to attack the Falcons mediocre secondary in the first half but it didn't work well. When the Mids started to run the ball then pass off play action they were much more effective. Buddy Green's was able to dial up his defense in the second half after the Falcons controlled the ball for 21 minutes in the first half. Ken Niumatalolo's staff halftime adjustments all worked and allowed the Mids to take control. It was an excellent rebound performance from the Western Kentucky loss. This was Navy largest margin of victory over Air Force since 1978.
OVERALL GRADE: A
Navy struggled a little out of the box but took control and was clearly the better team. While the grades weren't all perfect the fact that this was the largest win over rival Air Force in 35 years makes this an ‘A'- grade for the team.
Navy Report Card: Air Force
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