Army poised to play host to ri­val Air Force

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By John Kekis

There’s a goat pranc­ing on the front of the Com­man­derin-Chief’s Tro­phy, which is housed at the U.S. Naval Academy, and there’s a fal­con and mule itch­ing to re­place it.

There’s a goat pranc­ing on the front of the Com­man­der-in-Chief’s Tro­phy, which is housed at the U.S. Naval Academy, and there’s a fal­con and mule itch­ing to re­place it.

“Just the pride and play­ing for that is a pretty big deal,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “I don’t know that there is a more im­por­tant goal we have than win­ning the Com­man­der-inChief’s Tro­phy and try­ing to bring the tro­phy back here, so it makes it a big game.”

That big game, the se­cond leg of the round-robin com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the three ser­vice academies, will be staged Satur­day at West Point when Air Force (5-3) visits Michie Sta­dium. The Fal­cons can win the cov­eted hard­ware, em­blem­atic of supremacy among the three schools, for the 20th time with a vic­tory since they dis­patched the Mid­dies 28-14 last month.

A vic­tory by Army (53) would be dou­bly sweet: It would give the Black Knights six wins for only the se­cond time in 20 years and give them the chance to win the tro­phy out­right for only the sev­enth time since its inau­gu­ral year in 1972.

Army plays Navy in De­cem­ber in their tra­di­tional sea­son fi­nale.

Air Force has had Army’s num­ber in this se­ries. The Fal­cons lead 35-14-1, have won all but two of the last 19 games, and are 13-10 at Michie Sta­dium.

Still, this Army team has been a re­silient bunch and seems poised for a breakthrough in a game that will fea­ture two of the top run­ning teams in the na­tion. Army’s triple op­tion is av­er­ag­ing 342.1 yards rush­ing to rank se­cond na­tion­ally and Air Force is fifth at 295.9.

Two weeks ago, Army self-de­struc­ted with seven turnovers against North Texas and lost 35-18 at home to a team it had been heav­ily fa­vored to beat. The Black Knights re­sponded with a clutch vic­tory last week at Wake For­est, dom­i­nat­ing the fourth quar­ter in a come­back 21-13 vic­tory that de­prived the De­mon Dea­cons of their sixth win of the sea­son.

“They gave such a great ef­fort and played the brand of foot­ball that we talk about — be­ing tough and phys­i­cal, and fin­ish­ing ev­ery play and drive,” Monken said.

The Fal­cons are on the re­bound, too. They de­feated Fresno State 31-21 last week to snap a three­game los­ing streak in the Moun­tain West Con­fer­ence.

“We’re a griz­zled group. We’re the ul­ti­mate grinders foot­ball team,” Air Force coach Troy Cal­houn said. “That’s our dis­ci­pline. We will not ab­so­lutely raz­zle, daz­zle. We’ve got re­ally good work­ers.”

Other things to know when Air Force visits Army:

MIS­TAKES HURT

In its first four vic­to­ries, Army did not com­mit a turnover. It had two against Wake For­est and still won, but in losses at Buf­falo and Duke the Black Knights had six turnovers. On the sea­son, turnover mar­gin is a stale­mate: Army has had seven in­ter­cep­tions and lost eight fum­bles, while its de­fense has 12 in­ter­cep­tions and three fum­ble re­cov­er­ies.

STOP THE RUN

Two of Air Force’s losses came against New Mex­ico and Wy­oming. They’re the only teams that have rushed for more than 100 yards against the Fal­cons this sea­son. The Lo­bos had 373 and the Cow­boys 189.

WHO’S AT QB?

The Fal­cons have a banged-up quar­ter­back. Starter Nate Romine left the Fresno State game with an an­kle in­jury, and sopho­more Arion Worth­man guided the Fal­cons to the win.

He en­tered mid­way through the third quar­ter and ran for 102 yards and two touch­downs as the Fal­cons over­came a four-point deficit. Cal­houn was non­com­mit­tal on his starter: “Who’s go­ing to play out there is go­ing to run our of­fense,” he said.

TIME HEALS

Both teams thrive on time of pos­ses­sion. Army has held the ball for an av­er­age of nearly 36 min­utes a game, while Air Force is at just over 33 min­utes to rank 21st na­tion­ally. The Fal­cons have won TOP in six games, five of them vic­to­ries.

DE­FEN­SIVE DUEL

The Army de­fense has al­lowed an av­er­age of only 16.5 points and ranks third in the coun­try in to­tal de­fense, al­low­ing 266.8 yards per game.

Air Force is 22nd in to­tal de­fense (348.2). Air Force held Navy, who was fifth in the na­tion in rush­ing with a 316.3 av­er­age, to 57 yards on the ground.

AN­DREW DYE — THE WIN­STON-SALEM JOUR­NAL VIA AP

Army quar­ter­back Ah­mad Brad­shaw dodges a tackle from Wake For­est safety Jessie Bates on his way to a touch­down in Black Knights’ vic­tory last week.

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