West Point, N.Y. — Looking for their first Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 2002, the Air Force Falcons will head to Michie Stadium where they will battle the Army Black Knights this Saturday afternoon.
Earlier this season the Falcons defeated Navy, 14-6, and a victory this Saturday will give Air Force its 17th trophy. The Falcons have dominated the Black Knights in the all-time series, posting a 30-13-1 ledger against their rival. Air Force has won the last four meetings, and 12 of the past 13 showdowns.
The Falcons soared out of the gates this season with five wins in their first six games, including a 35-14 decision over 24th ranked BYU. However, over the past three weeks Air Force has come down to earth, losing three consecutive games, including a heartbreaking, 28-23 setback to seventh ranked Utah.
This past weekend the Black Knights dominated VMI to the tune of 29-7. It was the second home win on the year for Army, which also beat North Texas at Michie Stadium. In the team's two home setbacks this season, Army only lost by a combine 10 points to Hawaii and Temple.
Falcons might fly, but these Falcons stay grounded and use their ground game to abuse their competition. Air Force, which is averaging 29.1 ppg, has dominated its opponents for an outstanding 313.6 ypg and out of the 35 touchdowns scored by this unit, 27 have come via the run. Asher Clark is currently leading the team with 735 yards on 5.8 yards per attempt, while quarterback Tim Jefferson has contributed 570 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns. Clearly the Flacons do not pass much, which means Jefferson is rarely called upon to air out the football, which is for the best, because when under center the signal caller has completed just 50.4 percent of his throws. In nine games the quarterback has thrown just seven touchdowns against six interceptions.
The Falcons managed 210 rushing yards this past weekend against Utah, but still suffered a tough loss, despite scoring 13 fourth quarter points. Jefferson led the team on the ground with 67 yards and one touchdown, while Clark was held in check, totaling just 53 yards on 11 totes. As for Jefferson, he also threw for 201 yards and one touchdown, but was also intercepted twice.
The success of the offense has been the downfall of the defense, as the Falcons are being gashed for 205.4 ypg on 5.0 yards per attempt. Out of the 26 touchdowns allowed by this unit, 19 have come via the run. Coach Troy Calhoun's defense has also lacked big play ability, forcing just 13 turnovers, while collecting only 11 sacks.
Air Force's troubles against the run continued this past weekend against Utah, as the Utes punished the Falcons for 179 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Because the defense was unable to stop Utah from moving the ball on the ground, the Falcons suffered close to a 13-minute disadvantage in time of possession. The Falcons also allowed the Utes to convert all three of their red zone chances and 8-of-17 third down attempts.
The offense for Army is practically identical to Air Force's approach, as the Black Knights head into this meaningful contest averaging 281.4 ypg. Army, which is producing 30.4 ppg, has scored 26 of its 30 touchdowns via the run. Jared Hassin is currently leading the team with 669 rushing yards, and has also scored eight touchdowns, while quarterback Trent Steelman has rumbled for 499 yards and a team-best nine scores.
The last time Army was in action the team punished VMI for 316 yards and two rushing touchdowns. One of those scores was claimed by Hassin, who rumbled for 158 yards on just 14 carries. Patrick Mealy added 97 rushing yards, while Steelman contributed 42 yards to go along with one touchdown. Because Army relies heavily on its ground game it is very rare that Steelman has to throw the football. In the win over VMI the quarterback threw for just 64 yards and has just 568 yards and four scores on the season.
Helping the cause for coach Rich Ellerson's team has been the success of the defense, which is holding the opposition to just 309.9 total ypg. Army, which is allowing a pedestrian 21.9 ppg, has done an outstanding job against the run, holding teams to just 117.8 ypg on 3.9 yards per attempt.
In the team's recent win over VMI the Black Knights held their competition to just 282 total yards. However, the front line surprisingly had some issues against VMI's ground game, allowing 123 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries. Army only forced one turnover in the matchup, giving this defense 18 takeaways on the year, but did manage to limit VMI to a meager 3-of-14 showing on third down attempts.
These two schools are identical offensively, so look for both teams to rush the ball 90 percent of the time. Army has a better defense, and is also home, which is another advantage, but the Falcons have too many playmakers and a much better passing attack, giving them a slight edge in this contest.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 27, Army 24