Air Force’s dominant rushing attack has guided the academy to a hot start to the season. The Falcons will aim to keep that going when they host rival Navy on Saturday outside Colorado Springs, Colo.
Air Force (3-1) embarrassed Nevada by gaining 461 rushing yards on 75 attempts in a 48-20 victory last week. Fourteen different Falcons took at least one carry, but Brad Roberts did most of the damage with 20 touches for 123 yards and three touchdowns.
The Falcons completed just one pass, but it went for an 80-yard touchdown as Ben Brittain connected with David Cormier in the first quarter. Then, the run game fully settled in. The Falcons average 412.2 yards per game to lead the Football Bowl Subdivision. Second on the list is Minnesota, far lower than Air Force at 294.5 yards on the ground per game.
Now the Falcons’ minds will turn to the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Air Force leads the three-way series with 20 trophies to Navy’s 16 and Army’s nine, but it has not claimed one outright since 2016.
Air Force won 23-3 in Annapolis, Md. last year to improve to 32-22 all-time against Navy. But after Army defeated Air Force and Navy upset Army, the C.I.C. was split for the first time since 1993.
“It’s the level of respect that’s involved, again, not only for the football part of it, but beyond the football,” Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said. “There’s some resemblances for both squads in terms of what you’ll see. Both squads want to play well up front, offensively and defensively. You want to do a good job of handling the ball. And yet there are going to be sometimes where you also want to try to have some larger-gain plays without completely sacrificing a bunch of series.”
Navy (1-2) is coming off its first win of the year, a 23-20, double-overtime victory on the road over American Athletic Conference foe East Carolina. Daniel Davies, a backup filling in for injured kicker Bijan Nichols, made critical field goals in both overtime periods.
While Navy is a run-heavy team like its fellow service academies, the Midshipmen had success through the air in beating the Pirates. Tai Lavatai completed 7 of 10 passes for 152 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Vincent Terrell Jr.
“We’re an option team and obviously we run the ball first and foremost, predominantly,” head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “But they were so aggressive, East Carolina, they were just playing so aggressive. … Obviously, Tai can throw the football and we have some good receivers, but it’s not who we are. But the way the game was going, it dictated that.”
Navy hasn’t beaten Air Force on the road since 2012. Air Force hasn’t won three straight in the series since its six-game streak from 1997 to 2002.