Air Force Football: Navy Week!

Navy on the way              (AP)

Going into this week's rivalry game against Navy, Air Force's hope is that a sluggish 20-14 victory at Wyoming was nothing more than a team looking ahead to its next opponent.

INSIDE SLANT

Air Force players might pride themselves on focus and on cherishing every opportunity to play a college football game, but they're human. Coming off emotional games against BYU and Oklahoma, against a Wyoming team that had lost its last two games by a combined 72 points, the Falcons were ripe for a letdown.

"Nothing beautiful about it," Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said about the win. "Yet, the resiliency of our guys, there's something we can work with. But we've got so many darn mistakes and corrections to take care of."

One area that is becoming problematic for Air Force is its special teams. Against Oklahoma there were some errors. Against Wyoming, there was a missed field goal, a botched snap on another field goal, a blocked extra point, a failed fake punt and no big plays in the return game. Included in the special teams struggles is normally reliable kicker Erik Soderberg, who missed a 26-yard field goal against Wyoming and is just 2 of 5 on the year.

"For us right now, it's a matter of getting our consistency back, to where we're solid and confident with each other," said holder Ben Cochran, who is on most of Air Force's special teams.

Another concern for Air Force coming out of the Wyoming game was a lackluster rushing defense, which would be a major problem against Navy. The Cowboys had just 73 yards rushing in three games before getting 174 against Air Force. The Falcons were a bit surprised at how much Wyoming ran at them -- which is a sign the Cowboys thought Air Force's run defense was a bit vulnerable.

Still, in the end Air Force did get a win against Wyoming to keep its momentum heading into the Navy game, even if it wasn't very easy.

"We made it much more difficult than what you'd want it to be," Calhoun said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Air Force has lost seven straight times against Navy, but there is a sense this could be the Falcons' chance to break through. The Midshipmen haven't played very well to start the season, Air Force is off to a 3-1 start and this year's game is in Colorado Springs. The Falcons would like nothing more than to snap that losing streak against a huge rival this year.

"It means a ton," fullback Jared Tew said.

--Backup fullback Nathan Walker doesn't get a lot of time behind starter and preseason first-team all-Mountain West selection Tew, but he does make the most of his opportunity. Walker had a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Wyoming to tie the game, then the key block on a Tim Jefferson quarterback draw that gave the Falcons the lead.

"They were both fun," Walker said. "Just trying to make the most of my opportunities and do whatever I can."

The senior has been lauded for his attitude and work in practice, and filling his role behind Tew.

"It's not just an insurance policy, but he's a legitimate contributor," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "That's one of those guys, holy cow, what a special kid."

--The key play of Air Force's win over Wyoming might have been a fourth-and-7 in the fourth quarter, when Asher Clark took an option pitch to the right, and dove for the final couple yards and a first down.

"The whole second half, we were determined we weren't going to let this game go," Clark said.

GAME BALL GOES TO: FB Jared Tew -- Tew picked up two key first downs in the fourth quarter against Wyoming, just two of his 27 tough runs. Tew's toughness has set a tone for the offense. He is not the biggest fullback but always seems to get extra yards. He had 136 yards and a touchdown in a tight win over Wyoming.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Zach Kauth -- If Kevin Fogler has to miss some time with a leg injury, Kauth is a clone. He is tall and rangy and an unlikely deep threat. Kauth isn't as good as Fogler on the deep ball, but he can be a good target for Tim Jefferson, even if Fogler plays and Kauth rotates in. Air Force doesn't pass much but needs to stretch the field on the occasions it does throw.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The Falcons are a bunch of tough guys. The second you slip a little they'll put it on you. I thought we were better, but it's still a tough loss." -- Wyoming defensive end Gabe Knapton after a loss to the Falcons.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Air Force's run defense didn't have a great game against Wyoming, but the pass defense did. Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels completed just 6 of 11 passes for 66 yards. Carta-Samuels also threw a crucial interception to safety Jon Davis on the first drive of the game, and the secondary gets extra points for cornerback Reggie Rembert forcing a big fumble the last time Wyoming had the ball. Air Force's secondary was supposed to be a strength of the team coming into the year, and that unit has played very well.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Air Force's special teams could cost this team a game if there isn't improvement. The kicking game, from kicker Erik Soderberg to snapper Colton Reid, isn't in sync right now. The Falcons have given up a few long returns, and haven't busted a long return except against Northwestern State in the opener. Those units will get a lot of work in practice this week.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Starting WR Kevin Fogler (leg) was wearing a brace as he left the field Saturday. He was knocked out of the game in the third quarter and didn't return. The Falcons didn't offer a prognosis on the severity of his injury.

--Backup RB Cody Getz jumped over Darius Jones on the depth chart to be Asher Clark's backup, and had 36 rushing yards on six attempts against Wyoming.

--Starting TE Chaz Demerath was Air Force's leading receiver with two catches for 24 yards against Wyoming, and could get more looks if Kevin Fogler has to miss some time.

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