Navy Week!

First leg of CinC battle

October 3rd 2009 is only a few days away, and it will mark exactly 364 days since the Falcon's most recent disappointing setback to the Naval Academy, but who's counting. This year Navy is 2- 2, but the losses include Pittsburgh from the Big East and a four point loss to Ohio State in Columbus.

Air Force brings a record 0f 3-1 to Annapolis. However, their list of victories reads like a who's who of really bad football teams. In fact, both of Air Force's FBS victories have come against opponents (New Mexico and San Diego State) who have yet to defeat an FBS opponent. Air Force's weak schedule coupled with their lack of production in the red zone (9 TDs in 20 attempts), means that Falcon fans cannot be sure of how their team will stack up against a battle hardened Navy squad.

When Air Force has the ball

Air Force currently has the nation's top rushing offense averaging 319 yards per game. Granted, these statistics are somewhat skewed by a 474 yard effort against Nicholls State. Nevertheless, the Air Force offense has moved the ball well (except in the red zone). Tim Jefferson has been out the last seven quarters for the Falcons with a sprained ankle, but he is probable for the game against Navy. In his absence, Connor Dietz has filled in admirably. Dietz is a slashing runner who has averaged 8.1 yards per carry and possesses an adequate arm. Regardless of who takes the snaps for the Falcons, they will need to find ways to score touchdowns in the red zone. Navy has been solid in red zone defense this year allowing only 9 touchdowns in 17 attempts. For the Falcons, this may mean that they will need to throw the ball more to ease the pressure on the ball carriers. The production from the tight end position this year has been greatly diminished with the departure of Travis Dekker. This season, starting tight end Sean Quintana has caught only three balls, and the Falcons need to get him more involved. Air Force's primary receiving threat this year has been 6'5'' Kevin Fogler. Fogler has three touchdowns on only five catches this season. He is physical and has good hands, but he will be challenged by 6'2'' corner Kevin Edwards. Edwards, Navy's top corner, has the physicality to match Fogler, and has been solid against some very talented receivers this season. Compounding the Falcons problems on offense, is an undisclosed injury to starting tailback Asher Clark. Clark is the Falcon's leading rusher and has averaged over six yards per carry. If he can't go, Savier Stephens will get the bulk of the work at tailback. Either way, expect another day of heavy lifting for fullback Jared Tew. He has been a powerful ball carrier for the Falcons this year, but averaged only three yards per carry against San Diego State. Still, he has great speed and can be a game changer if he can get to the second level of the defense. If Tew averages four yards per carry against Navy, the Falcon offense should get plenty of red zone opportunities.

When Navy has the ball<

> Ricky Dobbs makes Navy's option attack go. However, like Jefferson from Air Force, he has struggled finding room when he carries the ball, managing only three yards per carry. Air Force has a solid rush defense which comes into this game ranked 31st in the nation. Air Force's linebackers, led by Andre Morris Jr. (24 tackles, 4 TFLs), should be able to make the Navy offense work for their yardage. Also, the Air Force defense has been spectacular at forcing turnovers. They have forced 15 turnovers this season which is the best in the nation. 5'8'' corner Reggie Rembert has been back in the line-up for two games following a suspension, and has already been a huge playmaker. Against San Diego State, Rembert had two interceptions, forced a fumble, and scooped another one for a defensive score. Rembert will draw the responsibility of covering big play threat Mario Washington. Washington is a big, physical receiver but has not produced big numbers this season.

Nevertheless, the threat is there. Slotback Marcus Curry has provided instant offense for the Midshipmen this season. He averages over eight yards per carry, and his 85 yard touchdown catch against Ohio State almost upset the Buckeyes. Though the Falcon defense has not been tested much through the air this season, they did face one major test in the form of the Minnesota Golden Gophers and All Big Ten receiver Eric Decker. The Falcon defense played admirably for three quarters, but ultimately was unable to force enough key stops to get out of the Twin Cities with a victory. On a positive note, Rembert was still on suspension at the time, and the secondary has been playing with a renewed swagger since his return.

Prediction: Expect special teams and turnovers to be the key once again in this rivalry. If either team can end up plus two on turnovers, expect them to win. Other than that this one is too close to call.

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