Academy Football Preview: Air Force at West Point, Navy Hosts Florida Atlantic
Game Two of the 2012 Commander-in-Chief Trophy competition will match Air Force (5-3) and Army (1-7) will be played at West Point as the New York area recovers from Hurricane Sandy. Meanwhile Navy ((5-3) will look to improve their record with a home game in Annapolis against Florida Atlantic.
in Colorado Springs on October 6th Navy defeated Air Force in overtime 28-21. A win by Air Force in Saturday's game would give the Falcons a chance to hold onto the Trophy they won out right last season, if Army then beats Navy in Philadelphia on December 8th. But Army has only it's own plans in mind as it prepares to host their rivals from Colorado.
When: Saturday, November 3rd, at 12 Noon EDT
Where: Michie Stadium. West Point , NY (39,000)
Watch: CBS Sports Network
Listen: WABC 770 AM in New York, KVOR AM 740 Colorado Springs, The FAN 104.3 Denver
The game at West Point will be played Saturday with the perspective that the Hudson Valley region is just beginning to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Gas shortages could limit some fans from traveling north for the day and others are involved int eh clean-up.
For the players especially the seniors, this is a big day, a football game they will remember all their lives. The military teaches that missions must be carried out despite all kinds of different circumstances both at home and on-site. But the commitment to service of players and staff on both sides to the needs of others will not be far from mind.
For Army this is simply a chance to create a positive for their season and to beat a rival they have not defeated the past six years. Last year Army led the Falcons 14-0 at the half, but 21 third quarter points by Air Force gave them a 24--14 win in Colorado Springs.
The game is a match-up of the two best rushing offenses in college football. On the ground, Army averages 383 yards per game, the Falcons 366 yards each week. Air Force has an edge in passing with 114 yards per game compared to the Black Knights 114. At the end of the day Air Force is scoring 34 points per game compared to Army 24.8.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun calls upon a senior QB Connor Dietz to lead the Falcon offense. Dietz Columbus, OH has completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns. Cody Getz has 928 yards including three 200 plus yard games and eight TDs rushing. Getz is not listed in the Air Force two deep chart for the week and USA Today reports he is questionable due to an ankle injury. Wes Cobb a senior from Houston, TX may have to pick up carries, he has 349 yards and four TDs on the year. The Falcon offensive line led by Senior center Jordan Eason is not big, but enables the Falcons ground game.
On defense Air Force gives up 421 yards per game, 215 of that on the ground so they maybe vulnerable to Army's running game. Senior linebacker Austin Niklas leads the team in tackles with 75.
Army is leading the NCAA Division one with a strong running game led by four year starter Trent Steelman who is rewriting the West Point record book nearly every week. One of three captains, the native of Bowling Green Kentucky has run for 810 yards this year and scored ten touchdowns on the ground for the Black Knights. Steelman does not throw often but has 394 yards wit junior Patrick laird and sophomore Chevaughan Lawrence his favorite targets.
Junior Ray Maples is Army's top running back with 834 yards but has been slowed by injuries according to head Coach Rich Ellerson in recent weeks. Army is deep on offense with fullback Larry Dixon having gained 502 yards on the year and should be back in the lineup this week after injuries slowed him in recent weeks.
On defense Army has been playing with as many as eight freshman and sophomores in the lineup. Middle linebacker Geoffrey Bacon has been the leading tackler for Army with 87 stops in eight games. The Black Knight defense should be bolstered by the return to the lineup of senior captain Nate Combs who has been out the past two games with a shoulder injury.
Keys for the game are for both teams is to control the ball with their potent running games. Army needs to not put themselves in a hole giving up easy points early like recent games. On offense expect Trent Steelman to have a big game but he needs to get the ball to backs Maples and Brown. It appears sophomore Larry Dixon should be back at close to full strength.
On defense, the young Army needs to generate stops and not give up long drives to the Falcons. A big help will be Nate Combs back at his spot rushing the passer and plugging holes on running plays.
There will be no lack of energy at Michie Stadium and for the first time in several weeks the Black Knights should be close to full strength. The seniors on Army will play will with urgency, watch for a close game.
November 3rd, 3:30 PM EST
Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, Annapolis, MD (34,000)
Watch: CBS Sports Network
Listen: WBAL Baltimore, WFED 1500 Wash, DC, WNAV1430 AM 99.9 Annapolis, Sirius 134, XM 193
Navy has a chance to win their fifth straight in their first meeting with Florida Atlantic. A win for the Midshipmen would qualify them for a Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game date in San Francisco on Dec. 29th against a team from the Pac 12.
The Mids like Army and Air Force are running the ball averaging 271 yards a game on the ground and 108 in the air. Like Army their scoring average at 25.5 points per game puts pressure on the defense.
Freshman Keenan Reynolds from Antioch TN now is the starting quarterback, he has completed 27 of 42 passes for 413 yards and six touchdowns. His QB rating is a whopping 189. On top of that Reynolds has run for 246 yards and five TDs.
Running back Gee Gee Greene has 527 yards and a 7.3 average per attempt. Navy has the biggest offensive line of the three service academies led by the guards on the left side senior Josh Cabral at 6-3 and 297 pounds and on the right sophomore Jake Zuzek So. 6-0 318.
On defense senior Tra'ves Bush leads with 53 tackles overall from the rover position and senior outside linebacker Keegan Wetzel has 11 tackles for loss of 57 yards and six sacks.
Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini is the first year coach of Florida Atlantic which is located in Boca Raton. The Owls comes into Annapolis after a 34-27 win over fellow Sun Belt Conference foe Troy University. In the final two minutes of that contest the Owls drove 74 yards culminating in a 22 yard touchdown pass from senior QB Graham Wilbert to William Dukes.
Prior to that they took their lumps with games at Alabama and Georgia. Wilbert at 6-6 and 225 pounds has size which has helped him stand up tot he schedule FAU has faced. The Owls like to pass and average 202 yards per game and 12 touchdowns in the air. The defense is giving up 418 yards per game reflecting the big time opponents they have played.
FAU has a growing program that will benefit from the large pool of high school football ball talent in their home state, but look for the Mids to prevail with their freshman QB Keenan Reynolds gaining confidence with more playing time.
Ken Kraetzer covers West Point football for WVOX in New Rochelle, NY and Sons of the American Legion radio.
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