A Navy/Air Force Preview?

I wanted to write a standard game preview for the beginning of the battle for the Commander In Chief’s trophy between Navy and Air Force. The game is on Saturday at 6 on CBS Sports Network. Based on what how little we know about the teams this task is impossible.

Let’s start with Navy. The Midshipmen finally looked like the team we expected to see in the second half of the Tulane game. They scored 27 unanswered points to erase a 24-0 halftime deficit and win 27-24. Senior quarterback Dalen Morris led the comeback and seems to have taken over the starting job. This will be his first service academy game as the starter so dealing with the pressure and expectations will be important. Another key is the offensive line. Which line shows up in Colorado Springs? The one that looked terrible in the first game and a half or the one that played well and gave the offense time to execute in the second half. The Navy offense will also need to make adjustments because there are many unknowns about the Air Force defense. The Navy defense will also need to learn fast because the Air Force offense has almost as many questions as their defense.

Why are there so many question marks about Air Force? The fact that this is their season opener only begins to tell the story. It started back in July when it was announced that starting quarterback Donald Hammond III was “no longer a cadet in good standing” at the academy, This means he couldn’t “represent the academy in outside activities.” Based on a similar situation last season he was expected to miss the season. He wasn’t listed on the roster released by Air Force last week but has been practicing with the team. When asked about the situation this week head coach Troy Calhoun said “anyone on the roster could play” which seems to indicate Hammond will be sitting out.

Another piece to the pie is the players who took “turnbacks.” A turnback is when a cadet drops out of school for a semester. Normally this happens when a cadet has a medical issue or something else that prevents them from fully participating in training or academics. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette up to 40 players have used the pandemic to drop out for fall semester to save a year of eligibility. At the time these decisions were made it was unclear Air Force would play any games in the fall. The Mountain West Conference had announced they were moving football to the spring and just playing Army and Navy in the fall was not guaranteed. Since then the MWC has announced their season will start on October 24th. Air Force will play six conference games plus their service academy rivals.

Here is what I know will happen on Saturday, These teams don’t like each other which usually leads to trash talking and a physical game fought in a phone booth. Both teams have seen the option a lot so making the correct reads and execution is big, You can’t take bad penalties or turn the ball over. The Air Force Cadet Wing will be the only fans allowed in the stadium for the matchup. Air Force will wear special uniforms to honor the Tuskegee Airmen. I will be live tweeting the game on the MSB twitter handle so please follow along and enjoy this rivalry.

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