The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy series is here. Game 1 of the three-game service academy football feast is upon us. Navy makes the trek to Colorado Springs for some breakfast football on Saturday morning.
By Matt Zemek
That’s right: The kickoff for this game will be just after 10 a.m. local (Mountain) time in Falcon Stadium. Obviously, players being in the right frame of mind and ready to go after an early wake-up call and pregame meal will be important. Navy athletes will need to adjust their body clocks while also getting acclimated to the elevation in Colorado Springs.
In terms of the on-field challenge for Navy, the Midshipmen have reason to believe they can win this game. Navy just defeated East Carolina as a 17-point underdog on the road. Before you dismiss East Carolina as a program, one needs to remember that the Pirates almost defeated North Carolina State, a top-15 program. The Pirates frankly should have won that game, but they missed a PAT and a medium-length field goal in the final minutes of regulation. Navy’s win in Greenville this past weekend was definitely not expected. Maybe that’s the corner-turning moment the program needed in order to unlock a higher level of performance. Let’s see if the Midshipmen can carry that performance into Colorado for this service-academy showcase:
1 – Rugged
Navy played rugged defense against East Carolina, allowing only three points in the first three quarters and conceding very little sustained offense to the Pirates. Navy did well on defense last year against Air Force, holding the Falcons to 21 points. Air Force scored only seven points in the first 44 minutes of the game. Navy has shown it can play rugged, resolute defense. If you were to tell any Navy fan that – just like 2021 against the Falcons – Navy will allow just seven points in the first 44 minutes of the game, you would take that scenario. Let’s see if Navy can replicate the first 44 minutes and then improve upon last year, when it did allow two touchdowns in the final 16 minutes. Keeping Air Force under 17 points for the full 60 minutes would give Navy a real shot at victory. Wyoming held Air Force to 14 points and defeated the Falcons earlier this year. Let’s see if Navy can hit that number: 14 points allowed, nothing more.
2 – Resourceful
Navy needed a big takeaway on defense to beat East Carolina. It’s likely that the Mids will need a big turnover on defense to either create a direct touchdown – a fumble or interception return – or set up the offense with a very short field. This simply isn’t a game in which Navy is likely to drive 80 yards in 15 plays. The offense isn’t good enough right now. The defense has to make some special plays. The special teams unit needs to find something special as well, if we are being brutally and coldly honest.
3 – Big pass plays
Tai Lavatai averaged almost 22 yards per completion against ECU. Navy definitely needs a few vertical downfield strikes to score or, at the very least, reduce the burden on the offensive line. We have seen how difficult it is for this offense to score. The big play has to become more a part of how this offense goes about its business.