Week 6 football preview: Navy at Air Force

Alex Means Air Force

Air Force’s Alex Means celebrates after blocking a Navy extra-point attempt in overtime of last year’s Navy-Air Force game in Annapolis, Md. Means, now a senior, has 26 tackles so far this season, good for fourth on the team. (Air Force photo by Russ Scalf)

The basics from both sides as Navy and Air Force kick off the quest for the 2012 Commander in Chief’s Trophy.

Who, where, when: Navy (1-3) at Air Force (2-2, 1-1 Mountain West Conference), Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Mountain time (11:30 a.m. Eastern).

Wait, when? Yes, 11:30 a.m. Part of a CBS-TV doubleheader that includes Florida at LSU at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. (Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein have the call from Colorado Springs.)

Gambling is illegal in most states: Air Force is an eight-point favorite.

The last time: Navy overcame an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the 2011 game in Annapolis, then scored a touchdown on the game’s first overtime possession. An excessive celebration call pushed the extra point back 15 yards and Air Force linebacker Alex Means got a hand on the kick, keeping Navy’s lead at six and swinging the game’s momentum back to the Falcons. Tim Jefferson’s touchdown plunge, followed by a standard-issue extra point, gave the Falcons a 35-34 road win.

Rebuilding: The leading passers and rushers from both teams in the 2011 game were all seniors. While Air Force’s Cody Getz has stepped into a starring role in the Falcons’ option attack (222 rushing yards in last week’s win over Colorado State — his second 200-plus-yard performance of the year), Navy has yet to find its way offensively — its 144 total yards in a 12-0 loss to San Jose State last week was the lowest for a Navy team in 10 years, and the Mids rank 118th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in red-zone offense, with six scores in 11 tries within the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Mids’ bright spot: Navy junior wideout Matt Aiken should play his first game of 2012 after injuring his right knee in August, according to The Washington Times’ “D1scourse” blog. Aiken caught 13 passes for 201 yards last season, making him Navy’s second-leading receiver.

Air war can wait: Don’t expect a breakout performance from Aiken or any of the other receivers on the field. Air Force senior quarterback Connor Dietz threw the ball five times against Colorado State last week, completing only two passes … though both went for touchdowns in a 42-21 win. Navy completed seven passes for 74 yards against San Jose State. Navy ranks 115th in the nation in passing offense; Air Force ranks 118th. (Army’s dead last.)

Three-part plan, Navy: Hope the Mids’ familiarity with an option attack will help the defense keep Getz from running wild; hope a young secondary (if senior Tra’ves Bush can’t come back from his concussion, all four starters will be freshmen or sophomores) can prevent big-play passes from Dietz; get some big runs from senior slotback Gee Gee Greene (7.8 yards per carry) to take the pressure off struggling quarterback Trey Miller.

Three-part plan, Air Force: Turn Means and company loose on the turnover-prone Miller; plan to pass if Navy’s senior-laden linebacker corps (Matt Warrick, Keegan Wetzel and Brye French) manage to corral Getz; if all else fails, rely on the stealth-inspired uniforms for a strategic edge.



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