2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 5 - Air Force at Navy
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Oct. 1 Air Force 35 … at Navy 34 OT
CFN Analysis: Air Force might have pulled out the win, but the collapse in the fourth quarter is a big concern. The run defense couldn't handle the Navy attack once if got rolling, but worse yet, the pass defense broke down way too much. Ball control is always a must for the Falcons no matter who the opponent it, but the defense simply couldn't get off the field. On the plus side, Tim Jefferson was nearly perfect completing 9-of-10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown, while running for 60 yards and a score. Even more importantly, when everything was going Navy's way, he came through in the clutch to get the win in overtime. With Notre Dame up next, the defense has to play far, far better to have a shot, and the offense needs the ball in its hands for at least 35 minutes.
The Midshipmen got hosed. They didn't lose because of the horrible unsportsmanlike penalty call after Kriss Proctor's one-yard run in overtime, but it killed the momentum of a phenomenal comeback. The running game dominated with 334 yards helped by a huge 148-yard day from Alexander Teich up the middle, and Proctor was brilliant in the comeback finishing with 134 yards and three scores while completing 14-of-24 passes for 132 yards and a score. He's not supposed to be able to throw the ball, and he did when he had to. Navy did almost everything right but win the game, and but if it can get the ground game going like it did this week, and if it can hang on to the ball for over 40 minutes again, it'll beat Southern Miss.
(AP) ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- In a game that featured nine touchdowns, a stunning comeback and a controversial penalty, a duel between Air Force and Navy was decided by one of football's most mundane plays: the extra point attempt.
Tim Jefferson ran for a 1-yard touchdown in overtime and Parker Herrington added the conversion to give Air Force a wild 35-34 victory over Navy on Saturday, a significant first step in the Falcons' bid to retain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
After Air Force blew an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter, Navy's Kriss Proctor ran for a 1-yard touchdown to begin the overtime. But he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Jon Teague's long conversion attempt from 35 yards out was blocked by Alex Means.
Referee Mike Defee later explained the penalty by saying, "The Navy player got in the face of an Air Force player right after the play."
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo and Proctor were furious about the flag.
"That's a tough call to make. I would hope the referees would have said something like, 'Settle down,' in that situation," Niumatalolo said. "It's too critical a call to make. I hope those guys can sleep well tonight."
Proctor said, "I got up and started to head to our sideline. Some guy got in my way and I said, 'Move.' Then referee made the call."
After the blocked kick, the Falcons (3-1) moved quickly into position for the game-winning score. Air Force has beaten Navy (2-2) twice in a row following seven straight defeats, but this one was unlike all the rest.
"We were thankful that we blocked that kick," Jefferson said. "That set up a huge opportunity for us."
Air Force led 21-3 at halftime and 28-10 with 14:55 left, but Navy used an 18-point run fueled by a successful onside kick to force overtime.
"I think we got a little too excited after the first half, and then I think we were looking down the road for after the game," Means said. "You can't do that, especially against Navy."
Air Force needs only to beat Army on Nov. 5 to keep the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, which represents superiority among the three service academies. If the teams all finish 1-1 in the round-robin competition, the previous winner holds onto the prize.
There was a point when Jefferson wasn't too sure about whether Air Force could hold on.
"I definitely did think about if we would have lost that game," he said. "I don't know how I would have reacted. I might have just been completely stunned."
Navy closed to 28-26 with 19 seconds left after recovering an onside kick and getting a 5-yard touchdown pass from Proctor to Gee Gee Greene. Needing a 2-point conversion to force overtime, Proctor rolled left and pitched the ball to Alexander Teich, who scooted into the corner of the end zone.
The comeback began with a 7-yard touchdown run by Proctor, and the Midshipmen got the ball back at their own 7 with 7:04 left. Navy's methodical offense needed five minutes to get a field goal, and the Mids got one final chance after recovering the onside kick.
Proctor shook several tackles on a 27-yard run, setting the stage for the hectic last minute of regulation and an even crazier overtime.
"We did all we could to keep it interesting, that's for sure," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.
Navy went ahead in the extra session on a 1-yard touchdown run by Proctor, but the blocked extra point proved to be the difference.
Jefferson ran for two scores and threw a touchdown pass, and the Falcons got 23 tackles from senior linebacker Brady Amack.
Proctor scored three touchdowns and ran for 134 yards, and Teich rushed for 148 yards.
Coming off a 63-24 rout of Tennessee State, the Falcons kept their offense humming against Navy by opening with touchdown drives of 63 yards, 80 yards and 75 yards for a 21-3 lead with 12:26 left in the second quarter.
Navy put together two long marches after that, but one ended with a missed field goal and the other was cut short by an interception on the final play before halftime.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Proctor made it 21-10, and a fumble by Falcons fullback Wes Cobb gave the ball back to the Midshipmen at the Air Force 38. But Bo Snelson was called for intentional grounding on an ill-fated halfback pass, and after a punt, the Falcons' offense jumped into action.
Asher Clark launched an 89-yard drive with a 46-yard run and finished it off with a 6-yarder, making it 28-10.
That's when Navy began its comeback.
"Unfortunately," Niumatalolo said, "we came up one point short."
Air Force (2-1) at Navy (2-1) Oct. 1, 12:00, CBS
Here's The Deal … Navy owned the rivalry winning seven straight in the series, and then Air Force came up with a tough, hard-nosed 14-6 win last year to break the run. Now the Falcons have to do it again to show they're for real, while Navy needs to get a win to prove that it really is business as usual in Annapolis.
Navy's ground game is humming along and proved it's good enough to run against anyone. It had South Carolina in big trouble last week thanks to a nice mix and good timing, but the defense couldn't hold up against Marcus Lattimore in the tough loss. Wins over Delaware and Western Kentucky weren't any big deal, and now the Midshipmen get a good run of three home games in the next four before going to Notre Dame. The defense has been solid, the special teams have been good enough, and the running game is the Navy running game. But Air Force does a lot of the same things, only better.
This appears to be the best Falcon team yet under head coach Troy Calhoun, but like Navy, there isn't a good win on the board yet beating South Dakota and Tennessee State and losing at home in the big test against TCU. The ground game leads the nation, averaging 412 yards per game, and the passing attack is efficient. With its game at Notre Dame next week before diving back into Mountain West play, beating Navy is a must.
Why Air Force Might Win: Navy's linebackers are banged up. To have any shot against Air Force, the defensive front play has to be nearly flawless and the linebackers have to be spot on, but Navy might be missing Jarred Shannon with a shoulder problem and Mason Graham is struggling through a knee injury. Against South Carolina, the Navy defensive front couldn't hold up and got steamrolled over, and Air Force has the power game to go along with the speed to mix it up a bit.
The biggest difference between the two offense is the passing game. Last year, Navy could throw a little bit with Ricky Dobbs good enough to get by, but this year's starting quarterback, Kriss Proctor, has been decent and efficient at times, but he's not the passer that Tim Jefferson is. Navy has completed 12-of-23 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns with two picks on the year, while there's a bit more of a passing game from the Falcons throwing for 460 yards and five touchdowns. Air Force can throw if it has to. Navy will throw only when no one's expecting it.
Why Navy Might Win: Navy does some of the little things right better than Air Force.
The running games are both great, the passing games connect deep once in a while, and the lines are solid, but Air Force is turning the ball over a bit more, the punting game isn't so great, and it commits more penalties.
Air Force is only holding on to the ball for 26:49 per game, while Navy is controlling the clock for 30:40 per game. Navy leads the nation in fewest penalties a game with just five so far in three games, and while Air Force isn't bad, it's committed 17 sins. The Falcons average 34.11 yards per punt, while Navy averages 36.75 yards per boot.
The game will come down to which team gets more out of the running game and which one commits fewer mistakes, but it the two teams are dead even, and if this comes down to who blinks first, it'll likely be Air Force.
What To Watch Out For: Air Force can run the ball up the middle when needed, but it doesn't have a blaster like Alexander Teich, who can take control of the game with 15 carries for grinding yards to keep the focal point on the inside running game. Against South Carolina, he beat up the interior of the Gamecock defense with a hard-charging 93 yards and a score on just 15 runs, and he's been consistent running for 102 yards on 15 carries against WKU and 65 yards on 14 carries against Delaware. Last year, he was held by Air Force to 38 yards and only ran for 20 yards in 2009. Air Force focuses on stopping him first, and it's been good at it.
This is Tim Jefferson's fourth game against Navy, and he was a difference maker last year with 62 yards and two scores while completing 5-of-7 passes for 83 yards. He's not cranking out big runs so far this year, but the school's all-time winningest quarterback is making the right decisions and is spreading the ball around well. In the layup against Tennessee State he completed 11-of-13 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns, and ran three times for 41 yards, but all that matters is the win, and going 1-3 against Navy will sting, even with all the great things he's been able to do.
What Will Happen: The Air Force defense is better. Navy might be a bit more efficient and effective on the ground, even though the Falcons lead the nation in rushing, but the pass rush is better, the defensive front is stronger, and there will be more big plays behind the line than the Midshipmen can come up with.
CFN Prediction: Air Force 27 … Navy 23
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Air Force -3 O/U: 53.5
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