It was a sub-.500 weekend for AAE, as Air Force and Navy couldn’t overcome late touchdowns against touch conference opponents in San Diego State and Temple.
Army continued its impressive run, racking up four consecutive forced fumbles on the way to a 52-3 blowout of San Jose State.
Regardless of the outcomes, there were some outstanding individual performances that warrant mentioning. Here are our CIC MVPs for this week:
Offense: Ronald Cleveland, WR
Cole Fagan had some really nice runs, including a 42 yard scamper early in the game as he ended up with 90 yards on 16 carries for the game. But it would be hard to not give the offensive MVP award to Cleveland, who accounted for 14 of the Falcons 17 total points in the game, and all but one XP on offense. Cleveland ended up getting six carries, many on jet sweeps and motion plays as Troy Calhoun looks to find a way to get him more involved in the offense, and even though he only ended up with 17 rushing yards, two of those rushes went for the only two offensive touchdowns on the night for Air Force. Add in a couple receptions, including hauling in a two-point conversion from backup QB Isaiah Sanders, and Cleveland accounted for all of the offense’s scoring on the day!
Defense: Jordan Jackson, DT
The Air Force defense continues to play well, and this was a tough decision. Jeremy Fejedelem certainly could have garnered the honor, as the DB racked up 8 tackles and got an interception. Linebacker Kyle Johnson played exceptionally well, too, picking up 9 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. But I’m gonna show some love to the sophomore big man Jordan Jackson. The defensive tackle came off a strong showing against Navy and helped get Air Force some more defensive points this week as he registered a safety against Aztecs QB Ryan Agnew late in the first quarter to put the Falcons on the board. He finished with three tackles including one and a half tackles for loss on the day.
Special Teams: Joseph Saucier, KR
Saucier had an electric return following the safety from Jackson. He weaved through defenders and ran up the left sideline 66 yards to the SDSU 27 yard line, putting the Falcons in field goal range immediately. The field goal was ultimately missed, but this was certainly a special teams bright spot for Air Force, and I would expect Saucier to continue making some big plays moving forward.
Offense: Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., QB
Hopkins continues to show that he is more than capable of leading the Black Knights this season as the junior was able to distribute the ball well to his playmakers while taking advantage of the QB keeper during the dismantling of SJSU. He ended up accounting for 153 yards of offense, 99 rushing with three rushing TDs and 54 passing with another TD. He was taken out of the game once the rout was complete in the fourth quarter, giving way to Cam Thomas who impressed in his own right. The Army offense is clicking right now, and looks poised to continue that in the coming weeks.
Defense: James Nachtigal, LB
The defense as a whole should just get the MVP and I can stop writing this right now. Forcing four straight fumbles on four consecutive drives is an incredible feat, but if I had to give it to someone, it would have to be the guy involved in two of the fumbles! Nachtigal had himself quite the game. His statline is as follows: 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD. After forcing a fumble on the third SJSU possession of the third quarter, he followed that up by scooping up a Max Regan forced fumble on the very next drive and taking it 52 yards to the house.
Special Teams: John Abercrombie, K
This is a pretty cool story, and maybe one worth another article in the near future. Abercrombie is a former Army Sprint Football player. If you don’t know what sprint football is, SB Nation has brought it up several times in the past with Spencer Hall most recently mentioning it as a possibility in his look at the future of football last year. The sport is only played at a a handful of schools, including Army and Navy, and the gist of it is this: players can not weigh more than 178 pounds and must have more than 5 percent body fat so they don’t starve themselves to make weight. This weight-limited version of football is featured in the CSFL and is normally dominated by the service academy teams. Abercrombie was named first team All-CSFL in 2016 before walking on to the football team in 2017. He has been the starter the last three games, kicking all 9 of his extra points against Buffalo and Oklahoma before this weekend against San Jose State. All he did was get his first career field goal and knock through 7/7 XPs to make him a perfect 17/17 on kicks this season.
Offense: Nelson Smith, FB
Coach Niumatalolo turned the keys to the offense over to Garret Lewis this week, deciding to move Malcolm Perry back to slotback after a couple injuries to the starting A-backs. Lewis played well in spurts during the game, with several nice runs and picking up a goal line touchdown late in the first half. However, it was Smith who stole the show on offense as he has more than likely cemented himself as the starting fullback for the Mids. He became the first person not named Malcolm Perry to have a 100 yard rushing game on the season, as the sophomore from Baton Rouge racked up 108 yards on 18 carries and a TD. This included a 45 yard run that showed his acceleration and burst and hopefully a sign of things to come at the fullback position for Navy
Defense: Jarid Ryan, CB
Hudson Sullivan and Taylor Heflin continued to accumulate tackles with 23 between the two of them on Saturday. Sean Williams continues to anchor the Navy defense in the backfield. And Nizaire Cromartie continued his surge as well, picking up 5 tackles, a monster sack, and a tackle for loss. But it was Ryan, the former starting safety who was moved to corner in the spring, who stole the show on Saturday. He ended up with 5 tackles, a forced fumble, a pass defended, and a huge interception late in the fourth quarter that gave the Mids a final chance to tie the game.
Special Teams: Bennett Moehring, K
Moehring, along with punter Owen White, continue to be bright spots on special teams for Navy this season. Moehring converted a 24 yard field goal to go with two extra points yesterday, and is now 5/6 on the season on FGs with his only miss coming on a 57 yard attempt and a perfect 19/19 on XPs. He’s having a very solid senior season and will no doubt be counted on down the stretch as the Mids try and claw back towards bowl eligibility with a brutal stretch of games upcoming
CIC MVP: James Nachtigal, LB, Army
There were a lot of great choices for our overall MVP this week, but no one had as dominant of a performance as the Army defense did this week, and Nachtigal was the best player on that unit. 8 tackles, 3 for a loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and a 52 yard TD are hard to argue with!
But, perhaps I got it wrong. Let us know who you thought the MVP was this week between the three service academies in the comments section below!