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Air Force tops Navy to take lead in 2020 C.I.C. series

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Despite the questions surrounding its roster, Air Force seemed to have plenty of chemistry in dominant win over the Midshipmen.

Air Force v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

There are a few stats that will tell you everything you need to know about the outcome of the Air Force vs. Navy football contest, the first leg of the 2020 Commander-In-Chief’s series.

One team controlled the clock masterfully, possessing the ball for more than 34 minutes while rushing for 410 yards, bleeding the opposing defense. The other side struggled to establish anything resembling a decent ground game, mustering just 90 rushing yards on 36 carries across 25 minutes of possession. The latter team did not win the ball game.

Air Force began its delayed season on Saturday with a dominant 40-7 victory over its Service Academy rivals, the Navy Midshipmen. The only fans in Falcon Stadium to witness the triumph in-person were a smattering of masked and jubilant cadets that celebrated not just the return of college football to Colorado Springs, but a meaningful win, too.

With the victory, Troy Calhoun’s squad silenced some of those who doubted Air Force this past week. There were concerns about what kind of caliber team would take the field vs. Navy after many Air Force players — including a handful of crucial defensive starters — opted to take turnbacks, leaving the academy for the semester.

But Air Force didn’t seem to struggle on either side of the ball, even if there were several new faces playing key roles.

Making the first start of his collegiate career, sophomore quarterback Haaziq Daniels guided the Falcons on offense, leading them to scores on four of their first six drives. Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl’s 32-yard field goal as time expired gave Air Force a 16-7 lead at halftime.

A junior who had featured in just one game previously for Air Force, Schuettpelz-Rohl’s right foot was a real weapon for Air Force on Saturday, as he connected on four field goals and three PAT’s, never missing an attempt. The longest of the day for the Boulder, Colorado native was a 48-yarder that opened the scoring in the first quarter.

Despite Air Force having the upper hand in nearly every aspect of the game, the Falcons led Navy by only two possessions heading into the fourth quarter. The Midshipmen got on the board in the second quarter, when junior quarterback Tyger Goslin — who was also making the first start of his collegiate career — connected with Myles Fells through the air for a 73-yard touchdown. Goslin was given the reins of the offense because senior Dalen Morris stayed back in Annapolis with an undisclosed health-related issue. A Navy spokesman said it was “not COVID-related.”

Aside from that long pass, Goslin struggled to do much else with the offense. He completed 6-of-15 passes for 137 yards, and rushed 10 times for a total of negative-seven yards. Goslin was relieved late in the game by sophomore Maasai Maynor. True freshman Xavier Arline also played a bit in garbage time.

By then, Air Force was up big after finally breaking Navy’s defense and going on a fourth quarter scoring tear. Matthew Murla, Warren Bryan and Brad Roberts all notched rushing touchdowns in the final period of play. Roberts topped the 100-yard rushing mark on the day, as did fullback Timothy Jackson, who paced the Falcons rushing attack by covering 118 yards on 19 carries.

No Navy rusher surpassed 25 yards on Saturday.

In his starting debut, Daniels finished with 96 rushing and 41 passing yards.

Defensively, freshman Alec Mock and senior George Silvanic were solid for the Falcons, combining for 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Air Force also won the turnover battle 2-0, coming up with an interception and a fumble recovery.

Navy lost various defenders throughout the game. Defensive back Kevin Brennan was ejected for targeting, while Mitch West, Diego Fagot and Evan Fochtman left the game with injuries.

Air Force now has two weeks off as it prepares for its opener in Mountain West Conference play, with a road trip to San Jose State. The Mids — now 1-2 on the year — will look to bounce back next weekend at home vs. Temple.