ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A pair of high-powered offenses will meet when Air Force travels to Navy for the first leg of the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy on Saturday.
The Midshipmen are looking for a measure of revenge after being routed by the Falcons 35-7 last year in Colorado Springs.
"It's a big game for us," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We're all trying to get the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy. It's our number one goal. This is the first leg in it, so it's obviously a huge game for us."
The Commander-In-Chief's Trophy is presented annually to the winner of the football competition among the three major service academies — Army West Point, Navy and Air Force — and is named in honor of the president of the United States. The Black Knights took home the crown in 2018.
Navy (2-1) can take the first step in winning the trophy for the first time since 2015 with a victory over the high-flying Falcons, who average 34.5 points per game.
Air Force (3-1) is led by quarterback DJ Hammond III, who has completed 18 of his 32 pass attempts for 369 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Hammond has also run for135 yards on 27 carries with five touchdowns. Receiver Geraud Sanders has 13 catches for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
The Midshipmen have been solid under new defensive coordinator Brian Newberry, who joined the program from Kennesaw State this offseason. Navy is allowing 84.3 yards per game on the ground, ranked 14th nationally. Last year, the Midshipmen were ranked 90th, allowing 191.5 yards per game.
The Midshipmen have a triple-option offense fully capable of keeping pace with Air Force. Senior Malcolm Perry has run for 1,505 yards with 20 touchdowns over his 11 career starts at quarterback. He is also one of four Navy players to have three 200-yard rushing games in a career.
Fullback Nelson Smith has run for 167 yards with three touchdowns. Overall, Navy scores 36.7 points per game.
Some other things to look for when Air Force and Navy meet on Saturday:
The game is sold out for the eighth-consecutive time in Annapolis. The last meeting at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2018 drew a record crowd of 38,792 to watch the Midshipmen escape with a 48-45 victory. Five of the seven largest crowds in Navy's stadium history have come against Air Force.
DUAL RUNNING ATTACK
Air Force's running game is led by Kadin Remsberg and Taven Birdow. The junior Remsberg ranks fourth in the Mountain West in rushing and 10th in all-purpose yards with an 85.5 average. He leads the team in rushing with 342 yards on 58 carries and has scored three touchdowns. Birdow, a senior, has run for 338 yards and two scores and has not been tackled for a loss this season.
Newberry challenges his players to "Get 6" each game, meaning they must try and get a combined total of six three- and-outs, fourth down stops and turnovers. A turnover that is returned for a touchdown counts as an extra point towards the goal of six.
Air Force enters Saturday's game with an impressive 3-1 record. The Falcons have defeated Colgate (48-7), Colorado (30-23 in overtime) and San Jose State (41- 24). Air Force's only loss was a 30-19 setback to then-No. 20 Boise State on Sept. 20.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
Navy is 12 of 13 in the red zone so far this season, scoring 11 touchdowns on the ground and one through the air. The only time Navy did not score inside its opponents 20-yard line was in the regular-season opener against Holy Cross when the offense took a knee in the final seconds of the 45-7 victory.