Army looks to take step toward Commander-in-Chief's Trophy
By PAT GRAHAM
Nov. 03, 2017
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Air Force will take to the sky early against Army with four scheduled flyovers before kickoff. That just might be the extent of any sort of air game, too.
The plan for the Falcons (4-4) and the Black Knights (6-2) on Saturday figures to be pretty basic: Run, run and run some more . Both teams average more than 350 yards rushing, with airing it out typically a last-gasp resort.
Here's a little extra motivation for the players from West Point: Army has lost 10 of the last 11 games to its fellow service academy. But the Black Knights did have the benefit of a bye week to prepare for Air Force and its vaunted triple-option offense.
"There's plenty that's different with what Air Force does compared to the seven opponents that we've faced prior, so the extra days were nice for us to get a game plan and preparation in," Army coach Jeff Monken said. "Every year this is a big game."
Indeed, for what's at stake: The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, which is presented annually to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin competition. The Falcons can't win the title outright after losing at Navy 48-45 on Oct. 7. But, as the defending champs, Air Force still has a chance to retain it. It starts with beating Army and then rooting for the Black Knights against Navy on Dec. 9.
For now, their Falcons' focus is only on the task at hand — holding off an Army team that's captured four straight for its longest winning streak since 2005.
"They have quality players and one heck of a football team," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.
The measure of respect runs deep the other way, too. Still, Air Force does stands in the way of something Army extremely covets.
"We'd like to get (the trophy) back," said Monken, whose team is looking for its first CIC Trophy since 1996. "I think as the coach you feel a sense of responsibility to do that. I know what a big deal it is to this institution, just as it is to the others. I can't do it myself. The players are the ones that have to do it."
Here are things to know in a series the Falcons lead 36-14-1:
ARMY RUN: Army is 9-2 over its last 11 games, with the two losses coming earlier this season on the road — against then-No. 8 Ohio State and Tulane. It's the team's best 11-game stretch since 1996. The Black Knights haven't won at Falcon Stadium since 2005. "It's going to be a 15-round slug-out, a tooth-and-nail fight to the wire," Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw said.
ARMY WORKHORSE: Fullback Darnell Woolfolk missed three games after Army's loss at Ohio State, but he's rounding back to form. The bruising 235-pound junior had a career-high 132 yards rushing against Temple to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for his career. He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry. "The part that's really, really clear: They're an outstanding running team, with superb balance," Calhoun said.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The Falcons get to sleep in their own beds quite a bit this month by playing three of their final four games at home. To Calhoun, though, that's hardly a luxury. "It's not even close to being comfortable," Calhoun said. "Whatever the opposite of comfortable is would be a little more descriptive."
ARION'S PLAY: Last season, Air Force QB Arion Worthman made his first career start at Army and went six of nine through the air for 195 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 63 yards. Contrast that to last week at Colorado State, when he had 117 yards rushing — and another 64 through the air — as he ran the option to near perfection. "He has improved, same as our team has," Calhoun said. "We need to make more improvement."
RECORD IN SIGHT: Senior kicker Luke Strebel has 240 career points and needs 13 more break the school's all-time scoring mark shared by quarterbacks Beau Morgan (1994-96) and Dee Dowis (1986-89). "Pretty level headed guy," Calhoun said of Strebel. "Takes a lot of pride in his work."
AP Sports Writer John Kekis contributed to this report from West Point, New York.