For some Air Force fans, a loss on Saturday would be a permanent stain on the season. And beating Navy won’t be easier without starting receiver Kevin Fogler, who will be out until November with a knee injury.
Troy Calhoun has done some fantastic things as Air Force’s coach, but he hasn’t topped Navy. The Falcons haven’t beat Navy in seven straight tries, a streak that irks Air Force’s fans.
The players don’t like it much either.
“If you have a rivalry like that and lose that many times in a row, we know it’s time we have to do something better, we have to come out ready to play,” senior fullback Jared Tew said.
The Falcons will have to carry on, perhaps for the rest of the regular season, without Fogler, who hurt himself in the third quarter Saturday. He injured the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee and will be out until at least early November, Calhoun said, and probably mid-November. Air Force’s final game is Nov. 18.
Calhoun does not overemphasize any game. He didn’t make a big deal about beating BYU earlier this year, even though that was his first win over the Cougars as a player, assistant or head coach. He didn’t make any wild proclamations Sunday about this week’s game, but said playing Navy and Army is a little unusual and special.
“In these weeks, even though both sides are stirred up pretty good, I think you have to allow yourself to have a little bit of fun with it,” Calhoun said. “You take it seriously, but you’re dealing with some neat young people here.”
Like BYU, which came to Air Force early in the season with two inexperienced quarterbacks, the time might be right for the Falcons to finally knock off Navy. The Midshipmen have to come to Colorado. And Air Force is playing well, off to a 3-1 start. Navy was hyped in the preseason but has started rather slow, with a loss to Maryland, a surprisingly close win against Georgia Southern and a comeback win against Louisiana Tech.
“We know we better be ready to go, because this is one of the better Air Force teams we’ve played,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said, according to a transcript on Navy’s official site. “They have a lot of the same guys as last year, but they have gotten better and they are playing with a lot of confidence.”