This seems like Air Force’s best chance to beat Navy in many years, and the Midshipmen tend to agree.
“This is the best Air Force team I’ve seen in my experience here,” Navy senior safety Wyatt Middleton said. “This is a huge game for them; it’s a huge game for us.”
Air Force hasn’t beat Navy since 2002, but oddsmakers figure this is the year the streak ends. The Falcons are 10-point favorites in Las Vegas this week, which is striking considering the losing streak and that six of the last seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The average margin of victory in the series over the last seven games has been about five points.
Air Force receiver Jonathan Warzeka said he is hopeful this is finally Air Force’s time to beat Navy.
“That’s been the feeling since I’ve been here, that we’ve been the team to beat,” Warzeka said. “The last few years we’ve outgained them in yardage, just the mental mistakes were killing us. My freshman year, we gave up two blocked punts for touchdowns. Last year we missed a field goal in overtime, couldn’t get anything established on offense.
“Yeah, I really believe this is finally our year to come way with a victory.”
Falcons players understand there is some pressure on them to break the streak. They hear it from fellow cadets, and whenever they come in contact with someone affiliated with Air Force.
“You hear it from the alumni, you hear it from everybody,” safety Jon Davis said. “This game means everything to Air Force, and not even the football team but Air Force in general. You hear it from everybody that just likes to watch football: ‘Guys, please beat them, just for me, just beat them.’ For ourselves, we want to beat them also.”
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo was an assistant with the Midshipmen in 2002 when Air Force won its last game in the series. The Falcons won that game 48-7, and also have played Navy tough the last couple years, so Niumatalolo didn’t want to say this was the best Air Force team he has prepared to face. But, he knows the Falcons are good.
“They’re just operating at such a high level right now,” Niumatalolo said. “They’re scary to watch. It seems like everything they do works.”