Different look for Navy
Instead of running its offense from under center, as it almost always had, Navy operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun Saturday.
"We have been doing this for years, we just haven't done it," Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "This has been eight years in the making. We have practiced it, but never really needed it. We practice it and practice it, but it is hard to get away from your bread and butter when you are good at it."
Niumatalolo said last year's performance, when Navy ran for just 57 yards against the Falcons, precipitated the change. He said his staff visited New Mexico, which has run for 300-plus yards against Air Force for five straight years with a shotgun-based option offense.
"We just had to spread them out," Niumatalolo said. "We just had to get them moving a bit. There is a lot of window dressing with movement. We just had to get their fits so it wasn't perfect."
Reaction of the defense
When Air Force's defense forced a punt with 2:28 remaining, the defense celebrated as though it had handed the game to the offense. Which it did. And the Falcons' offense provided the go-ahead touchdown.
But the score came so quickly that the defense had to run back out and ultimately gave up the winning touchdown.
"I think we all thought we had it, and I think that's where we kind of made the mistake," safety Kyle Floyd said. "We should have stayed locked in. Everybody got a little too excited, and in that excitement there were a lot of communication issues on the sidelines as far as getting the call and everybody understanding what we were in. It really could have been simple, but the excitement kind of got to us and the speed at which they were moving, we got a little discombobulated."
New faces on offense
Sophomore tailback Nolan Eriksen and senior fullback Jacob Stafford each started for the first time.
Eriksen ran 15 times for 90 yards. Stafford, in a game where Falcons fullbacks ran just four times, had one carry for 1 yard.
Air Force also employed Marcus Bennett as a big-play receiver for the first time, as he finished with five catches for 161 yards.
For the Commander-in-Chief's trophy to remain at Air Force, the Falcons must beat Army on Nov. 4 and then have Navy fall to Army on Dec. 9 in Philadelphia.
As the winners from last year, the Falcons would retain the trophy in that three-way tie scenario.
BRENT BRIGGEMAN, THE GAZETTE