It’s Army week for Air Force, which means the inevitable flashback to a certain White House visit in May.
President Donald Trump honored the Black Knights and coach Jeff Monken for winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for a second straight time by beating Air Force and Navy.
“Air Force is tough,” Trump said to Monken. “They’ve always been tough, coach.”
“Not that tough,” Monken replied.
Falcons players were reminded of Monken’s comments Saturday after lambasting Utah State.
“I guess we’ll see next week,” defensive end Jordan Jackson said.
Of course, Air Force doesn’t need extra motivation for this game.
After dominating Army with 24 victories in 27 contests from 1989 through 2016, the Falcons have seen the Black Knights win back-to-back meetings — starting with a 21-0 victory at Falcon Stadium in 2017.
The Falcons can’t win the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy this season after losing at Navy on Oct. 5, but they can exact some revenge on Army and continue their own climb with relation to national prominence. Air Force has received votes in the Coaches Poll for the second consecutive week and is up to No. 35 in the Sagarin computer rankings. Army is No. 101 according to that metric.
The final four matchups for Air Force (6-2) include just one opponent in the Top 100, and that’s a home game vs. No. 65 Wyoming.
With four regular-season games left before a bowl game, this team that’s riding a three-game streak of blowout victories could make a run at just the program’s third season with more than 10 victories and could make a case for its first appearance in The Associated Press Top 25 since 2010.
The Falcons put their most complete effort together Saturday, possessing the ball for more than 45 minutes in a 31-7 victory over Utah State.
“Going into Army, regardless of the week before, is always a big one for us; a little extra momentum, a little bit of extra fire going into practice,” Jackson said. “But coming off a win like this is even better. We know how we can work; we know what we can do when we’re at our best, and that’s what we’re trying to do next week.”
Army (3-5), by contrast, is struggling after going 21-5 the past two seasons.
The Black Knights lost only at No. 7 Michigan (in a 24-21 thriller) during a 3-1 start, but have since lost four straight games.
They fell at home 34-29 to San Jose State on Saturday, the same Spartans squad the Falcons led by 31 points at the academy Sept. 27 before a few mop-up time touchdowns in the final 4 minutes made the final score 41-24.
Air Force is an early 14.5-point favorite in the game, which has its full attention for so many reasons.
“We’re focused on Army,” quarterback Donald Hammond III said about 20 minutes after the Utah State game ended. “That’s all we care about.”
This performance made Air Force bowl eligible. It ought to make it dream about bigger things, too.
Revisiting three areas we identified as being keys or storylines worth tracking as Air Force hosted Utah State.
Air Force linebacker Demonte Meeks is the Falcons' player of the game for getting the job done and helping keep Utah State's offense off the field.