AIR FORCE ACADEMY | The Air Force Falcons took advantage of their delayed start — to settle on a kicker, to plug holes on a decimated defense, to game plan for rival Navy.
Time very well spent.
Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl tied a school record with four field goals, Air Force’s hastily reconstructed defense stymied Navy’s offense and the Falcons opened their season with a 40-7 win over the Midshipmen on Saturday night.
“A good victory,” said Air Force senior George Silvanic, who was moved from offensive line to defensive tackle a few weeks ago out of necessity. “We’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Sophomore QB Haaziq Daniels rushed for a score in his first career start as the Falcons (1-0) took a big first step toward capturing the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy between the service academies.
Schuettpelz-Rohl connected from 48, 35, 32 and 40 yards in front of a crowd that consisted only of Air Force cadets given the COVID-19 restrictions. It’s the 11th time a Falcons kicker has made that many in a game.
To think, he was still trying to win the job about a week ago.
“Hoping I could prove myself and it all turned out for the best,” Schuettpelz-Rohl said.
The Falcons weren’t even sure if they would be taking the field this fall after the Mountain West postponed the season in August. Then, they learned they would play the two service academy games. Later, the league announced its resumption, with the intent to play eight games.
But there was no telling what the Falcons would resemble on the field with quite a few players taking military turnbacks (an option a cadet has to leave the academy for up to two semesters).
A big portion of the missing personnel was on defense, but the Falcons didn’t miss a beat in shutting down Navy (1-2). They held the Midshipmen to 90 yards rushing. The last time Navy was held under 100 yards rushing was at Air Force in 2016 when the team had 57, according to Navy’s game notes.
In addition, Air Force forced two turnovers and had three sacks.
“It speaks to the preparation that we made,” said Silvanic, who had 1 1/2 sacks. “There’s a lot more preparation to be done for the rest of the season.”
The Falcons improved to 14-0 in season openers under coach Troy Calhoun. It’s the latest Air Force has kicked off a season — and the first time opening with rival Navy.
Before the game, Navy announced starting quarterback Dalen Morris was out for health reasons not related to COVID-19. Tyger Goslin stepped in and had a 73-yard TD toss to Myles Fells in the second quarter. But Navy never completely found its groove on offense.
“It hurts to lose to Air Force and to lose this way in a convincing manner, is very disheartening,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They got after us.”
Niumatalolo voiced his feelings on Air Force having all that time to prepare when the Midshipmen had a full slate of games. At the time, the Falcons had only the service academy contests on the schedule.
“You could tell they were a team prepared for us,” Niumatalolo said.
The win puts Air Force in prime position during the annual round-robin Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition between the academies. Should the Falcons win at Army on Nov. 7, they would steal the title from Navy and earn a visit to the White House to receive the trophy.
“It’s every kid’s dream to start a game that means as much as this trophy series does to everyone at the service academies,” Goslin said. “I wish it could have ended differently.”
Navy: Niumatalolo and Navy haven’t won at Falcon Stadium since 2012.
Air Force: The Falcons extended their winning streak to nine straight dating to last season.
THIS & THAT
The pregame skydivers socially distanced by landing in the field adjacent to Falcon Stadium. … Falcons CB Davide Eure was ejected on the second play of the game for targeting. … FB Timothy Jackson rushed for 118 yards. Brad Roberts had 103. … Navy safety Kevin Brennan was disqualified for targeting early in the third quarter.
Air Force unveiled uniforms to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots and ground crew from the U.S. Army Air Forces that fought in World War II. The jerseys were gray with black lettering and a yellow strip on each shoulder. A custom nameplate on the jerseys read Red Tails.
“Look good, play good, right?” Schuettpelz-Rohl said. “It was definitely special being able to honor them.”
Navy: Host Temple on Saturday.
Air Force: At San Jose State on Oct. 24 to open Mountain West play.