Air Force's "Element of Surprise" tough preparation for Navy's Niumatalolo

Posted at 11:47 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 01:47:16-04

The Air Force football team kicks off their 2020 season Saturday (4 p.m.) when they host Navy in the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

However, few have observed this Falcons squad since the Spring Game and a lot of questions remain about what they'll look like, especially for Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo.

"Every game is different, don't really know what to expect," Niumatalolo said.

Last year, Troy Calhoun's program finished 11-2 and won the Cheez-It Bowl. However, this is a team with a lot of turnover after losing 30 seniors to graduation.

The biggest hole to be filled might be at quarterback, where star senior D.J. Hammond is currently "not in good standing" at the Academy. The vacancy leaves sophomore Haaziq Daniels and junior Warren Bryan to battle for the starting position.

"We'll see if those are the guys, who knows, Hammond may show up so we'll see," Niumatalolo said.

The Falcons defense will also look significantly different with seniors Jordan Jackson and Demonte Meeks, and junior Tre Bugg III all using their turnback options this Fall.

"You just do the best you can with the scouting reports, especially this late in the date, you don't worry about anything else," Niumatalolo said. "If you have the information, great, if you don't just press forward."

One thing Navy does know, after stunning Air Force 34-25 in the closing seconds last year, they expect a battle. The Falcons currently lead the all-time series 30-22 and took the 2018 edition at Falcon Stadium, 35-7.

"That's really how you have to approach this game, you can't look back, you can't look forward," Niumatalolo said. "You just look at the task at hand."

Fittingly enough, after falling to the Midshipmen last year, Air Force won eight-straight contests, tying Notre Dame for the nation's longest winning streak. One they'll look to extend Saturday with a gameplan and roster which could surprise many, including their long-time rivals.