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Air Force puts its Commander-In-Chief's Trophy on line in matchup with Navy


ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Before the college football season began, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds said one of the main goals of the senior class was to "get the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy back where it belongs."

Step 1 is Saturday when Navy hosts Air Force in the opening leg of the three-way service academy competition.

Air Force or Navy has captured the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy every year since 1997.

The Midshipmen won 14 straight games against Air Force and Army from 2003 through 2009, and the CIC Trophy resided in The Rotunda of Bancroft Hall throughout that time as a result. The Midshipmen also held the trophy in 2012 and 2013.

Air Force reclaimed the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy last year after defeating Navy 30-21 in Colorado Springs before beating Army. It marked the 19th time the Falcons have been outright winner of the CIC competition, five more than the Mids.

If the majority of games over the past decade are an indication, yards will be tough to come by and points will be at a premium when these rivals square off. Navy's triple-option is slightly different than Air Force's multiple spread option, but in many respects the teams are mirror images of each other.

PHOTO: Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, right, shakes hands with Connecticut head coach Bob Diaco, left, following Navy's 28-18 win in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in East Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, right, shakes hands with Connecticut head coach Bob Diaco, left, following Navy's 28-18 win in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in East Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

"I'm sure it's going to be a typical Navy-Air Force slugfest," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

With a victory, the Midshipmen will have their first 4-0 start since 2004.

Some things to know about the Air Force-Navy matchup:

REYNOLDS SEEKS REDEMPTION: Reynolds did not play well in last year's loss to Air Force, rushing for just 27 yards on 21 carries and completing only six of 14 passes for 126 yards. He had a lingering knee injury but refused to blame that for his subpar performance. "I've never used that as an excuse. I was watching the (Air Force) film today and I felt like that wasn't a problem," Reynolds said this week. "I just didn't play well, and as a result we lost. Simple as that." Reynolds hopes to conclude his career with a 7-1 record in service academy games.

MR. ROBERTS: Karson Roberts made his first start of the season at quarterback for Air Force (2-1) during a 35-21 loss to second-ranked Michigan State on Sept. 19. Roberts rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries and went 6 of 9 for 149 yards and a touchdown, but also had two turnovers. Roberts replaces Nate Romine, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against San Jose State.

INCLEMENT WEATHER: Heavy rain and possibly high winds are expected on Saturday as the area continues to feel the effects of Hurricane Joaquin. But bad weather probably won't have much of an impact on Air Force and Navy, which rank second and third nationally in rushing offense. The Falcons are averaging 367 yards per game on the ground, just four more than the Midshipmen.

A NEW ELEMENT: While the race for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy is foremost in the minds of players and coaches on both sides, there is a new element involved with the rivalry. Navy is now in the American Athletic Conference, which is a "Group of Five" competitor with the Mountain West Conference, which contains Air Force. Head-to-head games between schools in the AAC and MWC are crucial because the highest-rated champion of the Group of Five conferences earns an invitation to one of six bowls that are dominated by the Power Five conferences.

McHENRY RETURNS: Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun announced this week that defensive back Gavin McHenry will be available to play against Navy. McHenry, a two-year starter, has successfully completed six months of conduct/aptitude probation and is now considered a cadet in good standing. McHenry had been restricted from participating in intercollegiate athletic competitions due to an undisclosed incident in March.

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