For the second consecutive week, Navy may encounter a team missing its starting quarterback.
In the first leg of the three-game series for the Commander in Chief's trophy, perennial favorite Air Force may go with backup Mike Thiessen, who rescued the team by replacing injured Cale Bonds and rushing for a career-best 138 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-22 victory over San Diego State last week.
"We'll have to wait and see how practice goes," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said of his quarterback situation. "If Cale [sprained ankle] is unable to play, Mike does an outstanding job. He has a fine ability to do the things we try to do.
"Thiessen is a little bit bigger and stronger and accelerates like Bo Morgan. And he's a baseball player, so you know he has a fine arm."
The absence of the starter didn't hinder the Falcons in last year's 49-7 romp over Navy in Colorado. Bonds filled in for Blane Morgan and accounted for 167 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
"The quarterback doesn't matter," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "They believe strongly in what they're doing and believe they can come and beat us no matter who's back there. We have to take that belief away from them."
Thiessen totaled 157 net yards rushing and completed four of 10 passes for 51 yards.
Back to Redskins Stadium
This is the second game for the Midshipmen at Redskins Stadium, following a 30-0 pasting by Notre Dame before a sellout crowd of 78,844 last season. Many tickets remain for the game, with approximately 50,000 expected.
Weatherbie says playing in a professional stadium is "something the players remember as a special time for the rest of their lives. Having played there last year, they have an idea what it's like."
"I enjoyed it last year," said defensive end Brad Wimsatt. "We'll have fans from here and hopefully from D.C., too. I hope it's full."
DeBerry doesn't think the site gives Navy any appreciable advantage, although "it's really their home field. But we love to go on the road and play." The Falcons are 23-8 in their past 31 away games.
The team to beat
Air Force has monopolized the battle for the Commander in Chief's trophy, capturing 12, to six for Army and five for Navy. Last season, the Falcons outscored their two rivals, 84-14, with the combined victory margin the largest in school history.
Under DeBerry, they are 24-6 in CIC games and have been in possession of the award for every year except one since 1989. Overall, Air Force has a 35-19 game record; its rivals are both under .500.
"Air Force is the team to beat," said Weatherbie, stating the obvious. "But I think the WAC [Western Athletic Conference] title is a little more important to them."
Navy could benefit from a return to duty of four of the five players who missed last week's 31-28 victory at West Virginia.
Only starting offensive tackle Hoot Stahl (dislocated right toe) is expected to miss the game.
Expected back are wide receiver Harry Spencer (missed five games with a broken bone in his back), slotback Steve Holley (one with a sprained ankle), cornerback Mike Wiedl (two games with a sprained ankle) and slotback Terence Coleman (two games with a hamstring injury).
The additions will enable Weatherbie to continue to exchange players effectively when Navy produces long drives or has a lengthy defensive series. That kept the Midshipmen fresher at the end last week.