Monday notebook: Air Force week

Army coach Rich Ellerson isn’t taking Air Force and its 1-7 record lightly.

Ellerson said, “We have great respect for the things they do, what they’ve done and who they’ve played and how well they have played. We know this is going to be as fiercely contested football game as we’ve seen all year. That’s what we are looking forward to.”

Air Force has lost seven straight games and is coming off a 45-10 loss to Notre Dame at home.

Ellerson added a military reference when describing the matchup.

“I think that we’ve struggled and they’ve struggled,” Ellerson said. “Both teams play this game at a lot of levels for a lot of reasons. Our mission is to seal the bunker and make sure that we are listening to the internal voice. Obviously, this is one of those games that stands out on your schedule when you start thinking about it.”

Last week’s bye, “came at a good time,” Ellerson said. “We are a fresher, healthier football team than we’ve been.”

Army’s top two quarterbacks Angel Santiago and A.J. Schurr practiced Monday for the first time together since Wake Forest week (Sept. 16-20).

Santiago, who has injured his ankle against Boston College (Oct. 5) and Temple (Oct. 19), will start his nine straight game of the season barring any setbacks this week in practice.

Schurr said he took “10-15 snaps” in a fast practice Friday. Those snaps were his first practice reps since injuring his ankle in the Wake Forest game. Schurr practiced fully on Monday. He will be Army’s No. 2 Saturday.

Junior free safety Geoff Bacon, who returned to practice last week, will start against Air Force after missing the last four games following wrist surgery. Bacon will be wearing a protective cast.

Junior defensive end Bobby Kough and junior middle linebacker Julian Holloway, who both missed the Temple game (Oct. 19) due to injuries, are back practicing and will play against Air Force. Remember Kough was dominant and set the defensive tone in Army’s 41-21 win over Air Force last year at West Point.

Senior running back Raymond Maples (groin), senior rover Thomas Holloway (ankle) and senior fullback Hayden Tippett (undisclosed injury) will be evaluated later in the week, Ellerson said. Maples, who had a setback in his first practice last week since the Stanford game (Sept. 14) is doubtful.

Air Force’s defense has allowed seven touchdowns passes in the last two games including five to Norte Dame QB Tommy Rees last week. When Ellerson was asked if Army, which averages just less than six completions per game,  might throw the ball more against the Falcons, the coach said, “We need to run our offense. We don’t do some of those things that well.”

Air Force junior linebacker Joey Nichol said the feeling after last year’s loss to Army, “was pretty bad. Probably the worst we felt all year.”

Nichol said, “We’ve been looking to turn the season around. We are just waiting for our opportunity. We are going to put one (a game) together and we are going to do it. Every game is very important. This one is even more important because it’s a service-academy game.”

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