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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force will play Army, Navy this season

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The Air Force Falcons will play two football games this season against fellow service academies Army and Navy.

The Falcons’ abbreviated schedule includes hosting Navy on Oct. 3 and a trip to West Point, New York, to face Army on Nov. 7. The military academies compete annually for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which goes to the academy with the best record in the round-robin competition.

The school announced Monday that only Air Force Academy cadets would be permitted to attend the game at Falcon Stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will social distance and wear masks. The base remains closed to the public.

“It’s certainly going to be a different game. It’s not going to look the same. It’s not going to feel the same,” Air Force director of athletics Nathan Pine said in a video posted on the school’s website. “But we’re going to have an opportunity to play Navy and that’s really important for the young men in our football program and really important for the physical mission at the academy. It’s something that is every bit worth the effort.”

Navy currently has possession of the trophy after beating both schools last season.

Air Force was in a holding pattern after its conference, the Mountain West, decided in August to postpone fall sports due to COVID-19 concerns. The team has been practicing since Aug. 24 in compliance with protocols.

No. 22 Army is off to a 2-0 start after beating Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe. The Black Knights have 12 games listed on their schedule, but the contest against BYU has been postponed. The school’s athletic director took to Twitter in an effort to find a replacement.

Navy lost 55-3 to BYU on Sept. 7. The Midshipmen have 11 games listed, including Army on Dec. 12.

Last season, Air Force finished 11-2, which included a loss to Navy and a win over Army. The Falcons beat Washington State in the Cheez-It Bowl as they closed the season with an eight-game winning streak. It was their longest since 1998.

Coach Troy Calhoun returns a strong nucleus that includes inside linebacker Demonte Meeks, along with offensive linemen Parker Ferguson and Nolan Laufenberg. They were all named to the preseason all-Mountain West team.

The team plans to unveil a new uniform for the Navy game. The theme will be based around the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African American unit to fly combat airplanes in World War II.

“The Red Tails and the Tuskegee Airmen are a great piece of Air Force heritage,” Pine said.

Memphis-Houston set for Friday postponed

Brandon Dahlberg / The Commercial Appeal
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Memphis’ prime-time game against Houston set for Friday night has been postponed.

The American Athletic Conference announced the decision Saturday, a day after Memphis paused football practice and all group activities for the team because a “number of individuals” with the program had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Tigers already lost a game at Purdue previously scheduled for Saturday when the Big Ten canceled its fall football season Aug. 11. The conference says the Houston game will be rescheduled for a later date.

Memphis officials say the positive tests and contact tracing indicate most of the cases are linked to social events outside of team activities. Combined with contract tracing, Memphis says a “significant number” are in quarantine in keeping with CDC guidelines. Officials say there are no serious cases but that all players and staff affected are being closely monitored.

The Tigers opened the season by beating Arkansas State 37-24 on Sept. 5. Their next scheduled game is Sept. 25 at UT San Antonio.

TCU-SMU postponed by COVID-19 outbreak among Horned Frogs

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU and SMU postponed their Sept. 11 game as TCU announced Friday a cluster of Horned Frogs players and team support staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

TCU did not identify who was infected with COVID-19 or how many players or staff are involved. Athletic director Jeremiah Donati said none currently faces serious health issues.

No makeup date for the game at TCU was immediately set.

The postponement came at nearly the same time the Big 12 formally announced 53-player minimum roster to play a game, game, including all scholarship and walk-on players. The league also set minimums for the number of available offensive linemen (seven), defensive linemen (four) and quarterbacks (one).

TCU schools officials this week reported more than 400 active COVID-19 cases for the campus two weeks into the fall semester. Among those, nearly 250 were students were living on campus.

Donati aid the TCU football program was aggressive in its testing and contact tracing protocols, and would “continue our enforcement of strict standards to protect the program and our community. Everyone’s health and safety remains our top priority.”

Donati said the schools will try to reschedule at a later date, although they may be few options. TCU is scheduled to play its Big 12 opener Sept. 26 against Iowa State. SMU plays Saturday at Texas State.

SMU athletic director Rick Hart tweeted the Mustangs were disappointed the game won’t be played as originally scheduled.

“Our student-athletes, coaches and fans were looking forward to the 100th edition of the Iron Skillet Rivalry. We are excited to start the season tomorrow at Texas State,” Hart said.

The TCU-SMU game is just the latest one affected by the pandemic. The North Carolina State at Virginia Tech game in the ACC was moved from Sept. 12 to Sept. 26 and Marshall and East Carolina postponed their Sept. 12 but no makeup game has been set.

The Big 12, the ACC and the Southeastern Conference are the only three Power Five conferences that opted to try to play in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Big Ten and Pac-12, as well as virtually every other lower-level conference, have put off fall sports and are instead hoping to play in the spring.