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.

Burbridge leads No. 4 Michigan State over Air Force 35-21

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Connor Cook threw three touchdown passes in the first half – including one hauled in by Aaron Burbridge with a spectacular catch in the end zone – and No. 4 Michigan State beat Air Force 35-21 on Saturday.

Cook ended up throwing for 247 yards and four touchdowns, and Burbridge caught eight passes for 156 yards and three TDs. The highlight was Burbridge’s 28-yard scoring reception in the second quarter, when he leaped to make the catch and, as his body stretched parallel to the ground, touched his left foot down in bounds.

The Spartans (3-0) were coming off a big win over Oregon, and Air Force’s option isn’t easy to prepare for, but the Falcons (2-1) never mounted much of an upset threat.

Air Force was penalized six times for 83 yards in the first half, including three chop blocks and a couple defensive penalties on third down that led to second-quarter touchdowns by Michigan State.

Cook opened the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Price, and RJ Williamson scored on a 64-yard fumble return to make it 14-0. Air Force then drove 75 yards in 11 plays and scored on Ben Washington’s 1-yard run late in the first quarter, but Burbridge caught a pair of TD passes in the second.

His leaping effort along the side of the end zone was originally ruled incomplete, but the call was overturned after replays showed his left foot came down before his body landed out of bounds.

It was 21-7 after that touchdown, and the Spartans caught a break when Air Force was called for a personal foul near the end of the half on a play when Cook was sacked. Instead of third-and-24, Michigan State had a new set of downs, and Cook immediately threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Burbridge with 28 seconds left in the half.

Burbridge caught a 21-yard scoring pass from Cook early in the third to make it 35-7.

Air Force lost quarterback Nate Romine to a leg injury in its previous game. Karson Roberts attempted only one pass in the first half against Michigan State, but the Falcons found some success through the air in the third quarter.

Roberts threw a 38-yard TD pass to Jalen Robinette, and Air Force drove down the field again before stalling near the Michigan State goal line early in the fourth. On fourth-and-goal from the 3, Robinette was stopped well behind the line of scrimmage.

The Falcons had another chance to cut into the lead later in the fourth, but Roberts was intercepted by Williamson at the Michigan State 8.

Spartans linebacker Riley Bullough was ejected for targeting with 2:49 remaining, and D.J. Johnson‘s 2-yard touchdown run made it 35-21.

Michigan State hosted a service academy for the first time.