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ALOST Game of the Week: The Army-Navy Game

Robert Cole/ALOST

 

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

PHILADELPHIA — As sweet as it was for the Army Black Knights to defeat its main footballing rival for the first time in its last 15 attempts in last season’s game, they had to wait almost another 365 days for the achievement they aspire to claim at the end of every season – a goal they had not accomplished for over two decades.

Playing through the thick snowflakes descending on the snow-covered football field in South Philly, and after a hard-fought 60 minutes in which the game was not decided until the last play, the Black Knights finally could confirm that the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy was going back to West Point.

Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw scored the game-winning 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak late in the fourth quarter and the Black Knights saw a last-second field goal from Navy miss wide left as Army defeated the Midshipmen 14-13 in the 118th edition of one of sports’ iconic rivalries. The Black Knights (9-3), who defeated Air Force in Colorado Springs earlier in the season, clinched its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996, which was also the last time Army won at least nine games in a season.

““It’s everything,” said defensive lineman and senior captain John Voit. “Being able to win the CIC and bring it back to the program when it hasn’t been here since 1996 is an unbelievable feeling. We couldn’t be more proud as a team and a program.”

Voit had, arguably, the biggest defensive play of the game, with Army down 10-7 early in the third quarter. Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry, normally a slot back but was announced as the starting quarterback for this game a couple of weeks ago, broke through the line on an option keeper and looked as if he would win the footrace into the end zone. Voit, coming from his defensive line spot, chased down the fleet-footed Perry and was able to just get enough of his feet on a last-gasp dive that caused Perry to trip on the snow and fall at the Army 11. Navy could only muster a field goal on the drive, with Bennett Moehring’s 24-yard kick gave the Middies a 13-7 lead.

Army’s offense, stagnant since its opening-drive touchdown gave them a 7-0 lead, awoke on its last two drives to carry it to victory. Bradshaw led the Black Knights down the field on a 14-play drive after Navy’s field goal, a drive which included Bradshaw’s only forward pass of the game, a 20-yard completion to Calen Holt to move the ball into Midshipmen territory.

However, the drive ended on the first play of the fourth quarter with a missed 35-yard field goal from Blake Wilson, keeping Navy ahead by six.

The momentum that Navy seemingly garnered from that miss lasted just three plays, as the Black Knights forced a three-and-out, then moved the ball down the field for the winning score as Bradshaw ended up with nine rushes on that drive alone. He accounted for 47 of the 65 yards covered on that drive in the snow-covered field, and finished it off with a plunge on a quarterback sneak to give Army a 14-13 lead with 5:10 remaining.

“It feels amazing,” said Bradshaw, who ended the day with 94 yards rushing on 21 carries, in describing the second consecutive win vs. Navy. “For one, to understand all the work that we’ve put in since I’ve been here, how we’ve trusted the process and have grown as an organization feels great.”

Navy put themselves in a situation to win the game on its final drive, helped by the ensuing kickoff going out of bounds from Army. Perry led the Middies to inside the Black Knights’ 30-yard line, including converting a fourth-and-3 on a play which started with him dropping the shotgun snap and ended with him running around left end for 12 yards to the Army 25.

The Midshipmen then were their own worst enemy, committing two false start penalties in the final two minutes, one requiring a 10-second runoff on the clock. Moehring then took the field to attempt what most would have considered an impossible field goal to win, a 48-yard field goal in the cold air and snowy surface on the Lincoln Financial Field turf. It was almost shades of the 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff game, with then-New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri making a clutch 47-yard field goal in blizzard-like conditions to force overtime. But Moehring’s kick, while having enough distance on it, faded to the left, setting off wild celebrations on the Army sidelines and with its supporters in the stands.

“We’ve overcome some deficits this year and made some plays at the end of games to help us win enough that our guys just believe that if there’s a second on that clock, we’re going to find a way to win,” said Army head coach Jeff Monken. “It was close enough that when we were in position to score, we knew we just needed to get a touchdown and a stop. Fortunately, it worked out for us.”

The loss wasted a record-setting performance from Perry, who rushed for 250 yards on 30 carries. Amazingly enough, in the tough conditions, none of Perry’s carries went for negative yards, with a second-quarter run going for a 68-yard touchdown to give Navy a 10-7 lead.

“My performance isn’t satisfying unless we win,” said Perry, who went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season today. “We put ourselves in a position to possibly win the game and we didn’t. We made too many mistakes.”

Without the wintry conditions, the game was destined to be a ground-and-pound affair, with Army coming in as the top rushing team in the country (368.1 yards per) and Navy coming in second (347.5). Combined, there were 95 rushing plays and just three pass plays in the entire contest.

The win by the Black Knights marks their 17th triumph over the past two seasons, the most Army has had in a two-year span since the 17 they recorded between 1949 and 1950 under legendary head coach Earl “Red” Blaik. Furthermore, a win in its bowl game later this month will match the back-to-back-to-back national championship teams of 1944-46 with 18 wins in a two-year span.

The brotherhood that is alive in that locker room, it is so great to be apart of,” said Monken. “I am privileged to be a part of this team and to represent such a great Academy and the United States Army and for all those that serve all over the world. It is an incredible feeling.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday night’s game, with all photos taken by our senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 31 pictures in the gallery.

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