ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — Backed up as far as it could be on the field, and after a first quarter that seemed to portend a dogfight in its first game as a ranked team, Air Force decided to take to the skies — with the football — for one of the few times in the contest. The end result was history-making, and the catalyst that pushed the Falcons another step closer toward completing a special season.
Quarterback Zac Larrier arched a perfect pass down the right sideline to Dane Kinamon for a 94-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter as the Falcons went on to defeat arch rival Navy 17-6 on Saturday afternoon. The score was just one of five passes the Falcons attempted in the game, as the team rushed for 137 yards while the defense held Navy off of the scoresheet until the final minute of the contest.
Dating back to last season, Air Force has won 12 consecutive games, the fourth-longest active winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The win also moves the Falcons to within one of the school record for longest winning streak, a 13-game run set in 1984-85.
Larrier, who suffered a knee injury during last week’s come-from-behind victory at some against Wyoming, passed a late fitness test toward the end of the week to start today, and continued his efficiency through the air with his four completions in five attempts, the fifth consecutive game in which he has completed at least 67 percent of his passes. His first pass completion, a 34-yard connection to Jared Ronzos, was part of the Falcons’ first drive of the game that eventually ended with a missed 42-yard field goal by Matthew Dapore to keep the game scoreless.
Larrier’s second completion of the day was the bomb to Kinamon, the longest pass play in the history of the service academies in Division I play.
“Coach knew a look he wanted to get there and he put us in one,” Larrier said. “You drop back there and expect guys to be open and I tried to make sure I could give him the best ball I could.”
Larrier’s head coach, Troy Calhoun, was surprised that his signal-caller was even available for the contest after his injury just seven days ago.
“I went to practice on Wednesday and saw [Larrier] bouncing around. I went over and asked if this was possible and was told yes,” Calhoun said. “On Thursday, we really put him through some work to see if there was swelling or soreness on Friday, and he seemed to be good. I truly thought last week on Saturday night that he was finished for the season.”
Instead, the Falcons’ season remains on track to be one of the best in their history, and their defense remains an integral part on their undefeated run. Before allowing 27 points to Wyoming last week, Air Force’s defense had held its opponents to 21 points or fewer in 12 consecutive games. Today, the defense scored as many as Navy’s offense scored int the game, as the Falcons’ second touchdown came on Alec Mock’s 18-yard interception return with 3:58 remaining in the fourth to open up a 17-0 lead.
Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai, who came in for an ineffective Braxton Woodson in the fourth quarter and threw the interception to Mock, led the Midshipmen on their only scoring drive at the end of the game, as he completed a 78-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Eli Heidenreich with 50 seconds remaining. Air Force recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to secure its fifth straight win over the Midshipmen.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s contest, with all photos taken by DC-area photographers Yusuf Abdullah and Elliott Brown. 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 38 pictures in total.