Sometimes when you witness a sporting event, especially a team event, you walk away thinking you saw two games in one. In the Air Force/Navy football game on Saturday, I felt like I had witnessed three games in one, or more. In the end Air Force came out with a 35-34 overtime win for their second straight win over the Midshipmen.
The Falcons struck early, as just a minute and a half in on the fourth play of the game quarterback Tim Jefferson hit wideout Ty MacArthur on a quick slant that resulted in a 52-yard touchdown play. On the Falcons next possession Jefferson scored from two yards out, and Air Force had an early 14-0 lead.
After Navy kicked a field goal, Falcon running back Asher Clark scored on a 23-yard scamper to stretch the lead to 21-3. Which is what the score was at halftime. At that point, it looked as if there might be a rare game in this series that would be won handily. In the past eight meetings, the total margin of victory between the schools was only 48 points.
Navy made a bid to get back in the game in the third quarter. QB Kriss Proctor scored from two yards out with 5:00 left in the quarter to narrow the lead to 21-10. At this point the Falcons seemed to have things pretty well in hand still. However, that was deceiving, because Navy was controlling the time of possession and had run a lot more offensive plays, which would come into play later.
On the first play of the 4th quarter Clark scored from six yards out, and the Falcons once again led by 18. Then Navy got real serious. Proctor scored on a 7-yard run with 9:34 left to make it 28-17. Navy got three more with just over two minutes left, then held Air Force and got the ball back with one more chance to tie it. As he had done throughout most of the 4th quarter, Proctor went to the air, and Navy scored when he found Gigi Greene in the end zone for a 5-yard score. Alexander Teich ran in the two-point attempt, and the game was tied at 28 and heading into overtime.
Then the game got a little weird again. In the overtime Navy got the ball first, and Proctor scored for the third time from a yard out, giving the Middies their first lead. But he was hit with an unsportsman penalty after jawing with some Air Force players. Whether that had an effect on the kick is uncertain, but the Falcons’ Alex Means blocked the longer extra-point try, and Air Force had a potential edge. Which they took advantage of. Jefferson scored from a yard out on the Falcons’ possession in OT, and Parker Herrington nailed the point-after to give Air Force the win.
Navy’s ability to come back hinged mightily on their ability to drive the ball. The Middies ended up with a two-to-one advantage in time of possession. For the game, Navy ran a staggering 105 plays from scrimmage, while Air Force had only 51. In the fourth quarter, the effect of all that really seemed to wear the Falcon defense down. In total yards, Navy had almost one hundred more, but had to settle for field goals twice, while Air Force was able to stick it in end zone each time they got close.
Teich finished the game with 148 yards rushing on 35 carries for Navy. Proctor had 134 on 37 attempts. After throwing only 23 times in Navy’s first three games, Proctor completed 14 passes on 24 attempts Saturday for 132 yards.
Air Force QB Tim Jefferson was 9 of 10 throwing for 136 yards. He rushed for 60 more. Clark finished with 91 yards on an unusually low eight rushing attempts.
Navy slipped to 2-2 on the year. Air Force is now 3-1, and hits the road again next week for a big tilt at Notre Dame. The Falcons won in 2007 during their last trip to South Bend. Kickoff next Saturday is set for 1:30 pm MT on NBC.