Navy running back Noah Copeland, right, celebrates scoring a touchdown with center Graham Vickers during the second quarter of the Midshipmen's game against Air Force at Air Force Academy, Colo., on Saturday. (David Zalubowski / AP)
- Filed Under
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Another wild overtime finish in the Navy-Air Force rivalry. Only, this time, the Midshipmen came out on top in their quest to regain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
Right guard Jake Zuzek recovered quarterback Keenan Reynolds' fumbled snap in the end zone, and Navy beat Air Force 28-21 on Saturday.
After the weird touchdown, defensive end Wes Henderson knocked down Connor Dietz's pass on fourth-and-6 from the 21 to seal Navy's win, a significant first step in the Midshipmen's quest to regain the trophy that represents superiority among the three service academies.
Navy (2-3) needs only to beat Army on Dec. 8 to regain the trophy that the Falcons (2-3) have had in their case the last two years.
Last year's game also went to overtime in Annapolis, Md., with Air Force prevailing 35-34 thanks to a controversial call. Officials ruled a touchdown celebration by Navy went overboard, and penalized the Midshipmen for unsportsmanlike conduct. The long conversion attempt from 35 yards was blocked by Alex Means. Then, the Falcons scored, and Parker Herrington added the conversion to give Air Force the wild win.
Herrington had the chance to win it again this time, but his 51-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired in regulation. It was his second miss of the afternoon and fifth in six tries this season.
Cody Getz rushed for 204 yards and a score, becoming the first Air Force player to post three 200-yard games in one season. But it wasn't enough to keep the Midshipmen from celebrating wildly on Air Force's field.
The 9:40 a.m. kickoff was the earliest in Falcon Stadium history and the Falcons slumbered their way through much of the game, wasting opportunity after opportunity with fumbles and foibles aplenty.
Air Force scored on its first possession but didn't get into the end zone again until Getz burst up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown that gave Air Force a 14-10 lead with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
Navy quarterback Trey Miller rushed for 110 yards before hurting his left ankle on a scramble on third-and-9 with just under 10 minutes remaining. He was helped off the field, and Nick Sloan kicked a 41-yard field goal to make it a one-point game.
The Falcons struck back quickly, needing just two plays and 28 seconds to score when Dietz pitched to wide receiver Dontae Strickland, who pulled up and hit Drew Coleman in stride for a 54-yard strike that made it 21-13.
Freshman Keenan Reynolds replaced Miller at quarterback for Navy and capped a 75-yard drive with a 15-yard keeper for the score with 6:35 remaining. Then, Noah Copeland took the pitch and slipped Miles Fisher's tackle in the backfield, diving just inside the left pylon for the 2-point conversion that tied it at 21.
Coleman also caught a 35-yard touchdown toss from Dietz four snaps into the game, with ice falling onto the field from the television camera zip lines, and ground fog rolling off the turf as it warmed.
Nothing else would come easy the rest of the half as the Falcons missed a chip-shot field goal, lost three straight fumbles and then failed to take full advantage of the clock at the end of the second quarter. They finished with a healthy 261 yards of offense but a 10-7 halftime deficit.
Nick Sloan kicked a 39-yard field goal, and Copeland's first career touchdown, a 5-yard run, gave the Midshipmen a 10-7 lead. Copeland's TD came after safety Tra'ves Bush scooped up Broam Hart's fumble at the Navy 27.
Getz was stripped by linebacker Josh Tate at midfield with cornerback Quincy Adams recovering in front of the Midshipmen's jubilant bench. Ty MacArthur coughed up the ball at the Navy 14, and senior linebacker Keegan Wetzel smothered it for his first career fumble recovery.
The second half brought more of the same for the Falcons as Getz was stuffed on a toss sweep by Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick and Parrish Gaines for a loss of 3 yards on fourth-and-1 at midfield.
The Falcons wore special uniforms that were inspired by the Air Force's B-2 Spirit and F-22 Raptor aircrafts. The helmet logo was decked with dozens of B-2s, and the name on the back of the even-numbered uniforms were "F-22 Raptor" while the name on the odd-numbered jerseys were "B-2 Spirit" in place of last names.