By Tech. Sgt. Raymond Hoy
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
10/3/2011 – UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY, Md. (AFNS) — Despite a 2-1 record, Air Force fans have despaired over some advantageous Falcon play this season. However, some of that was washed away as the Falcons defeated the Navy Midshipmen 35-34 Oct. 1 at Jack Stephens Field.
The Falcons were riding high into the second half, but it all almost came crashing down as the Mids pushed the game into overtime. Thanks to some huge overtime penalties on the Mids, the Falcons were able to pull out the 1-point victory.
The Falcons wasted no time getting on the board after a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Jefferson to wide receiver Ty MacArthur 1:30 into the first quarter.
After mediocre triple option play from Navy, the Falcons followed up with a long 13-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown run from Jefferson.
The Mids were able to answer with a 10-play drive of their own, putting three on the board with a Jon Teague field goal.
The Falcons continued their dominance on offense with their third touchdown in three consecutive drives. Running back Asher Clark scored on only his third touch of the game with a great head fake on his way to a 23-yard touchdown.
After seven years of Midshipmen dominance, the Falcon defense really stepped it up in the last couple of games. The Falcons held the Mids to only nine points on only five trips to the red zone in the previous six quarters.
The Falcons took their 21-3 lead into the half.
“We were definitely feeling good,” Jefferson said. “We came into halftime and everyone was preaching that it was still 0-0, but there is always a good sense when you are up 21-3 on a team like Navy. But at the same time, we knew there was going to be a comeback; we just didn’t know it was going to be this dramatic.”
The Mids came out with a strong showing in the second half, both on offense and defense. After driving down the field with an 8-play, 28-yard drive, the Mids quarterback Kriss Proctor dove in for a 2-yard touchdown run.
“The guys just settled down,” Niumatalolo said. “Air Force is a good football team. Maybe we were overanxious; I think we just settled down.”
On the following Air Force drive, the Mids forced a Wesley Cobb fumble on the Falcon 38-yard line.
After an Air Force stop, Clark kicked off the next Falcon drive with a 46-yard run to help swing the momentum back to the Falcons and put them up by another touchdown.
However, that was the last real showing for the Falcons’ offense until overtime. The Mids went on to outscore the Falcons 25-7 in the second half. Proctor showed up big time for the Mids with a 7-yard touchdown run and a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Gee Gee Greene. Running back Alex Teich ran in for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 28 and take it into overtime. This brought back some bad memories for the Falcons.
“When we went to overtime, the first thing I thought about was two years ago when we were here, and we went to overtime and lost,” Jefferson said. “I told myself, ‘this can’t happen again.'”
“There was no question that we ran out of gas,” Calhoun said. “We just have to get to the point where we don’t run out of gas, and that’s on me as a coach. The job Navy did in the fourth quarter is why they will be what you want serving your country.”
Air Force won the toss and elected to give Navy the ball first. Navy pushed the ball in after a gutsy call from Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo to go for it on fourth down and inches. A crushing taunting call against Navy pushed back the point-after attempt and allowed Falcons linebacker Alex Means to block the kick, giving them the opportunity they’d been looking for.
“I blocked it with my left hand,” Means said. “We had a whole game plan going into the game for Jamil Cooks to get over there on the left side. But the whole game I felt the kicker kind of kicking a bit to the left of where Jamil was jumping. One the last one, I was able to stay a little low and got my hand up.”
Jefferson opened the Falcons’ overtime drive with a 16-yard strike to receiver Zack Kauth, giving them first and goal on the Navy’s 9-yard line. Navy had another big penalty with an interference call in the end zone against Kauth. It took a couple plays to push it in, but Jefferson was able to do it on third down. Kicker Parker Herrington was able to drive his extra point attempt home to give the Falcons their second straight win against the Midshipmen.
“I’m at a loss of words right now,” Niumatalolo said. “Congratulations to Air Force. I am proud of our guys and the way they battled. Unfortunately, we came up on point short.”
The win brings the Falcons to 3-1 on the season and, more importantly, gives them a two-game winning streak and a lot of confidence as they head to Notre Dame Oct 8. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET.