Navy takes charge in Commander-in-Chief competition grounding Air Force, 33-11
Annapolis, Maryland (Oct. 3) – The US Naval Academy (4-0) forced four turnovers and QB Keenan Reynolds totaled 300 yards in offense to take a 21-0 lead over C-I-C Trophy rival Air Force (2-2, 1-0) by halftime to eventually win, 33-11, in its first of two games to win the coveted prize annually sought among the Army, Navy, and Air Force academies. Reynolds rushed for 183 yards and passed for 117 despite the Falcons keying on him during the entire game. They did prevent him from crossing the goal line in his opportunity to surpass Wisconsin’s Montee Ball this season to become the leading scorer in FBS history with 500 points. He will have eight more regular season games after this one to top that mark. He did throw a touchdown pass and teammates Chris Swain and Demond Brown carried the ball into the end zone to finish off drives set up by the opportunities by Navy’s defense. LB Daniel Gonzales led the D in tackles with 11. Both running the triple option offense, navy outgained Air Force 270 to 204 yards on the ground, but turnovers were the key to this victory for the Midshipman. For collegefootballfan.com, it was the 25th Navy win that we’ve attended over the years. As usual, we enjoyed our time in the great Capitol city of Annapolis along the Severn River despite the pending and subsequent rain storms that caused some flooding later in the evening.
Navy thwarted Air Force’s triple option right away forcing a three and out, and then came back with their version of the same offensive scheme ending a 63-yard drive with FB Chris Swain (18 carries for 54 yards, two TDs) taking it in from the two-yard line for a quick 7-0 lead. Air Force was in a retaliatory mode driving from its 34 down to the one-yard line, but they came up empty on a fourth and goal when DE Will Anthony and S Kwazel Bertrand stopped FB Shayne Davern short on the one to take over on downs. The Mids couldn’t move far and punted. The Falcons started from at the Navy 39, but a misplay on a pitch out recovered by Betrand gave Navy possession again from the 36.
To start the second period after introducing the 1960 USNA Cotton Bowl team, the Mids continued to drive. Reynolds (4 for 10 passes for 117 yards, 1 TD) fired to WR Thomas Wilson for his only reception of the game and a 27-yard touchdown. Navy led, 14-0. After the kick return to the 33, Air Force QB Karson Roberts (9 carries for 45 yards and 5 for 12 passing for 73 yards) fumbled at the 16 and the ubiquitous Bertrand recovered the ball once again to take over at the 16. After another Navy punt, LB Zach Hester tipped the ball and CB Brendon Clements picked off a pass by Roberts. The Navy D had the Air Force Falcons stymied offensively. Not able to capitalize again though, Navy once again took over the ball on a fumble by USAFA WR Garrett Brown, recovered by LB DJ Palmore. From the 32, Reynolds went around right end for 67 yards before being taken out at the one. SB Demond Brown took it over from the one for the 21-0 halftime lead.
The rain covering the east coast most of the weekend started around halftime after the skies around Annapolis had remained cloud covered since the morning after a driving rain storm we travelled through the night before. Guest Game Analyst Frank Lorito and I came well prepared to stay dry as well as warm. The two flyovers scheduled before kickoff were regretfully cancelled due to the weather. The Cotton Bowl team introduced before the second period finished 9-2 that season losing in the bowl game to Missouri, 21-14. They beat 10-1 Washington and 6-3-1 Army that season. Duke was their only other loss that year. Villanova and Penn who they rarely play any more and a 2-8 Notre Dame team were defeated. Navy beat SMU in Norfolk, bested Air Force in Baltimore, and ND and Army games were won in Philly. Heisman winner Joe Bellino was a member of the team and Hall of Fame Coach Wayne Hardin was their HC. The Navy and Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps performed together at the half playing “God Bless America”, “Wild Blue Yonder”, “Anchors Aweigh!” and the “Marine Corps Hymn.” During the game, the scoreboard video featured clips by Mids of how “Chair Force Cadets” were striving to qualify as Midshipman while performing various feats with folding chairs attached to their butts. They could not qualify the rigorous testing, of course. All in good fun, for the home team Mids, of course. By the way, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium offers the best college football score updates compared to many other sites we’ve been to. It goes beyond scores of the Top 25 or conference foes. With fans and a student body from throughout the country, they do a good job of keeping everyone there informed about all the games of interest, even FCS game updates.
To start the third period Navy poured it on. They drove from the 75 to a first and goal at the four where it took them four attempts until Chris Swain scored from the one. The missed PAT made it, 27-0. A questionable forward pass call reversed another Air Force fumble that could have increased the Navy margin even more, but the Falcons put three points up with Drew Oeherle’s 39 yard FG late in the third to nix the Navy shutout, 27-3.
In the fourth, the Air Force continued to march 53 yards with Roberts going over the right side for a one-yard TD run, and also brought it in on two-point conversion to trail Navy, 27-11. On the next Navy drive, a 33-yard pass to WR Craig Scott was a key play resulting in Austin Grebe’s 37-yard FG. Navy forced another USAFA punt and a 40-yard run by Reynolds to the three set up another Grebe FG, this time for 24 yards, to give the Mids a 33-11 lead with 1:56 left. The game was over and the teams gathered on the field in front of their respective Corps and Brigade to sing the alma maters before the Brigade of Midshipman was granted ‘special liberty” for the weekend for spirit the week before the game and for beating Air Force. Some USNA alum nearby lamented, “Hey, we never got that.” The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is still a top football priority in “Crab Town.” Beating Army by far comes in at first.
Next up for Air Force (2-2, 1-0) is 0-5 Wyoming at home in a Mountain West Conference game. We look forward to seeing the Falcons play for the first time in Colorado Springs when we go out there on November 14 to see them host Utah State. The Mids take their 4-0 record to South Bend next Saturday to play the 4-1 Fighting Irish who fell to Clemson, 24-22, in very wet conditions down in South Carolina where it continues to flood. Collegefootballfan.com pulls off our first double header weekend of the season next Saturday when we head first to West Point for a noon kickoff between Duke (4-1, 2-0) and Army (1-4) who comes off a 20-14 loss to Penn State. After that game, we will hustle down to the Birthplace of College Football, NJ to see Rutgers (2-2) host No. 4 Michigan State who just got by Purdue, 24-21. We will catch up on some pregame tailgating down there.
Extra points: Frank and I headed to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Saturday to park at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church across from the Stadium. On the way down, I we stopped at a parking lot to get on the phone to do our radio interview with Pete Spadora on “Spadora on Sports” on his program on WNER in Watertown, NY. From the church, we walked downtown to O’Brien’s for some Bloody Mary’s and to watch some non games meeting other fans catching up on some action, too. We walked back up to tailgate little before meeting up with season ticket holders Brian Donnelly, “Navy Al”, Navy vet Jay, and their token Air Force fan/friend Jim to hang out before the 3:30 kickoff game to share some tales around the tailgate. It was good to see them, and we plan to catch up again at Army game and at the Military Bowl to be played in Annapolis.
Navy’s overall record in our attendance is 25-34. It’s improved vastly over the last few years with the success they’ve had as they’ve won seven of the last eight we’ve seen them play. We see the next few years’ schedules and it looks like Navy (and Army) are giving their fellow Patriot league foes a shot to play football on TV with them in front of some good crowds (Army and Navy are Patriot League members in most sports, but not football). This year, Army opened with Colgate. Next year they open by hosting Fordham and two years later against Lehigh. Army opened with Fordham this year losing 37-35 and they will play Bucknell in a few weeks. Georgetown, Holy Cross, and Lafayette are other Patriot League football teams. With Navy now playing eight American Athletic Conference football games and committed to playing Army, Air Force, and Notre Dame every year, there is only room to play one other non-conference opponent during a 112-game season. In 2017, they open against Florida International. In 2018, they are able to add a 13th game by playing at Hawaii before opening at home against Lehigh.
We’re glad to see Navy starting the games again with “Danger Zone” with clips from the movie, “Top Gun.”
Looking at rosters of both teams, it seems Navy recruits more side spread throughout he county than does Air Force. USAFA seems to recruit primarily west of the Mississippi and down in Georgia. We’re surprised at this knowing that all the academies get appointments through Congressional reps from all 50 states. Kids from all over seem to express interest in flying. I’m surprised USAFA can’t or doesn’t recruit better from other regions than what they do now.
After the game, Frank and I had dinner at the packed Federal House Restaurant downtown where we watched the early evening games. We went to walk off some of our dinner and tailgating libations by heading to the Annapolis city pier. However, the high tide had rolled in and with all the rain the drains started backing up casing parking lots to flood. Patrons of the restaurants there were surprised to come out and find knee -deep water where they had parked their cars within the hour. Now the couldn’t open car doors without the water rushing in. Boats docked along the sea walls had been removed as it was feared that the tide might come over and carry the boats over. Their big boat show start next Thursday there. We headed over to the Annapolis Cigar Factory store to smoke some Stogies, have few drinks, and watch the Notre Dame -Clemson game. It’s become an Annapolis tradition for us. We watched the game with a nice guy who recently retired from the city of Annapolis and we talked about sports and good times growing up as kid when we did. We just reminisced about how growing up in our days was so different than today. We’re glad we were kids when we were. A trio of Air Force pilots, two brothers and a wife, came in a little later and oblivious to everything around them. The Chair Force couldn’t handle their liquor as well as we do.