Air Force Falcons fly past Army to win Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, 31-12;
A game we will never forget for the wrong reason
West Point, NY -The Air Force Falcons (6-3) struggled with the Cadets of Army early, but outscored the Black Knights of the Hudson (5-4), 21-6, in the second half to defeat the second of their biggest rivals this year, 31-12. With the combined victories against Navy (28-14) and Army this season, the Air Force Academy claimed its 21st title to the Commander in Chief’s Trophy for football supremacy among the three major service academies. The Falcons take the hardware back from Navy who took it back from them last season. It turned out to be a beautiful day for a football game along the Hudson where the fall colors dominated the landscape late in the season after a very dry summer and fall. Guest Game Analyst Brian Donnelly (Towson) and I looked forward with great anticipation to this rivalry with hopes that an Army win would make this year’s Army-Navy game even more significant. Already Army will be challenging USNA to end its 15-game losing streak against the Mids when they play for the 147th time on December 10 in Baltimore this year. However, Collegefootballfan.com’s 523rd game will be remembered now by both of us for a more unique and almost tragic experience that neither one of us will ever forget.
The two teams meeting for the 51st time (the Air Force Falcons lead the series 36-14-1 now) both ran only one complete series during the first period with the USAFA misfiring on a 47-yard FG attempt wide left. Army started on the move into the second period before punting.
The Air Force Falcons fumbled away in its next possession to give Army the ball on their own 42. The Black Knights drove to the Falcon 17 when QB Ahmad Bradshaw (5 of 15, 84 yards passing; 16 carries for 41 yards rushing) lofted a pass into the end zone where S Weston Steelhammer picked it off. From the 20, Air Force Falcon QB Arion Worthman, making his first start filling in for injured Nate Romine, took to the air. He connected with WR Jalen Robinette for 45 yards to the Army 35. On third and 15, he connected again with Robinette (three receptions for 104 yards) for 25 yards to the Army 15. The Black Knight defense stiffened and the Falcons settled for Luke Strebel’s 20-yard FG to take a 3-0 lead. The next Air Force series started with a pass to Robinette once again, this time for 34 yards down to the Army 21. This time, FB Shayne Davern broke up the middle for a 17-yard TD run to give the Air Force Falcons a 10-0 lead. Army finally got its offense on the move starting from the 35. With an unbalanced line to the left, Bradshaw took the snap from the right tackle position. RB Kell Walker took the handoff and swept around the left end and down along the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown scamper. Air Force blocked the point after to maintain a 10-6 lead. With the Army kickoff going out of bounds to give the Air Force the ball on the 35 with two time-outs left, HC Troy Calhoun surprisingly opted not to go deep and let the clock run out satisfied with a four-point lead going into halftime.
The USMA silent drill team performed. The Army Band went Rock Star with guitars in front. Sounding very strong with the horn section, they finished up with the Army dance team in costume to Michael Jackson’s classic, “Thriller”. Brian and I had started the day with light tailgate of sorts expecting to hit some delays on the way in. Having to catch a bus eventually from somewhere on the sprawling campus (the Commissary/PX eventually), we planned to be up at Michie Stadium for the traditions and festivities before the 12-noon kick-off. He hadn’t been there in ten years, and we both looked figured that this could be a competitive game after having both seen Army defeat a good Temple team in their season opener. We bused up to Michie and toured the perimeter of the stadium to check out concessions and some pregame entertainment. We walked through the pregame festivities of Black Knight Alley between the east side of Michie and Lusk Reservoir. I looked for a new Army decal to add to my collection of stickers from schools I’ve seen games at to adorn my cooler.
As we were about to enter the concession area under the visitors’ side, I suddenly heard the loud acceleration of an engine directly behind me. Before I could turn, I suddenly got rammed hard by something that struck me on the right side in the middle of my back. It seemed to recoil quickly and hit me again knocking me to the ground where I caught myself falling to the ground primarily on my right side. Realizing I was being run over, I maneuvered my leg right leg now on the ground quickly to get out of the way of a tire I felt about to run over me. Suddenly and luckily, it stopped as quickly as it had started. I had no idea what slammed me down to the ground until I got up and turned around to see what the hell it was! A Gator utility vehicle with a fenced-in bed had been floored and backed into me. Brian was shocked and checked to see if I was ok. On the seat of the vehicle were three little kids, maybe pre-school age. Brian had heard a woman say right before he also heard the engine rev up, Don’t touch anything.” What I first thought to me a military display for the Black Knight Alley for kids pictures was probably a delivery wagon that got left while the driver made a delivery in the concession area, and these kids jumped on the pedal to throw it backwards. What were their parents thinking? Brian and I both talked about it later. It stopped as quickly as it started. Luckily, I was standing. Only seconds before I might have gotten run over by this machine for which I could have been a lot worse. Young kids with camouflage paints on their faces were coming up to ask me if I was alright. A lot of people were around and saw what happened. My jacket sleeve was torn. My binoculars dangling under my arm got broken from my forced fall to the pavement. I didn’t feel much pain right away and until some young M.P.s came around almost immediately to assist. I only then realized that one of my fingers was bleeding. A woman holding a young girl insisted that I get checked out right away. I realized my ball cap was missing and eventually found that it had landed on impact in the bed of the Gator. The MPs took information, contacted their chain of command, and an EMT was there to put a clip on my finger to check my pulse – “104,” he said. I think they were most worried about me passing out. My head never touched the ground, but I kind of got whip-lashed as I went down. With a sister that had complications after a car accident she walked away from a few years ago, I agreed to have things checked out with first aid on the other side of the stadium. I figured better safe than sorry. and I wanted it all on record just in case. I refused to be taken to a hospital (I didn’t want to explain to anyone then that the reason was Game # 523). I felt ok. The MPs asked for info to file a report. Then, several soldiers escorted me on the way to the first aid station under the west side of the stadium.
There, they took care of the abrasions I originally didn’t feel on my right elbow and ankle (No, I wasn’t wearing my shorts as usual, luckily). The Army emergency doctor saw a red mark on my back and figured I would be feeling it more later. They were concerned, and took good care of me. My BP normalized and an EMT, Paul, took care of my abrasions we were aware of. The Army doctor gave me some Motrin, but had no water, of all things. Another Army officer in civvies apparently planning to attend the game came in to see me. I think that they were most concerned that I may have injured my head and kept me talking. Brian could hear in the waiting room just on the other side of a curtain. He told the others, I hear him talking a lot. He’s fine. Of course, they got me talking about college football, so what would he have expected?
Of course, the topic came up that I was a Navy and Penn State fan. The visiting officer asked me what my affiliation was with the Navy. I admitted to the West Pointers that I had attended Annapolis for two years, but their attempts to make me into an engineer just didn’t work out. I also told him that my son is a Petty Officer in the Navy down in Little Creek to which he responded, “Uh-rah”.
Then, he finally got into who I was rooting for today. I told him I was rooting for Army today because I wanted the Army-Navy game to be a battle for the CIC Trophy. If Army won today and Navy beat them in December, the Trophy would remain in Annapolis. I told him that I was at the Army win over Temple and the loss to Buffalo. I told him Army has the right coach for their program in Jeff Monken. Of course, they were all impressed when I told them today’s game was my 523rd, and that I was still married to the same woman and raised two kids. Then the question came up for my prediction about today’s game against the Air Force Falcons. He pressed me adding,” if you were a betting man.”
To his chagrin I’m sure, I told him I had to go with Air Force.’ Both teams knew how to defend against the option, and the winner would have to find a way to win by passing today.’ I gave that advantage to Air Force.’ That’s how they beat Navy this year I told him, and in back of my mind I remembered how they beat Utah State 35-28, in my first trip to Colorado Springs the previous season. I saw Jalen Robinette have a big day. Army couldn’t match them with Bradshaw who I’ve seen play during the last two seasons. By this time, Brian came in and told me I should have told them I was predicting Army to win. He said, “These guys are here to save your life.” They asked. I told them how I saw it. I felt my head was clear, but I was just hoping everything would turn out to be alright. Read on.
You’ll see that my prediction was pretty much on target. (Update: feeling ok on Sunday. New bandages and lots of Neosporin. My back is feeling better. Back to the gym before work again on Monday morning. Thanks to all the people that looked out for me after the accident. I appreciate that they cared so much and convinced me to get looked at). Note the limited pictures for this game. Eventually my zoom lense could not open. Not sure if it was from the fall or not. No Binos. No camera. I just continued to make my observations from high above with my bird’s eye view up in section U-15.
The Air Force Falcons got to work on their first series to start the second half. Their 70-yard drive resulted in a 46-yard TD pass from Worthman to RB Jacob Owens who was wide open near the right sideline to extend the Falcon lead, 17-6. Army came right back though to retaliate. Bradshaw led the Black Knights on a 76-yard drive culminating with a five-yard fade pass to WR Edgar Poe in the back corner of the end zone. The Army two-point conversion attempt failed. They trailed now, 17-12, with hopes to challenge the Air Force to get another six for a lead. However, Owens sped 59 yards on a run all the way down to the Black Knight six. At the four, RB Tim McVey took a reverse pitch from the right flank to carry the ball on a sweep left for an Air Force Falcon lead of 24-12.
To begin the fourth, the two arch-rivals exchanged punts. On the next USAFA possession starting from their 45, Worthman ran a delayed draw up the middle from the three to give the Air Force Falcons a 31-12 lead with 8:36 left. Army started to drive again from its 21. The Black Knight drive ended as did three other drives collegefootballfan.com witnessed within the last 24 hours. Falcon CB Roland Ludipo intercepted a pass in the end zone. Air Force was leaving now with a stop on the flight home in Annapolis, Maryland to pick up their new hardware for their trophy case. This will be the 21st season since 1972 that the Air force will celebrate having the Trophy back in Colorado Springs (Navy 18, Army 6, last time in 1996).
Well my pre-game pregame prediction “if I were a betting man” was spot on. And I am feeling better. Today (Monday), I received a survey from West Point to rate different facets of attending an Army game. This wasn’t my first survey. I gave the Black Knight Alley a very unsatisfied rating based on the lack of a safety policy in place that could get people more hurt like I was.
The Air Force Falcons return to Mountain West Conference play next week when the meet Colorado State (5-4). Army has a tough task next Saturday when they meet Notre Dame (3-6) in San Antonio. The Irish come off a 28-27 loss to Navy, who runs the triple option better than Army does. The Irish should be well-prepared. Collegefootballfan.com heads to another big game in Annapolis, where the Mids (6-2, 5-1) host Tulsa (7-2, 5-1) for first place in the AAC west. If Navy wins, they still have to beat East Carolina and SMU after to get into the title game. If they do and then play Temple in the title game in Annapolis or Philly, we will be there on December 3. One week later, we will definitely be in Baltimore for the Army-Navy game. Tulsa scores a lot of points, but they give up a lot, and with Navy’s ball control style at a home game in front of a fired-up Brigade where they’ve won 14 straight, we give them the edge. Go Navy! We hope that we will come away with better memories of the upcoming games than we what we came away with this week.