Air Force Halts Navy Comeback, Survives 35-34 in OT
Down by 18, on two occasions, Navy storms back to force overtime, but ultimately falls to Air Force, 35-34.
Trailing rival Air Force for most of the game, Navy football stormed back to force overtime before falling 35-34, on Saturday. Yet, it's an overtime penalty in the back of the endzone that everyone will remember.
"I'm at a loss for words," Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said.
After Kriss Proctor barrelled into the endzone to give Navy its first lead of the day, the senior quarterback was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Mids were forced to kick a 25-yard extra point, that the Falcons blocked. Air Forced scored on its possession and knocked off the Mids at home.
"Some guy got in my way and I just told him to move explicitly," Proctor said. "It's unfortunate that the refs made a call like that."
Proctor, who rushed for 148 yards in the loss, ran for two scores and threw for another in the second half to help Navy storm back and force overtime.
"It shouldn't come down to a ref's call at the end of a game. This is an emotional game, you should know that as a ref," Navy fullback Alexander Teich said. "It's disappointing. It's pitiful really, it's pitiful. I'm so upset about that."
The loss to Air Force is the second consecutive for Navy, ending any hope of returning the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy to Annapolis.
On the opening drive, Falcons flew threw the Navy defense almost as quick as the Navy jets that fly overhead before kick-off. Quarterback Tim Jefferson hit Ty MacArthur over the middle for a tackle-breaking 52-yard touchdown.
After a Navy punt, Jefferson carried on seven of Air Force's next 13 plays, gaining 36 yards. He capped the drive with a two-yard plunge, as Air Force jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
Navy finally got on the scoreboard with a 25-yard field goal from Jon Teague, but Air Force's offense continued to march through the Navy defense. The Falcons finished their eight play, 75-yard drive with a 23-yard run to the corner of the endzone by Asher Clark. Air Force lead 21-3.
In typical Navy fashion, the Mids chewed up 9:48 in possession, on 18 plays, but then came away empty handed when Teague missed a 26-yard field goal from the left hash mark.
The first half ended with Alex Means intercepting Proctor, as the Mids failed to cut the deficit before the half. The Mids trailed 21-3 at the break.
Proctor would reach the endzone with five minutes left in the third quarter. He broke the plane from two-yards out, as Navy cut the lead to 21-10.
Jabaree Tuani recovered a fumble on the next Air Force possession, giving the Mids a great opportunity to bring the game within a score. An intentional grounding play squandered any chance of a Navy score, as they were forced to punt.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Clark found the endzone from six yards out. Clark started the drive with a 46-yard run before scoring his second touchdown on the ground, as the Falcons led 28-10.
Navy then strung together 18 consecutive points on their next three drives. Proctor scored on a seven-yard run and Teague converted a 37-yard kick to bring Navy within eight points.
An onside kick by Teague took a lucky bounce and wound up in the hands of junior receiver Brandon Turner. A spectacular 27-yard run by Proctor kept the Mids going before Gee Gee Greene hauled in a five-yard touchdown reception.
"This kid was making plays that I don't know if Mike Vick makes," Teich said about his quarterback.
The Mids broke even on a option play to Teich in the right corner of the endzone to tie the game and eventually force overtime.
Proctor yet again found the endzone for Navy, scoring from one yard out, but oddly enough that's where things went wrong. Proctor was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The extra point was blocked, as Navy now needed to protect its six-point lead.
"I felt we had them reeling. Everything was going our way until the penalty," Niumatalolo said. "That is an unfortunate call to make in a hard-fought game."
On his third try, Jefferson plunged over the goalline to even the score up. The extra point by Parker Herrington sealed the emotional win for the Falcons, who stormed the field in celebration.
"It was a huge penalty. It changed everything. I hope they [officials] can sleep well tonight," Niumatalolo said.
Notes: Air Force, who ran for 230 yards, entered the game leading the country in rushing at 411.7 yards per game. Until MacArthur's touchdown reception on the opening drive, the Navy defense had not allowed a passing touchdown this season. The Air Force defense allowed its first touchdown against Navy since the first quarter of their 2009 meeting in Annapolis. Navy is 16-2 in its last 18 service academy games, with both defeats coming at the hands of the Falcons. The announced attendance of 37,506 is the 5th largest in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium history.