Last Second Field Goal Propels Navy Past Air Force, 27-24
Matt Hall is brought down by Air Force defender's during the first quarter. (AP Photo/Matthew S. Gunby)
Oct. 8, 2005
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Trailing by seven points against Air Force with 3 minutes left, Navy appeared destined to relinquish its grip on the coveted Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
The Midshipmen had gone 24 minutes since their last touchdown, and now they faced a fourth down on their own 29.
"We stayed calm," quarterback Lamar Owens said. "We can score quickly when we are doing things right."
Owens ran 2 yards for a first down, and Navy scored 10 points in the final 2 1/2 minutes to pull out a 27-24 victory Saturday.
Joey Bullen kicked a 46-yard field goal with 0.4 seconds left, capping a stunning comeback before 35,211 rain-soaked, appreciative fans.
Three plays after Owens' first-down rush, Reggie Campbell tied it with a 40-yard run with 2:22 to go. Then, after a shanked 9-yard punt by Air Force's Donny Heaton, the Midshipmen moved 7 yards to set up Bullen's game-winner.
"We just found a way to make one more play at the end," Navy coach Paul Johnson said.
The victory gives Navy (2-2) a leg up in its quest to retain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in games between the three major service academies. Navy won it in 2003 and 2004, and will retain the trophy unless winless Army beats Air Force and Navy.
"We now control our own destiny," Johnson said. "We still will have to beat Army, but at least things are up to us and we don't have to worry about needing a win from someone else."
Air Force (2-4) has lost four straight, and this one - against its archrival - surely hurt more than the rest. The Falcons never trailed until Bullen's low-flying kick sailed through the uprights.
"We had control of the football game, and we let it slip it away from us," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said.
The Falcons made one first down in the fourth quarter.
"They didn't put us away. They let us hang around," Owens said. "When you let a hungry team hang around, that kind of stuff happens."
Jason Tomlinson had four catches for 114 yards and a touchdown for Navy, which has three straight wins over Air Force for first time since 1977-79.
Shaun Carney threw two touchdown passes and ran for 71 yards for the Falcons, who led 24-14 in the third quarter.
"It hurts. The goals of our program are gone," Carney said. "I guess it's still possible to go to a bowl game, but we've got to play for ourselves."
Down by 10 at the half, Navy closed to 17-14 on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Owens to Tomlinson early in the third quarter.
Air Force answered with a 7-yard TD run by Justin Handley, but Navy made it 24-17 when Tomlinson's 37-yard catch led to a field goal by Bullen with 5 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Midshipmen didn't get into Air Force territory again until Campbell caught a 29-yard pass one play before his touchdown run.
A driving rain let up before the start of the game, but the wet field contributed to five fumbles during a sloppy first half that ended with Air Force up 17-7.
After Navy's opening possession ended with an interception, Air Force peeled off 12 straight runs, half of them by Jacobe Kendrick, to set up a 20-yard field goal by Scott Eberle.
Two plays later, Air Force linebacker Aaron Shanor recovered a fumble on the Navy 27, and the Falcons went up 10-0 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Carney to halfback Chad Smith.
Air Force moved to the Navy 17 on its next possession, but the drive was cut short by Keenan Little's interception in the end zone. The Midshipmen then closed to 10-7 when Karlos Whittaker scored on a 3-yard run to cap a 16-play drive that consumed nearly eight minutes.
The touchdown came with 66 seconds left in the half, but Air Force wasn't done. Carney rolled to his right and threw long down the middle to a wide-open Greg Kirkwood, who caught the ball inside the 5 and squeezed into the end zone with 6 seconds left.