In 2001, just a few months after 9/11, Army defeated Navy 26-17.
The Black Knights had not beaten the Midshipmen since, until today.
Army dominated the first half. Navy fumbled on their opening drive, and Army responded with a touchdown drive. First play of Navy’s next drive, an interception gave the ball right back to Army.
Halftime score: Army 14, Navy 0. There was hope for Army.
Navy was playing without their first two quarterbacks, both out from season-ending injuries. Sophomore Zach Abey made his first career start in Navy’s biggest game of the year, and he felt the stress and the burden of this game in the first half. You could tell he was overwhelmed by the moment.
He settled in during halftime and Navy got momentum. Just like Navy had done in the first half, Army fumbled on their opening drive of the second half, and Navy responded with a touchdown drive. Navy would later add on a field goal, and the third quarter ended with Army still leading, but only 14-10.
Then came the run. Abey ran 41 yards and broke multiple tackles to give Navy the 17-14 lead, and Army fans worldwide could feel it slipping away yet again.
But Army would not go down quietly. Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw responded to his Navy counterpart with a touchdown run of his own to reclaim the lead.
Navy gets the ball back, but goes 3-and-out. With only just over four minutes left and only one time out, Navy makes the decision to punt. That’s a decision that will haunt Navy for the next year as Army collected two first downs and ran out the clock as the cadets stormed the field in Baltimore.
Navy was a battered and tired team. Army had had a few weeks off, but Navy had played eight straight games, to include last week in the AAC championship game, a loss to Temple. Navy showed their fatigue in the first half but got some momentum in the second half. But Army was the clear winner on the stat sheet. Army had 23 first downs to Navy’s eight, 351 yards to Navy’s 201, and more than twice the time of possession. Army also did not have a single penalty in the entire game. Navy had three for 15 yards.
In true Army-Navy fashion, the two teams combined for 14 total pass attempts. Three of those were interceptions. There were eight combined catches, but only two from Army as Bradshaw went 2/4 passing. The game was sloppy at times, with seven combined turnovers. But none of that matters to Jeff Monken. Only one thing matters: Army. Beat. Navy. For the first time in 15 years, West Point’s alma mater was played second.
What does this mean going forward? As mentioned before, Navy was tired after having played eight straight, whereas Army had two weeks off going in. The way Navy played in the third quarter, you have to wonder what would have happened if Navy hadn’t played in the AAC championship game the week before. Navy would have had more time to rest and prepare. QB Will Worth and running back Toneo Gulley would have both been healthy. Navy could have made it 15 straight.
Regardless, both teams now turn their attention to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Navy (9-4) will play C-USA West champ Louisiana Tech (8-5) in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on December 23, while Army (7-5) will face C-USA West’s North Texas (5-7) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in the old Cotton Bowl on December 27.