Not many expected the Navy Midshipmen to lose more than three games this season; much less lose three straight to likes of Rutgers, Western Kentucky and Air Force.
But on Saturday in Colorado, that nightmare became a reality for the Midshipmen as they lost 30-21 to the Air Force Academy Falcons. The loss not only marks Navy's fourth of the season and their third straight, but it also puts them in the back seat of the race for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy; the annual contest between the three service academy squads.
Navy (2-4) nearly had a lead heading into halftime in this one, despite trailing by a touchdown. Junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a rushing touchdown that tied the game and then Navy put together a 10-play, 50-yard drive to put kicker Nick Sloan in field goal range.
But, Sloan's struggles continued and he missed his fifth kick of the year, as his try from 38 yards sailed right.
The wheels then fell off for Navy in the second half.
Air Force (4-1) quarterback Kale Pearson marched his squad down the field in 15 plays to end a 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Garrett Griffin. Pearson ended the day with three touchdowns through the air and 61 rushing yards on the ground. Coming into the game, Air Force had the no. 6 rushing offense in the country, but scored all of their touchdowns through the air in this one.
A 22-yard field goal from from Falcons' kicker Will Contat in the fourth quarter appeared to put the game out of reach for the Mids as they trailed by 10 points, but Reynolds hit Navy slot back DeBrandon Sanders on the following drive for a 40-yard touchdown to narrow the lead to three with a little over two minutes remaining.
Air Force recovered the ensuing onside kick from the Mids and Pearson was able to drive the Falcons' offense the remainder of the field before connecting with Garrett Brown for a 13-yard touchdown on fourth down with 38 seconds remaining. A two-point conversion gave the Falcons a nine-point lead and put the game out of reach for the Mids.
Had Navy not put themselves in an early hole, this game would have been much closer, but alas, the mistakes continued to pile up for the Midshipmen as they have all season.
Midway through the first quarter, Navy was putting together what looked like was going to be a scoring drive, and marched 39 yards into Air Force territory in 10 plays, but a botched exchange between quarterback Keenan Reynolds and fullback Noah Copeland resulted in a fumble that the Falcons recovered. Four plays and 59 yards later, Air Force got on the board first because of that Navy turnover as Pearson hit Alex Luowig in the end-zone for a touchdown.
The lost fumble was Navy’s seventh of the year in just six games. Last season, the Mids lost just six fumbles in 13 games.
Mistakes didn't stop there though, on the Falcons' following possession, the Mids fell for a trick play as Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette burned the Navy defense with a wide open pass to Brown for a 54-yard score late in the first quarter.
Navy gave up two turnovers on the day and were called for five penalties for 55 yards. To make matters worse, Reynolds left the game early on Navy's final possession with a wrist injury.
The Midshipmen will look to rebound at home next week against Virginia Military Institute while Air Force goes on the road to take on Utah State.