PHILADELPHIA – Just when you thought Army-Navy couldn’t get any more intense, it snowed.
Then 60 minutes of bruising football came down to squinting through that snow to see where a long field goal attempt would land.
Wide left. Cue the celebration for Army. The Black Knights are back.
Bennett Moehring narrowly missed a 48-yard field goal on the final play and Army held off Navy 14-13 on Saturday to win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996.
Army (9-3) earned its second straight win over Navy (6-6) following 14 straight losses in the series.
“We’ve got seniors in there that went 4-8 as freshmen and 2-10 as sophomores,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “Now they’ve won 17 games in the last two years. Really an incredible change.”
After trailing most of the game, Ahmad Bradshaw pushed over the goal line on a quarterback sneak with 5:10 remaining and Blake Wilson kicked the extra point to put Army ahead.
But Navy’s spectacular Malcolm Perry wasn’t finished.
The quarterback, who ran for 250 yards on 30 carries and a 68-yard score in the second quarter, led Navy to the Army 31 with 3 seconds left.
Navy elected to try a field goal, and after about 10 players used their feet to clear the steady snow during a timeout, Moehring’s kick was long enough but drifted barely left.
“Came up a couple of feet short,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “This is a great rivalry. It was another classic game.”
Army cut its deficit in the series to 60-51-7 in a matchup of bowl-bound teams. The Black Knights claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy thanks to an earlier victory over Air Force.
“That trophy hadn’t been in our possession for 21 years,” said Monken, in his fourth season. “To be able to accomplish that with this team is a great source of pride.”
In a game that included only three passes – Army completed its lone toss – the Black Knights produced a 13-play, 65-yard drive to take a late lead. John Trainor tiptoed the sideline for 8 yards one play before Bradshaw’s 12th touchdown of the season.
Bradshaw also scored the go-ahead touchdown in last year’s victory over Navy.
“I actually don’t think I would’ve gotten in if not for my fullback and my offensive line,” said Bradshaw, who rushed for 94 yards on 21 carries. “I kind of stopped, but I felt like (fullback) Andy (Davidson) picked me up and kind of walked me into the end zone.”
Navy took advantage of the ensuing kickoff going out of bounds and moved down the field. Perry dropped a shotgun snap on fourth down at the Army 37, but picked up the ball and ran for a first down. But Navy committed two false start penalties, making the final field goal attempt more difficult.
Snow started falling in the late morning on the 29-degree day. Workers used blowers to uncover the lines and hashmarks during timeouts as a light snow fell throughout.
The teams, both of whom run the triple-option, combined to complete only 59 passes all season. The snow made both coaches want to throw it even less as Navy went ahead 7-0 on Darnell Woolfolk’s 3-yard run on the opening possession.
The first pass came with under 9 minutes left in the second quarter. Army completed its only pass, a 20-yard wobbler from Bradshaw to Calen Holt, midway through the third quarter.
The weather made one of sports’ biggest rivalries an even more physical contest. Army’s all-white uniforms – a nod to the 10th Mountain Division of World War II – served as almost camouflage in the snow.
Perry was the star through three quarters. Getting the start at quarterback ahead of Zach Abey, his long touchdown run in the second quarter was his third rushing TD of more than 65 yards this season.
Perry looked like he might have another long touchdown run, but he stumbled and fell at the Navy 11 early in the third quarter. Army senior John Voit chased him down.
“I’m not sure if I hit his foot or not,” Voit said. “But I think I got enough where he slipped slipped in the snow and thank God he went down down.”
Army then held Navy to a Moehring’s second field goal, from 24 yards, to make it 13-7 and allow for their fourth quarter comeback.
“There was never a moment our guys doubted we were going to win the game,” Monken said. “When you love a group of people like I love them, I can tell when their emotions change. We never lost momentum.”
Army: Monken has Army on a major upswing. This victory will do wonders for a program that had suffered through the longest losing streak by either team in this rivalry.
Navy: Perry was the fastest and most dangerous player on the field, and Niumatalolo indicated the quarterback job will be his next season. Navy outgunned Army 296-241, but were again hurt by costly penalties.
Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper coached after missing Wednesday’s practice to be with his 14-year-old son. Jarren Jasper has had medical issues as he awaits a heart transplant.
Simone Askew made history when she led the Corps of Cadets in the pregame march-on. Askew is the first black woman to be first captain, the highest student position at West Point.
Trump & Tillerson
A year after attending the game as president-elect, Donald Trump tweeted that he would be watching on TV. “On behalf of an entire Nation, THANK YOU for your sacrifice and service!” the president wrote.
After the game, Trump tweeted: “Great Army – Navy Game. Army wins 14 to 13 and brings home the COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF’S TROPHY! Congratulations!”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson handled the opening coin toss.
Army: Armed Forces Bowl vs. San Diego State on Dec. 23 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Navy: Military Bowl vs. Virginia on Dec. 28 in Annapolis, Maryland.
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