ANNAPOLIS, MD. It took a field goal in overtime, but Navy averted any doubt about their hold on the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, beating Air Force 16-13 on Saturday.
After Air Force's Erik Soderberg hit a 39-yard field goal as time ran out to send the game to overtime, he was wide left from 31 yards. The Midshipmen won for the seventh straight year.
The Falcons won the toss and elected to start the overtime on defense. Holding Navy to three-and-out, Mids kicker Joe Buckley made a 38-yard field goal.
Air Force then faced a fourth-and-1 at the 16, and Savier Stephens picked up the first down. Gaining no yards on the next three downs, Soderberg came out for the 31-yard try.
"I looked up and it was just trailing to the left," Soderberg said. "I just pulled it."
The Midshipmen did what they do best. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs kept the Navy offense on the field just enough against an Air Force defense that yielded grudgingly.
With 11:18 to play, Buckley made a 37-yard field goal for a 13-10 lead.
Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson left with 6:58 left in the third quarter with what appeared to be an injury to his right ankle, which he previously hurt two weeks ago against New Mexico.
"It hurts," Jefferson said. "We didn't put the ball in the end zone. Our team, we're kind of demoralized, especially the seniors on the squad because they've never beaten this Navy team."
Conner Dietz came in with the Falcons at the Navy 19, but the drive ended on Erik Soderberg's 27-yard field goal that tied the score at 10 with 3:59 left in the third quarter.
Poor field position, penalties and an interception thrown by Jefferson added to Air Force's frustrations. The Falcons' offense played the entire first quarter on its end of the field, and Emmett Merchant's interception at the Navy 42 stymied the only pulse the Falcons showed.
The Falcons had four penalties for 35 yards in the first 15 minutes.
While Air Force's offense fizzled, defensive back Anthony Wright put the Falcons back into the game. He grabbed a Dobbs pass and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown and a tie score at seven with 5:33 left in the half. It was the first interception return for a score against Navy since 2001.
But another Falcons penalty late in the first half gave the Mids more momentum. Defensive back Chris Thomas was charged with a personal foul after the Falcons had stopped a third-down play. The infraction led to a career-long 47-yard field goal by Buckley and a 10-7 Navy lead with eight seconds left in the half.
Air Force Football
- Analyze boxscore for AFA-Navy football Oct. 3.
- View slide show of San Diego St.-Air Force football Sept. 26.
- Analyze boxscore for AFA-New Mexico football Sept. 19.
- Analyze boxscore for AFA-Minnesota football Sept. 12.
- View slide show of Nicholls St.-Air Force football Sept. 5.
- Analyze boxscore for Nicholls St.-Air Force football Sept. 5.
- View slide show of Air Force running back Asher Clark.
- Visit the AFA Stats Page for boxscores, MWC standings, team leaders and more.
Navy 16, Air Force 13, OT
Navy puts away Air Force in OT
Buckley's 38-yard field goal in extra period helps Mids win 7th straight over Falcons
10:48 p.m. EDT, October 3, 2009
Buckley calmly made that kick, showing a glimpse of the steely nerves that would serve him so well against the Falcons. In front of a capacity crowd of 37,820 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Buckley made three field goals, including one from 38 yards out in overtime to give Navy a 16-13 edge.
His Air Force counterpart, sophomore Erik Soderberg, missed a 31-yard attempt that brought the first overtime game between two service academy teams to an end.
"Obviously I'm on cloud nine right now," Buckley said. "It's a dream come true." Buckley's field goals -- coupled with a gritty defensive performance -- helped Navy (3-2) extend its winning streak over service academy teams to 14 games, including seven straight against Air Force (3-2). The victory also gives the Midshipmen a leg up in their quest to win the Commander-in-Chief's trophy for an unprecedented seventh straight year.
"It sets the tone for the rest of our season. We knew this was going to be a fight," junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs said. "I think we took advantage of the opportunity."
This rivalry has been marked by hard-fought games and Saturday's was no exception. For the third straight year, Air Force out-gained the Midshipmen on offense; the Falcons had 240 yards and 14 first downs to Navy's season-low 209 and 10.
The Mids struggled to move the ball throughout the game. Their opening possession was the only one that ended inside Air Force's 20-yard line, and that drive began on the Falcons' 35. Dobbs converted a fourth-and-1 with a tough five-yard run up the middle, and then three plays later, he ran 13 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
That was Navy's longest rush of the game; Dobbs and fullbacks Alexander Teich and Vince Murray combined for 52 of the Midshipmen's 56 carries for the game, and they averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt. Dobbs completed 3 of 4 passes for 36 yards and threw an interception that was returned 67 yards for a touchdown by sophomore cornerback Anthony Wright Jr. Dobbs also fumbled while trying to fight for extra yardage in the fourth quarter.
Navy's defense came up with an interception (by safety Emmett Merchant) and a fumble recovery (by linebacker Ross Pospisil), held the nation's top rushing team to just 183 yards on the ground, and kept the Falcons out of the end zone. Air Force started one drive in the third quarter on Navy's 37-yard line, but the Midshipmen, led by defensive end Jabaree Tuani, forced the Falcons to settle for a field goal.
Air Force trailed, 13-10, heading into the final 3 minutes 32 seconds of regulation. On that last drive, safety Wyatt Middleton broke up a pass and nose guard Jordan Stephens deflected a pass. Middleton appeared to seal a victory by picking off a pass, but linebacker Tony Haberer was called for roughing the passer and the interception was wiped out.
Four plays later, Soderberg's wobbly kick from 39 yards out tied the score at 13 as time expired.