December 12, 2010

Navy topples Army 31-17

The setting was perfect, as you could not ask for better football weather in December for the Northeast region. As the sold-out crowd of 69,223 packed themselves into Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles to see what had all the makings of a classic Army-Navy game.

This was the 111th meeting between this two academy rivals, with Army entering the game at 6-5, while Navy maintained a record of 8-3 and neither was looking ahead to their upcoming bowl games … this was the bowl game, Army vs. Navy.

However, the first two possessions of the game could best describe as a game of "hot potato", as each turned the ball over. Ironically, it was each teams main offensive threat that provided the opening mistakes.

On Navy's second play of the game from their on 47 yard line, quarterback Ricky Dobbs took a hit from linebacker Stephen Anderson that forced a fumble that was recovered by strong safety Donnie Dixon.

Two plays later on 2nd and 11 at the Navy 48 yard line, fullback Jared Hassin returned the favor by coughing up the ball after being hit by linebacker Tyler Simmons …. Sound familiar?

As the dust settle after the brief game of give away, the contest took on a different identity … one that is becoming too familiar to Army players, coaches and fans, as well as the Navy enthusiasts. The Black Knights decided to play the role of little brother, where they just seem to be glad that big brother was allowing them to straggle along for the ride.

As such, Hobbs and Navy's offense were able to overcome the senior quarterback's three fumbles (turnovers) and one interception, where he threw two timely touchdown passes.
The first of his two went to slotback John Howell coming on a 2nd & 6 from the Navy 23 yard line and 8:55 on the clock. Howell shifted to the slot receiver position and blew by Dixon and pulled down only his second career reception, which was a thing of beauty. Hobbs' perfectly throw pass was caught in stride by Howell at the 35 yard line of Army and he outran a diving Dixon for the first touchdown of the game, which provided Navy with a 10-0 lead.

Which is how the 1st quarter ended, as Army's offense was stifled and recorded two 3 and out series during the period.

Unfortunately for the Army fans, the same could not be said about the Midshipmen's offense, which picked up on their first series of the 2nd quarter where it left off in the previous quarter.

With just one minute off the 2nd quarter clock, Navy was faced with a 1st & 10 at the Army 32 yard line. Dobbs, who is the Midshipmen's leading rusher, again relied on his arm versus his legs as he hit wide receiver Brandon Turner on a 32 yard strike over cornerback Antuan Aaron for another Navy score and a 17-0 lead.

At this stage of the game, Navy was playing faster, executing better and hitting harder than their Army counterparts.

Once again, Navy defense holds Army to a three and out and it appeared that this game would be over before half time. But the defense that had been unable to find an answer did just that. With 11:30 remaining in the quarter, defensive end Josh McNary stripped Dobbs of the on the Navy 23 yard line and this was the break that Army desperately needed.

Six plays later and a nice play action fake by quarterback Trent Steelman, he was able to find slotback Malcolm Brown in the end zone for a five yard touchdown pass and reduce Navy's lead to 17-7.

Brown's scored represented Army's first touchdown against Navy since 2006 and the Black Knights were hoping to add more.

Army's hope became a reality as the defense answered the call once more. On Navy's ensuing possession, McNary stripes the ball away from Dobbs again and it's recovered by Anderson on the Navy 49 yard line.

Clearly the "Mo" was beginning to shift and the Black Knights offense joined in. On a drive that saw Steelman, Hassin, Patrick Mealy and Brian Cobbs move the ball on eleven plays to the Navy 3 yard line, 1st & goal and 1:30 remaining, Army was back in the ball game. Taking into consideration that the Black Knights would open the 3rd quarter receiving the ball.

It surely appeared that whatever initial jitters or little brother syndrome that existed, it was out of Army's system and it would now come down to who would blink first in the 2nd half of the game.

The Fumble

As Steelman took the snap and attempted to sneak in off right tackle, he was met by 3-4 Midshipmen and somehow/someway the ball pops up and out and right into the arms of safety Wyatt Middleton who pranced 98 yards for a 14 point turnaround that put Navy ahead 24-7

If you know anything about this team and this staff, they weren't going to give up and if you listen to what Anderson (Click Here) had to say at halftime, you know this is a resilient group of players.

But this would be one mountain that would be too hard to climb. In the second half the teams exchanged touchdowns and Army added three more on Alex Carlton's 42 yard field goal, but this was Navy's day and one that will have fans talking for years to come.

Final Score:

Navy 31
Army 17

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