November 4, 2012

Army Goes Lights Out On Defense

The question that was sure to be on answered on Saturday was whether or not Army had a shot against Navy in the last game of their season. Since Navy triumphed over Air Force earlier in the season with a small margin of victory, Army fans knew that after Saturday's game, they have more than just a fighting chance against their historic rival Navy.

All odds seemed against Army. Historically looking at the matchup between the Black Knights and Falcons, the last time Army won was in 2005 at Colorado. Before 2005, Air Force won eight straight times.

Before the game started, it appeared as if Air Force would be without the services of running back Cody Getz their leading rusher and 11th overall in the nation in rushing, but who was still on the road to a full recovery from an injury he suffered two weeks ago. But play he did and on the day Getz would rush for 23 yards on 14 carries and his 1.6 average on the day was well below his season's numbers. This is the same Getz, who was recently added to the Doak Walker Award watch list.

Game Time

Army took possession of the ball first and Black Knights' balanced attack lead by quarterback Trent Steelman took advantage as the senior signal caller punched in from one yard out and a quick touchdown. Conversely, Air Force's offense looked good solid on their first series, as the combination of quarterback, Connor Dietz's arm and legs, along with a 19 yard run by Jon Lee saw the Falcons convert on two straight third downs to bring them to the 13 yard line. On the next play (3rd & goal), Josh Jackson made a visible pass interference call in the end zone, blatantly pushing the receiver when the ball was way overthrown. Instead, Air Force was provided with another opportunity to hit paydirt and that's exactly what they did as RB Wes Cobb walked in from 1-yard out to tie it up 7-7.

On Air Force's next series, the defense continued to struggle as Sam linebacker Justin Trimble was called for a pass interference, where the Falcons would eventually find themselves faced with a 4th & goal at the Army 1-yard line. The Black Knights readied themselves for a crucial goal line stand and the Falcons decided to utilizes Dietz's leg on a quarterback sneak. From a fan's view, it looked as if the ball had crossed the line, but the officials deemed short that resulted in turnover on downs. However, before the play occurred, the power in the stadium had gone out, so the replay cameras were unable to review the play to the disgust of Coach Troy Calhoun. However, Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson offered a different perspective.

"There was no replay, yeah ... Remember last year?", said Ellerson. "There was a play at the goal line that went the other way so I figure there is some balance in the universe."

In the second quarter, the defense looked completely revamped, stopping the run three times to force a three and out. On the next defensive series, Dietz saw immense pressure from Geoffrey Bacon as the freshman linebacker delivered a huge hit right as he threw the ball on their first play. Freshman free safety Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires intercepted it and gave the ball back to Army. On the very next defensive series, Bacon followed it with an interception of his own and it looked like he was going to return it for a score, but was brought down close to the fifty.

When the 3rd quarter arrived, there was still the feeling of skepticism from the Army faithful, who knew that Air Force has been a solid 3rd quarter team or perhaps having flashbacks to 2011 against Air Force, who put up 21 points in the third quarter overcoming a 14-0 deficit. However, the Black Knights' defense continued its' dominate performance in the 3rd, forcing Air Force to punt three straight times as the Falcons were unable to even get a first down.

With Army's offense almost scoring at will, all the defense had to do was contain their academy rival in the 4th quarter. But Air Force was just not going to rollover and play dead, as was confirmed when Dietz hit on a 55 yard pass with cornerback Chris Carnegie on the coverage and taking the ball to the 1-yard line. Three plays later, Air Force RB Jon Lee scored on a four yard carry making it 35-14, Army. With about eight minutes left in the contest, Air Force was left with no option but to attempt an onside kick. To the dismay of Army fans, they managed to recover the onside kick and give the Falcons another opportunity to score and six plays later, Connor Dietz scored from 13 yards out. Army's lead had been reduced to 35-21.

However, the straw that broke the back for any chance of an Air Force comeback occurred on their next possession. With 2:50 remaining in the game, the ball on their own 17 yard line, Air Force in spread formation succumbs to an array center's snap that goes past Dietz and into the end zone. Dietz was unable to scoop up the ball as defensive tackle Joe Drummond came crashing into quarterback's hands as soon as he touched the ball until finally linebacker Nate Combs made the recovery, registering an Army touchdown and sealing the game at 41-21.

This is the moment Army fans have all been waiting for. With a win over Air Force, this makes the game against Navy a winner-take-all showdown for the Commander-in-Chief's trophy.

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