Air Force-Navy, As It Happened

It was thrilling. It was inspiring. And then it ended in a black cloud of controversy. Did Kriss Proctor cross a line in terms of behavior, or was he simply celebrating? That's the question everyone's asking in the world of service academy football.


13:30 left, first quarter:Uhh, there's this thing called tackling, and Navy's secondary just forgot how to perform it. Commander-In-Chief games are usually defense-dominated slugfests; giving up cheap points is the worst possible sin a team can make other than committing a red-zone turnover.

13:20: It's hard to be asleep for a CIC game, but give the Midshipmen credit: They manage to do difficult things all the time. Seriously, what a dozy, sleepyhead start for the cobwebby Mids.

10:33: The great thing about struggling and getting your head handed back to you on a platter in the early stages of a game is that… it's early.

8:49: No coach likes to hear this, but Ken Niumatalolo can't deny that Air Force is simply playing faster and harder than Navy at the moment. The effort level and energy are much greater for the kids with "Service" and "Freedom" on their backs.

4:45: Air Force is 5-for-5 on third downs, and is simply muscling Navy out of the way. The Falcons' offensive line is shoving the Mids away from the line of scrimmage, and in one-on-one situations involving a ballcarrier (normally AFA quarterback Tim Jefferson) and a defender, Air Force is bouncing forward after contact, gaining extra yards and owning every ounce of leverage. This is an old-fashioned, bare-knuckle beatdown with very little finesse involved. It's an extremely disappointing start for a team that had a year to let its loss of the CIC Trophy serve as motivation for this afternoon's season-defining encounter.

4:31: It's not too early to say that this is a must-score drive for Navy. Maybe not a touchdown at this early stage, but certainly something to stem the tide. Navy's not going to come back from a 21-point deficit. This team's not built to win that way.

2:31: PULSE DETECTED!

0:14: Kriss Proctor had his receiver open in the early stages of that play, but because of pressure from the Air Force front four, he wasn't able to make the throw at the right time. The Falcons played the solid red-zone defense Navy lacked a sequence earlier. It's not a touchdown, but a field goal interrupts Air Force's flow of dominance.

End of First Quarter: Air Force 14, Navy 3. Yes, Air Force is mixing up its offensive looks to great effect, but this is more of an effort game than a strategy game. The Falcons played with so much more passion until the final three minutes of the period. The Mids have to get after it on defense and force the Falcons to doubt themselves… something which has consistently happened over the past eight years whenever this game has been played in Annapolis.

14:10 left, second quarter: Air Force used an I-formation look but then ran an option-style play. Navy's linebackers sat back in the gap, waiting for Jefferson to do something, instead of attacking the gap and shutting off Jefferson's running lane. Great tactics by Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, but once again, Navy's passivity is playing into the Falcons' hands.

12:27: Mismatch. Air Force's offense didn't explode – to say the very least – even when the Falcons won last year's game in Colorado Springs. AFA's offense has never gone off against the Mids during Navy's run of CIC dominance. This is stunning, and I double-dog dare you to find anyone who saw this coming. Air Force is averaging eight yards per play. EIGHT! That says it all.

9:53: Ken Niumatalolo - ONIONS. Big brass balls. Love it!

8:15: Navy had no choice. That conversion, though, can't be the high point of this drive; it needs to lead to seven points.

6:31: Let it be known that it took 23 and a half minutes for Navy's triple option to generate a successful pitch play.

4:02: Navy has failed to score a touchdown on its last five red-zone trips against Air Force dating back to last year. A touchdown here is a must.

3:14: Stoned again. Air Force's push was substantial, and the play had no chance.

2:53: Eighteen plays. Two fourth-down conversions. A lot of moxie and resilience. A trip inside the 10-yard line. No points. This game feels over. Air Force, by making the big plays in the most important situations – namely, in the red zone – is doing to Navy what the Mids did to the Falcons from 2003 through 2009. Last year's game was an even fight that Navy lost because of crucial mistakes in the red zone. The Mids contained the Falcons' offense from start to finish. This game, on the other hand, is a true demonstration of Air Force excellence, a ringing display of physical superiority at the right times and places.

1:31: Just when Navy's offense owned a glimmer of hope due to the prospect of good field position, the Mids' kick returner, Gary Myers, lined up too close to the punt and misjudged it. The misplay leads to a 65-yard net exchange in field position, and with that goes Navy's last best chance to make a pre-halftime dent in this AFA bulge.

Halftime: Air Force 21, Navy 3. Well, that was a beatdown for 25 minutes and a red-zone impotence exhibition for the other five minutes. Last year's game in Colorado was played on even terms; not this one. Navy has to be so much better in the second half just to make things remotely interesting. We'll see if the Mids can take the second-half kickoff and score – that's really a non-negotiable necessity at this point.

9:59 left, third quarter: Navy still can't hit the perimeter with the triple option, and since Air Force has an 18-point cushion to work with, the Mids can't snooker the Falcons' defense with the element of surprise. Navy is hamstrung, and there's no getting around that reality at the moment. Dramatic things have to happen… quickly.

7:56: That counts as something dramatic, Gary Myers – well done! However, Navy will almost certainly have to deal with a red-zone situation in the coming minutes.

7:45: Well, maybe Navy won't have to face a red-zone situation… because of an utter lack of composure by John Howell. Navy won't even make the red zone.

7:26: Then again… Proctor could convert a 3rd-and-23 with a pass, just like everyone expected. I give up.

5:02: Navy finally converts in the red zone. Proctor – who has been unspectacular but poised today; he hasn't gotten help from his linemen – bounces off a defender and makes a second-effort play worth lauding. Now, the money question: Can Navy's defense, which has flown around the field the past few series in a 21-3 game, produce a stop in a 21-10 contest with a renewed amount of intrigue? This is Navy's portal to competitiveness; if Air Force gets a touchdown, though, you can pretty much put this game in the deep freeze.

4:02: SOMETHING DRAMATIC HAPPENED AGAIN!!!

2:27: There's no need to argue if the rule was broken or not. However, in 2012, it should not be intentional grounding if a player other than the quarterback is out of the pocket. What an utterly stupid rule. Don't run gadget plays, college football coaches – your receiver or running back can't ground the ball if the play breaks down. What stupidity on the part of the designers of the college football rulebook.

1:53: Something dramatic just happened… in Air Force's favor. That failed drive was undeniably destructive for Navy's comeback hopes. Air Force has regained energy and momentum, and the hour grows late in the state of Maryland.

End of third quarter: Air Force 21, Navy 10. Navy's earlier red-zone failures loom large right now, as does that failed drive late in the third. If Air Force sticks the pigskin in the end zone at the start of the fourth, let's be honest: Curtains.

14:55 left, fourth quarter: No containment on the edge. The Mids saw the play developing precisely after they had lost the ability to do anything about it. That's the story of a game in which the other team has all the answers and executes better while also playing harder.

9:36: Okay, another touchdown when trailing by 18. Nothing to say unless or until the Mids get another half-chance in an 11-point contest. And yes, that burned timeout on a conversion was horrible. Take a five-yard delay penalty and kick the one-point PAT instead of using a precious second-half timeout… especially against a running team.

6:00: Proctor has to get out of bounds there. He had EVERY opportunity to do so.

4:16: Navy isn't just playing Air Force; it's playing the clock. Moreover, that wasted timeout on the PAT several minutes earlier hampers the Mids' ability to manipulate the clock.

2:08: Yep, you have to play for two possessions. Proper decision.

2:04: SHADES OF THE NOTRE DAME GAME IN 2008!!!!!! Navy at least has a chance.

1:28: How many spin moves did Proctor make? What's really important about that play is that Navy has gotten inside the Air Force 30 with plenty of time left.

0:37: Navy has two timeouts and can calmly run (and choose) four plays here. No need to rush.

0:32: Alexander Teich, you have to catch that.

0:20: One two-point try after that circus catch. Please.

0:20: How sweet it is not just to tie the game, but to do it with an option PITCH. To the edge. With PATIENCE. Navy never looked like it had a good chance to tie this game… not with its limited passing game… until the very end. Just incredible. I'm not going to lie – I thought this was a done deal when Air Force went up 28-10 early in the fourth quarter. Somebody didn't give up the ship, though.

END OF FOURTH QUARTER: Navy 28, Air Force 28. Just a whole lot of WOW in those final nine minutes at Memorial Stadium. That said, the Mids now have to finish and sustain this momentum they own.

OVERTIME: Navy must go for it. Not even a choice.

OVERTIME: Randy Cross of CBS is knocking the ball out of the park with his analysis. The ball should definitely be moved forward here. BRUTAL failure to change the call.

OVERTIME: Never before was an overtime touchdown met with such anger. The celebration penalty called on Kriss Proctor is going to cost Navy the game. Unreal.

OVERTIME: No one on the CBS broadcast identified when or where or how Kriss Proctor violated the standards of (un)sportsmanlike conduct. A great college football game was played in Annapolis today. Two teams spilled their guts, and Navy made a classic comeback. Yet, all we're going to talk about is a celebration penalty. That's a shame, as is the fact that Navy's brilliant effort will meet with defeat for reasons that had nothing to do with Air Force or any actual element of football.
Final score: Air Force 35, Navy 34 (OT).

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