112th Army-Navy Game: As It Happened
13:03 left, first quarter: Converting its first third down of the game should give Army's offense a needed lift. It's not rocket science or a remotely original observation today, but it's the most salient one to be found at FedEx Field: Army has to get off to a strong start, and by strong start, I mean "a seven-point lead." Make Navy and Kriss Proctor press.
11:09: That last failed series of downs provides the biggest X-and-O element of this game: These offenses need to hit the downfield pass. Army couldn't do so on second and long; ergo, Army punts. Not complicated, I know, but this game will be decided in very simple ways; it almost always is.
6:50: This is a supreme no-brainer of a decision for Ken Niumatalolo.
6:44: That was also a very likely conversion for the Mids.
6:28: If Navy can establish the fullback with any appreciable consistency, Army fans don't need the blank to be filled in. Moreover, they don't want it to be.
4:55: Speaking of blanks that don't need to be filled in, let's try these blanks: Army fans just now: "____, YES!!!!!" Navy fans just now: "_________!" Army, as you know, has killed itself in this series with turnovers throughout the years. Now, Navy – a team that has managed to steal defeat from victory this season – sabotages its own drive by coughing up the pill. Again, this game is decided in simple ways.
1:58: Army is insistent on being the team to give away this game. The Black Knights knew, after last year's loss, that they simply had to be airtight with the ball. So much for that.
1:06: The wisdom of this first quarter can be found in a real estate agent's manual: location, location, location. Navy fumbled near Army's goal line, while Army fumbled in the fourth of the field near its own goal line. Navy squandered a touchdown because of its fumble, but Army essentially donated the touchdown with a fumble in the wrong sector of the gridiron.
End of First Quarter Score: Navy 7, Army 0. We interrupt this CBS commercial to play a few minutes of football. Seriously, Black Rock – you must be trying to squeeze three hours out of this broadcast window, but that's not how Army and Navy roll.
14:31 left, second quarter:Ian Shields, Army's offensive coordinator, told Gary Danielson that the Black Knights are on the verge of having "a really good offense." Ian, that's not what you say when you're 3-8.
12:32: Not "a really good offense" there, Mr. Shields. Ugh, ugh, ugh. How can a coach at the United States Military Academy say something so foolish? (Not harmful at all, of course, but certainly foolish.) Mercy.
10:26: What's likely to keep Army in this game is that Navy's offense isn't what it used to be. Army stopped the fullback portion of the triple option on that series of downs, and in a passing situation, Navy just hasn't answered the bell this season. If Army can create 3rd and 9 on a regular basis, Navy simply isn't going to move the ball.
10:20: It's Groundhog Day for Army's offense in the Army-Navy Game.
7:05: Great decision by Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper to stick with the ground game on 3rd and 7 from the 9. Even better execution by Proctor, and now the Army sideline has to be swimming in memories of last year's game in Philadelphia. Navy will win this game as long as it doesn't turn the ball over.
6:13: Army's Malcolm Brown is doing his part for Army, running with noticeable strength and authoritativeness.
4:22: Okay, Army – you've driven two-thirds of the field in impressive fashion, but can you close the sale? Let's see what you have to offer.
3:34: Trent Steelman says, "I got your answer right here, pal." No one needs to say how important that drive was for Army. What IS worth noting is that the Black Knights showed a profound amount of resilience on that drive. If the Black Knights had gone three-and-out, Navy would have been in position to land a kill shot. Now, it's very much a contest once again. The bad memories of 2010 have receded… at least for now.
2:52: Football fans are familiar with the expression "flip the field." Army has flipped momentum, physicality, flow, and everything else about this contest in a very short span of time.
1:00: Army is dominating, but it needs to get to the line of scrimmage so that it can run its full complement of running plays…
0:55 Or it can do what it just did: use its final timeout. Two plays need to be called on the sidelines right now.
0:49: That did not look like a touchdown, but two things are worth noting: 1) CBS's one goal-line camera angle was obscured by a pile of bodies and the far-side official. 2) Army got stiffed on a goal-line ruling in another Commander-In-Chief's Trophy game against Air Force, so the scales of justice evened out for the Black Knights. Army deserves this 14-all tie at this point.
Halftime: Army 14, Navy 14. Army has managed to respond to a very adverse situation by dominating the Midshipmen on both sides of the ball. The Black Knights are running downhill right now, and Navy is getting steamrolled. So much for the notion that Navy turnovers would need to help Army mount a comeback. The Black Knights have never had a better second-half outlook in this game since they last won in 2001. We'll see if coach Rich Ellerson's team can focus and finish, to borrow the phrase from Marty Schottenheimer.
14:52 left, third quarter: It doesn't guarantee much of anything, but Navy needed that kickoff return by Alexander Teich.
12:43: In two minutes and nine seconds, everyone at FedEx Field – and the global television audience – just saw how important Teich's kickoff really was. Navy needed a dose of confidence, and that kickoff return transformed the emotional dynamics of a game that is now impossible to predict. Army came back when it seemed it was about to get knocked out. Now Navy has responded precisely when the Black Knights had everything flowing in their direction.
10:20: What does Ian Shields have in the grab bag for 3rd and 7?
9:45: THAT, Ian Shields? THAT will work. That will work well. There's your big Army pass play, the very ingredient that's been missing from the West Point arsenal over the past nine seasons. What a thunderbolt in so many senses of the term.
8:30: After two and a half quarters, Kriss Proctor has become the top individual provider of turnovers in this game. Army has the upper hand. Let's see what the Black Knights do with their rare position of leverage.
8:17: They do THAT. Wow.
8:07: And then THAT!
6:15: Does anyone have the slightest clue how this game is going to end? It's a tension-filled time for Navy, but it's great to have an Army-Navy Game packed with entertainment and surprising plot twists. It's been entirely too long since we've had a fun Black Knight-Midshipmen matchup on the second Saturday of December.
4:19: Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper bet big with a second straight pass play on 2nd and 10. He didn't lose his shirt. Anything but. I can't imagine many people felt Navy would throw the ball on consecutive snaps.
0:40: Is this two and a half yards or one and a half yards? Looks like one and a half yards (Am I getting older? Yes.) Go for it.
0:28: Ken Niumatalolo can always be trusted to go for it when all the cards are on the table. Superb execution from Proctor.
End of third quarter: Army 21, Navy 21. This is fun! Ball security, gap integrity, play-calling variations. May the better team win.
14:19 left, fourth quarter: Navy ballcarriers are simply not wrapping up the pigskin with two hands. It could burn the Midshipmen; it already has in prior games this season. Heck, it's why the Mids won't be going to a bowl game in 2011.
12:58: WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. The third-and-goal false start from the 1 is football's most significant penalty. Unbelievable.
12:03: Is this Army's game to lose? Yes or no, let's at least say this: You would not be terribly (or even slightly) irrational to think as much. That's a rare thought for the fourth quarter of a 21st-century edition of Army-Navy.
11:51: Ummmmmmmmmmmmm, so… about this being Army's game to lose………. Just WOW.
10:36: Navy needs to approach this as a two-play situation. A field goal doesn't possess all that much value here, and a long field goal is risky, for obvious reasons.
10:31: Not a good play call. A screen pass or swing pass would have been just the ticket there. You might have to send Teague out there on 4th and 9.
10:26: Big-time kick from Teague, but Army can take the lead with a touchdown. The Black Knights' defense has been very valiant the past two trips. Yes, Navy committed that huge false start, but Army's front seven had to stand tall on first and second down to force Navy to make a mistake. Do keep that point in mind.
6:15: As Army mounts a big drive thanks in part to another clutch pass from Steelman, you can feel the weight of Army's two defensive stands. The Black Knights look like they smell the finish line.
5:32: And of course, as soon as I say that, Navy generates a down-and-distance-changing sack.
4:39: Oh, that timeout makes this play that much more significant. Buckle up…
4:31: Rich Ellerson's fourth-quarter game management was pretty poor in the 2009 Army-Navy Game. Now this. That sound you hear is a deep groan from West Point and from all other places where "Go Army! Beat Navy!" is proclaimed. Army's lack of three timeouts means that even if the Midshipmen punt, the Black Knights will need to throw the ball repeatedly to move downfield and win.
2:24: Another ballsy stop by Army. Niumatalolo should go for it, though. It's who and what he is (and has been) as a coach.
2:04: DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN? DID ANOTHER SHORT-YARDAGE SITUATION INVOLVE A COMPLETE LACK OF DISCIPLINE, FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION? (And can Army possibly feel any worse than it has after its previous nine losses to Navy?) The answer to those three rhetorical questions is the same.
Final score: Navy 27, Army 21. What a gut punch for Army. It was hard to imagine the Black Knights finding a new way to lose to the Midshipmen, but by golly, they did.
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