Commander-In-Chief's Classics: Navy's Moment

Navy regularly found a way under Paul Johnson to escape the clutches of the Air Force Academy. This was never more apparent than when the Midshipmen rallied in the fourth quarter to foil the Falcons in 2005.


After two years of watching the Air Force Academy take control of the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, Navy regained supremacy last season. Since the turn of the century the round-robin battle among the service academy schools could just as easily be called the Navy Invitational, with Navy winning the CIC Trophy in eight of thirteen seasons. In the middle of its run of seven consecutive Commander-In-Chief titles, Navy used a second-half comeback to stun Air Force in 2005 in one of the program's most thrilling wins since this series began.

In a matchup of two teams who absorbed a few losses before this game was played, both the Midshipmen and the Falcons were playing for the CIC Trophy and not much more in early October. The weight of the season – minus the upcoming Army game for each side – fell heavily on the shoulders of the young men from Annapolis and Colorado Springs.

Navy fell into a hole and found itself down 17-7 at the half. Though the Midshipmen were able to get within 17-14, Air Force responded with a score to push the lead back to 10 at 24-14. With a fourth down at their own 29 and trailing by a touchdown, Navy converted the first down and – a few plays later – scored on a 40-yard run by Reggie Campbell to even the score at 24. With the game appearing to be headed for overtime, some rugged defense and a little luck would pay off for the Midshipmen.

Navy's defense was able to bring about an Air Force punt, and when punter Donny Heaton – overwhelmed by the moment – unleashed a wobbly nine-yard kick, Navy found itself on the cusp of field goal range and a chance to pull off an improbable comeback in the game's final moments. However, Navy gained only seven yards before sending out kicker Joey Bullen to try the game-winner from a long distance. A 46-yard attempt does not inspire confidence, and the past 25 years of Navy history have featured many mishaps on placekicks. Navy had not gained a chip-shot attempt, leaving overtime a distinct possibility. However, Bullen coolly pushed the kick through the uprights, capping off the stunning victory and putting Navy again in the driver's seat to reclaim its stranglehold on the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy. The Midshipmen defeated Army that year, but the escape in Annapolis against Air Force is what truly enabled Navy to retain a treasured piece of hardware in 2005.

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