It's back, baby. Boy, is it ever.
Three-point win over Air Force in 2004, meet this three-point win over Air Force in 2005.
Commander-in-Chief Trophy last year, meet the Commander-in-Chief Trophy this year (barring a collapse against a struggling, winless Army team that could bring a bagel—or maybe just a breadstick—into Philadelphia).
Resilient, clutch Johnson Boys one season, meet resilient, clutch Johnson Boys the next.
As in seemingly every game Navy plays in the Paul Johnson era, it's rarely about the stats. It's all about belief and what happens in the final telling minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We just found a way to make one more play at the end," Johnson said. Indeed, that knack for making the timely plays when they need to be made is the essence of winning football for a team that will never overpower or outmuscle its opponents. Against Maryland and Stanford, this younger group of Midshipmen had to learn what it took to win games in the final minutes instead of losing them. After the Duke game and now this Air Force conquest, it sure seems the lessons have been learned in Annapolis.
Now, in a season where a bowl game is a much brighter possibility, Navy can play with increased liberation and magnified confidence. The Midshipmen can relax—not in terms of stepping off the gas pedal, but in terms of putting undue pressure on themselves. Why? They now know that, if nothing else, a three-game win streak over Air Force has been achieved, and that an accompanying three-year run with the Commander-in-Chief is there for the taking.
The Johnson Boys regained their mojo on Saturday. Time to keep using that mojo in every future game this season, which just started to feel a lot more like 2004 against Air Force.