12:20 Eastern time: If you're an Army fan, great run for a first down by Tony Dace after receiving a dump-off from quarterback Carson Williams. If you're a Navy fan, poor tackling to allow the first down. These kinds of plays tip the balance in a game. Can Army continue to win such battles?
12:22: Good change of pace by Army's offensive staff, as Navy's defense looks for a pass and watches Dace sprint up the middle on a well-executed draw. Navy's defense not rising to meet the challenge so far.
12:23: Navy rises up on 3rd and 2, stuffing a run to bring up fourth and short.
12:24: Navy made an initial early hit on the fourth-and-short play, but a late lean gets the first down for the Black Knights by a nose. Another 50-50 play goes to Army, albeit barely. Navy actually beginning to tighten up its run defense, a good sign.
12:25: Third and goal from the 10. Huge, huge play for both sides. Army can't settle for three in this game. Not against the triple option.
12:26: Wow. Corey Anderson drops a sure touchdown pass.
12:27: Wow, part two. Army kicker Owen Tolson biffs a 27-yard chip shot. In roughly 80 seconds of real time, Army goes from the perfect start to an early backbreaker. The Black Knights have precious little margin for error. Stan Brock's team has to play a virtually perfect game to win. For the remaining 55 minutes, Army can't make a major misstep.
12:30: Army takes away Navy fullback Adam Ballard on the first play. Sure enough, Navy tries to establish its basic attack and challenge Army's defense at its strongest point.
12:31: Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (henceforth known as Kaipo) throws a perfect strike into traffic to convert a 3rd and 6. Passes like that are pure gravy for Paul Johnson, and will allow Navy's wizard to throw long when the Black Knights least expect it.
12:33: Army's defense, on another 3rd and 6, expects a wide finesse play, and Johnson springs Ballard up the middle. Great change-of-pace calls by both staffs early on.
12:35: Army's defense--which is strong up the middle--acts like it on two straight plays, stuffing Kaipo and Ballard for zero net yards.
12:36: Kaipo can't throw for another first down, and Army gets Navy's vaunted triple option off the field. This is a typical beginning to an Army-Navy game in this decade. Army comes out amped up while Navy struggles, as neither team establishes clear dominance. Navy usually asserts itself with around four to six minutes left in the second quarter. The Black Knights must stick the ball in the end zone first, preferrably on the next drive. Navy won't mind if the game stays close for awhile, since the Midshipmen have been able to dominate after halftime by leaning on Army's defense and wearing down the boys from West Point.
12:40: Ferocious hitting by both defenses so far. Army wants to send a message with the power game, but it's obvious that the Black Knights will have to run for show, and throw for dough. The passing game will have to be Army's number one method of travel. Jeremy Trimble needs to get some action.
12:42: Carson Williams playing nervous football right now.
12:43: Williams had a man wide open downfield for a 35-yard gain, but air-mailed the pass. Another devastating failure that Army simply can't afford.
12:43 and 45 seconds: Tolson shanks a punt. Chin up, son. There's a lot of game left. Bounce back and do your teammates proud.
12:47: There's the wide play that Army feared. Zerbin Singleton scoots into the end zone on an easy 38-yard run, and the Midshipmen take control, 7-0. Stan Brock has coached a perfectly good game for Army, but because of three plays--a drop, a missed field goal, and an air-mailed home run ball--the Black Knights are in huge trouble with 46 seconds left in the first quarter. An Army win would have rated as a monumental achievement going into this contest; now, a Black Knight triumph would rank as a surprise of biblical proportions.
12:53: Don't like the rollout for Williams. Army's QB needs to drop back, set his feet, and fire. Quick-strike, minimal-read passing needs to enter the picture for this struggling offense. With Navy's (poor) secondary, it would not be a bad play to throw long at least once (if not twice) on every series. College football, unlike the NFL, offers the chance to continuously exploit mismatches between receivers and corners. Army needs to throw fly patterns, fade routes, and other aggressive vertical pass plays that take guesswork out of the equation for a signal caller.
12:54: The first quarter ends with Army having to punt. Already, you can feel this game slipping away for the team that had to get its nose in front and force Navy--a rushing team--to play catch-up.
12:57: Tolson crushes his next punt. Nice going! The lad needed that, and just about everyone in the ballpark in Baltimore wanted to see Tolson get off the deck.
1:00 p.m., Eastern time: Army gets a huge stop. The Black Knights' rush defense is rising to the occasion. I can count at least three 3rd and 6 situations faced by Navy so far, which is very rare for the potent running attack from Annapolis. Broken record alert: Army has to strike immediately and dent the scoreboard with seven points.
1:04: There's a start for Army. Williams zips a ball to Justin Larson for 16 yards and a first down in Navy territory. Can this scene be replicated? Stay tuned.
1:05: A beautiful screen to Anderson for 17 more yards.
1:07: Three Tony Dace runs get 16 more yards, as Army's offense has Navy's defense on a pendulum. The passing game set up the running game.
1:08: A huge 3rd and 4 from the Navy 10. A must-make for Army.
1:09: An end-around gets smothered by Navy's defense, which reacts well and flows to the boundary to snuff out the play. Tolson on for another chip shot.
1:09 and 40 seconds: Tolson rebounded as a punter, and now he rebounds as a placekicker. 7-3 Navy, as the Midshipmen get another "win" on defense. Army at least breaks the ice, but again, the Black Knights have to stack up the sevens if they want to feel lucky today.
1:13: And that's why Army had to get seven and not three. Reggie Campbell--a world-class playmaker--takes the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead. It's ironic, isn't it? Navy is the running team, Army more of a passing team, but it's Navy that has the greater quick-strike capability. Brock made the calculated gamble that he could drain clock and keep Navy's offense off the field; from now on, though, it's quite clear that Army has to go for the home run ball and try to win a shootout. An incrementalist approach on offense will reduce Navy's point total, but it will also limit Army's numbers as well. The game plan has to be junked on the West Point sideline. As for Navy, it's looking mighty good midway through the second quarter--gee, right on schedule for the Milestone Midshipmen.
1:17: Disaster for the Black Knights, complete joy for the Midshipmen. A solid stick jars the ball loose, and Navy recovers the fumble on the Army 5. Red-alert for Army's defense.
1:18: Incredible stick on Adam Ballard to keep the fullback out of the end zone.
1:19: The wide play gets Army again. Touchdown, Navy, and at 21-3, it's very hard to imagine an Army comeback. The Black Knights will continue to compete and fight, but Navy has the skilled showcase studs in the stable. Bonus commendations to Navy's defense for playing so well in the trenches.
1:23: Huge, huge kickoff return from Army's Anderson to the Navy 43. A quick touchdown, and the Black Knights remain in the conversation.
1:25: 4th and 4 at the Navy 37. Gotta go for it. There's not even a debate.
1:26: The punt team is on the field, but common sense prevails as a timeout is called. Carson Williams has to re-emerge on the field when we come back from the CBS commercial break.
1:27: The punt team stays on. Navy, expect a fake.
1:28: What? They still punted? There's frankly no justification for that move. None.
1:29: Even if Navy doesn't score here, the Midshipmen are almost certain to run out the clock and take an 18-point lead to the locker room at halftime. Moreover, Navy gets the ball first in the second half. Brock--with his decision to punt--essentially allowed Navy to control the ball for at least six minutes or so. Brock now calls a timeout on a 2nd and 5 with 3:40 left in the half? What is going on here? Brock used a timeout on the 4th and 4, so he now has just one timeout left.
1:34: Army gets a stop, but with just one timeout left, Army is limited in its ability to preserve clock.
1:35: Another fumble for Army, but the ball bounces right back into Jeremy Trimble's hands. Only 1:11 left for Army to do something before halftime.
1:37: A running play on 1st and 10?
1:38: That has to be defensive holding on the Navy corner, if not defensive pass interference. Wow. But still, horrible game management from the Army braintrust.
1:39: Thanks to a spectacular punt return by Campbell, Navy can try a long field goal with one tick left on the clock. Navy's "Mister Excitement" continues to add to his incredible legacy in Annapolis.
1:40: If CBS/ESPN basketball analyst Bill Raftery could have been able to call Joey Bullen's 51-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, you know what he would have said: "WITH THE KISSSSS!" Bullen kisses the crossbar with his kick, and the ball slides forward to give the Midshipmen a field goal and a 24-3 lead. Everything going right for one team, and everything going wrong for the other. Stan Brock, though, will look back on this second quarter as a learning experience. It was hard to understand what the Army coach was thinking in his first Army-Navy Game as the head man.
2:04 p.m., Eastern time: As the second half starts, a moment to pause and reflect...
While news breaks that Les Miles is remaining at LSU, capping a circus-like week in which a lot of middle-aged men behaved like little children, let's be thankful that Army and Navy have coaches and leaders who honor the true spirit of college athletics. A national title or a BCS bowl berth are not on the line today in Baltimore, but we have something much better: real student athletes led by honorable coaches. Stan Brock and Paul Johnson, not to mention their staffs, deserve our gratitude and respect for acting like grownups.
2:11: Army--following yet another stop by a defense that's playing extremely well--can't generate anything on offense. Reggie Campbell came THISCLOSE to busting another punt return. Even with Navy having scored just one true offensive touchdown, this game feels over. The next ten minutes will tell us if anything will change.
2:16: If you had told Stan Brock before the game that his defense would have forced five Navy punts in the game's first 35 minutes, he'd have accepted such a scenario in a heartbeat. Few people could have thought that today's game would be so thoroughly dominated by the two defenses.
2:21: There's the play Army's been waiting for. A simple dropback pass, great protection, and a wide-open Justin Larson at the Navy 5. Army will need to move the ball in 20-yard chunks, not three-yard blocks.
2:23: Oh, my goodness. A fumble on the Navy 1? Can it be? Army challenging the ruling, as it must.
2:24: Yeah, it's a fumble. No two ways about it. The frustration on the Army sideline--once the ruling is confirmed--will be palpable.
2:25: Ruling confirmed. What a stomach punch. Boomer Esiason makes the obvious but necessary point: if not for a dropped TD pass, the fumble at its own 5, and the fumble at the Navy 1--three individual plays in a 60-minute game--Army would be right there with a very good chance to win.
2:29: A friendly reminder: one of the many joys of watching an Army-Navy Game is the virtual absence of penalties. You don't see a lot of yellow laundry, do you?
2:30: On cue, Navy commits an illegal shift penalty. Can you believe it?
2:32: Trimble has to at least catch the bounce on that punt to save yardage. Only 17 and a half minutes left for Army to erase a three-touchdown deficit.
2:37: Army still trying to pound out first downs when it needs lightning bolts. Navy's defense gets another stop as the third quarter comes to a close. Army must go for it when the fourth quarter begins.
2:40: I've seen much worse, but that clearly could have been called pass interference. Navy gets a break... and the ball.
2:49: Navy uses its bread and butter--a wide toss to Zerbin Singleton--to convert a 4th and 4.
2:50: Kaipo displays great timing and patience on the option, and the prudent pitch sets up Campbell for an easy touchdown. 31-3, and it's all over but the shouting.
2:51: Next year, Army could take the field with a great chance of finally defeating the Midshipmen. The encouraging play from the Black Knights' defense today, combined with the eventual departure of Reggie Campbell from Annapolis, could enable the Long Gray Line to enjoy competitive parity in this rivalry. But for this year, the laurels once again belong to Paul Johnson and his crew. Johnson, the man who has done just about everything anyone can possibly do at Navy, is about to win six straight against Army, a first in the 108 years of this storied series. In the 1990s, Bob Sutton had all the answers against the Midshipmen, but in the first decade of the 21st century, it's Johnson who routinely outthinks and outflanks his Army opponents. Navy might not have put its best foot forward on offense today, but the Midshipmen still won going away. A superior attitude and an expectation of excellence enables this program to maintain its lofty place in the world of service academy football. Yet another Commander-in-Chief Trophy is headed to Annapolis. Five CICs in five seasons is a pretty good clip.
3:00 p.m., Eastern time: Another touchdown for Navy after a blocked punt. 38-3. "Anchors Aweigh" resounds through a packed stadium on yet another Army-Navy day. The Midshipmen now lead the all-time series, 52-49-7. That's a wrap, folks.