Before Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw could enjoy a second straight victory over Navy on a cold and snowy day at Lincoln Financial Field, the defense of the Black Knights had to stay strong on its side of the football.
After Bradshaw had given the Black Knights the lead on a 1-yard sneak with 5 minutes, 10 seconds to play, he watched from the sideline as Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry dodged and darted in an effort to lead his team to a potential winning field goal. But Army, and a couple of costly penalties, prevented it from happening.
The final kick of 48 yards by the Midshipmen's Bennett Moehring went wide left, touching off a wild celebration by the players and the Corps of Cadets that marked a 14-13 victory before 68,625, and gave the Black Knights possession of the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1996.
The victory by Army (9-3) in the 118th game of the rivalry was its second straight over Navy (6-6). Despite less-than-ideal playing conditions and treacherous footing on what Black Knights coach Jeff Monken called "a lumpy, bumpy surface," neither team turned the ball over.
And as is customary, the game went down to the final second. Army chewed up the clock for 7:40 on a 65-yard, 13-play drive for the lead on Bradshaw's touchdown, the second time in as many years he accounted for the decisive score in this game.
But Perry, who rushed for 250 yards on 30 carries and scored Navy's lone touchdown on a 68-yard run, kept things interesting. On one fourth-down play on the final drive, he picked up a fumbled snap and ran 12 yards to the Army 25. The Mids, however, hurt their drive with flags for false starts on second and third downs, and were set back to the 31 before the kick.
"It was a heightened sense on defense to get after him," Army senior linebacker Alex Aukerman said. "We knew that every yard they gained, it would be an easier field goal. They false-started a couple of times and that helped us. We got a great rush from the inside on the kick and that ended up being the difference in the game."
Moehring, whose season long was 48 yards, struck the kick well in the snow.
"I should have made the kick," he said. "I was pretty zoned in and told myself to make contact. I thought I did. The ball came off of my foot pretty clean. I thought I had a chance, and unfortunately it went the wrong way this time."
Bradshaw, who was cleared of a 2014 rape allegation in a statement released Saturday morning by the U.S. Military Academy, rushed for 94 yards on 21 carries.
The final yard was the biggest. He not only thanked his offensive line, but also gave a shout-out to his 235-pound fullback, Andy Davidson.
"I felt myself kind of stopped – the Navy defense did a great job all day at stopping us inside," he said, "and I felt Andy pick me up and kind of walk me in the end zone."
It was a game typical of the styles of the Black Knights and the Mids to pound the football. Only three passes were thrown in the game. Each team had seven possessions, with Army scoring on the first and the last, enough for victory.
Navy scored on three drives. The difference, however, came in the third quarter when Army defensive end John Voit made a touchdown-saving tackle on Perry. The Mids had to settle for Moehring's 24-yard field goal to keep it a one-score game at 13-7.
"That was a huge play in the game," Monken said.
"We never lost momentum. Momentum is just attitude. I'm so proud of our guys. They found a way. We had that drive to take the lead and got the stops we needed to at the end to make it a long field goal. It was an incredible effort."
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo called it "another classic game," but lamented the late penalties.
"Unfortunate for us," he said. "In a close game, it is the team that doesn't make mistakes, and those penalties hurt us."