Despite blowing a 14-0 lead, the Army Black Knights snapped a 14-game losing streak against their chief rivals Saturday, upsetting the Navy Midshipmen 21-17 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
In addition to picking up its first victory over Navy since 2001, Army clinched its first winning season since 2010 by improving to 7-5. Navy, which came in at No. 25 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, fell to 9-4 with its second consecutive defeat.
CBS Sports captured Army's raucous celebration:
While both teams played sloppy football, with seven combined turnovers, Army's superior ground game was the difference, as it outgained Navy 316-112.
A nine-yard rushing score by Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw with six minutes remaining ended Navy's run of 17 unanswered points and sealed the Black Knights' victory.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit tweeted the following regarding the teams' unselfishness:
Navy was without quarterback Will Worth and running back Toneo Gulley, who both suffered season-ending foot injuries in last week's loss to Temple, which forced sophomore quarterback Zach Abey to make his first career start and pushed several running backs into prominent roles.
Abey struggled in the first half, and although his play improved in the second, Army's ground game was too much for the Midshipmen.
Pageantry and tradition are big parts of what make the Army-Navy matchup special, and they were on full display during the pregame march-on, as the game's official Twitter account shared:
The importance of the contest was arguably even more palpable than usual, as President-elect Donald Trump was in attendance, as Fox News shared:
While last week's game against Temple may have taken a toll on Navy, the enormity of the occasion could have played a role as well.
The Midshipmen looked shaky from the onset, as fullback Shawn White fumbled on their fifth play from scrimmage, and Army recovered.
CBS Sports shared the replay:
Army took advantage of the Navy miscue by orchestrating a 14-play, 66-yard drive that ended when fullback Andy Davidson pounded his way into the end zone from one yard out, via CBS Sports:
Abey attempted his first pass of the day on the initial play of Navy's second drive, but defensive back Xavier Moss picked it off.
The Midshipmen managed to stop the bleeding, though, when safety Sean Williams responded by intercepting Bradshaw.
Navy struggled to get anything going on offense throughout the opening half, which allowed Army to extend its lead to 14-0 with just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter by virtue of another one-yard touchdown run from Davidson.
CBS Sports shared the replay:
The Midshipmen had a chance to enter the locker room with positive vibes when they recovered a Davidson fumble with less than two minutes left in the half, but Abey threw his second interception of the game, which allowed the Black Knights to preserve their 14-0 lead.
Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette noted Abey appeared to be melting under pressure:
Navy, which is at its best when playing with the lead because of its strong ground game, was in a precarious position facing a two-touchdown deficit, per ESPN Stats & Info:
With the first possession of the second half, Army had a chance to bury Navy.
The Midshipmen came through with another big defensive play, however, when they recovered a Bradshaw fumble at the Army 32-yard line.
Navy made good on the ideal field position by covering 32 yards in six plays, concluding with a one-yard touchdown run by Abey that helped cut the Black Knights' lead in half.
After forcing a three-and-out, Navy put more points on the board with a 28-yard field goal from Bennett Moehring, making it 14-10, although the Black Knights came through with a big defensive stand in the red zone to prevent Navy from tying the game.
Following multiple fruitless drives for both teams, Navy seized control with 12:42 remaining, as Abey weaved through the defense for a 41-yard touchdown run that helped put the Midshipmen ahead 17-14.
CBS Sports provided a look at the play:
Although Army appeared to be reeling, it refused to fold, unlike in its late collapse last season.
The Black Knights answered Navy's touchdown by marching 80 yards on 12 plays, ending in a nine-yard scoring run by Bradshaw to help put Army back on top 21-17, as CBS Sports shared:
Bradshaw also came one step closer to making Army history with the touchdown, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Navy punted after getting stopped on its ensuing drive despite having one timeout remaining, which proved to be a mistake as the Black Knights ran out the remainder of the clock to secure the upset.
While Army made its season with the win, it has a chance to make the 2016 campaign even more special with a victory over North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Dec. 27.
If they come out on top, the Black Knights will clinch an eight-win season for the first time since going 10-2 in 1996.
Also, while the Army-Navy game is always the biggest clash of the year for the Midshipmen, they can still close the season on a high note against Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23.
That would give Navy 10 wins in consecutive campaigns for the first time in program history despite Saturday's disappointment.
The 2016 edition of the Army-Navy game was the first time in years that both programs entered the contest with quality teams, and they each have an opportunity to prove that during bowl season.
"It's surreal," Army wide receiver Edgar Poe said, according to the game's official Twitter account. "I still can't believe it's real."
Once the celebration on the field was over, Army retreated to the locker room and continued to revel in its achievement, as the Army-Navy game documented on Twitter:
Speaking to CBS on the field after the contest, Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken reiterated his team's win was for more than the players who suited up Saturday.
"For every soldier in every foxhole around the world," he said, according to NBC News' Kevin Baron.
As for the Midshipmen, all they could do was look forward after a rare loss to the Black Knights.
"It hurts a little bit. It hurts a lot a bit," wide receiver Jamir Tillman said, per the Associated Press' David Ginsburg. "We will take this loss into the offseason and use this as inspiration and run with it."
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