Air Force fumbles its way to 28-21 OT loss to Navy
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - The Air Force Falcons were kicking themselves, and not just over Parker Herrington's two missed field goals.
They lost to archrival Navy 28-21 Saturday after fumbling the ball away on three straight possessions and letting the Midshipmen hang around long enough to pull off a wild win in overtime.
"There's a lot of guys that will take this one pretty hard,'' Falcons quarterback Connor Dietz said. "But it's a long season left to go, and we're in Laramie next week, which is not going to get any easier.''
Right guard Jake Zuzek recovered freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds' fumbled snap in the end zone for the decisive score in overtime.
After the wacky touchdown, defensive end Wes Henderson knocked down Dietz's pass on fourth-and-6 from the 21 to seal Navy's win, a significant first step in the Midshipmen's quest to regain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy that represents superiority among the three service academies.
Navy (2-3) needs only to beat Army on Dec. 8 to regain the trophy that the Falcons (2-3) have had in their case the last two years.
"This game never should have been this close,'' senior linebacker Alex Means said.
"It's football, you never know,'' Dietz said. "Obviously, I think we missed a lot of opportunities, I'll say that. But, you have to give them credit. You let somebody hang around, it never ends up good.''
Last year's game also went to overtime in Annapolis, Md., with Air Force prevailing 35-34 thanks to a controversial call. Officials ruled a touchdown celebration by Navy went overboard, and penalized the Midshipmen for unsportsmanlike conduct. The long conversion attempt from 35 yards was blocked by Means. Then, the Falcons scored, and Herrington added the conversion to give Air Force the wild win.
Herrington had the chance to win it again this time, but his 51-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired in regulation. It was his second miss of the afternoon and fifth in six tries this season.
Cody Getz rushed for 204 yards and a score, becoming the first Air Force player to post three 200-yard games in one season. But it wasn't enough to keep the Midshipmen from celebrating wildly on Air Force's field.
The 9:40 a.m. kickoff was the earliest in Falcon Stadium history and the Falcons slumbered their way through much of the game, wasting opportunity after opportunity with fumbles and foibles aplenty.
Air Force scored on its first possession but didn't get into the end zone again until Getz burst up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown that gave Air Force a 14-10 lead with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
Navy quarterback Trey Miller rushed for 110 yards before hurting his left ankle on a scramble on third-and-9 with just under 10 minutes remaining. He was helped off the field, and Nick Sloan kicked a 41-yard field goal to make it a one-point game.
The Falcons struck back quickly, needing just two plays and 28 seconds to score when Dietz pitched to wide receiver Dontae Strickland, who pulled up and hit Drew Coleman in stride for a 54-yard strike that made it 21-13.
Reynolds replaced Miller at quarterback for Navy and capped a 75-yard drive with a 15-yard keeper for the score with 6:35 remaining. Then, Noah Copeland took the pitch and slipped Miles Fisher's tackle in the backfield, diving just inside the left pylon for the 2-point conversion that tied it at 21.
Coleman also caught a 35-yard touchdown toss from Dietz four snaps into the game, with ice falling onto the field from the television camera zip lines, and ground fog rolling off the turf as it warmed.
Nothing else would come easy as the Falcons missed a chip-shot field goal, lost three straight fumbles and then failed to take full advantage of the clock at the end of the second quarter. They finished with a healthy 261 yards of offense but a 10-7 halftime deficit.
Sloan kicked a 39-yard field goal, and Copeland's first career touchdown, a 5-yard run, gave the Midshipmen a 10-7 lead. Copeland's TD came after safety Tra'ves Bush scooped up Broam Hart's fumble at the Navy 27.
Getz was stripped by linebacker Josh Tate at midfield with cornerback Quincy Adams recovering, and Ty MacArthur coughed up the ball at the Navy 14, and senior linebacker Keegan Wetzel smothered it for his first career fumble recovery.
"We can't automatically expect a win,'' Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "It was a heck of a college football game. ... The two things they did better was they held the ball better and they hit it a little better off the ground.''
And when they didn't hold on, their right guard found the football right underneath him.
"I had no clue he had fumbled the ball,'' Zuzek said. "I just saw it when I was on the bottom of the pile. I wasn't letting it go for anything.''
With the last 15 Commander-in-Chief's Trophies going to the winner of this rivalry, he might as well have been talking about that, too, and not just the football he was admittedly fortunate to find in the end zone.
Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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