Story By: Deborah Leung
Photos By: Benjamin Rogers Jr
Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry had a 4-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds remaining to give the Midshipmen a stunning 34-25 victory over Air Force on Saturday.
The Falcons had scored 16 consecutive points in the final quarter and took the lead on a 1-yard run by Taven Birdow with 3:15 left in the game.
However, Perry led an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive to claim the victory in the first leg of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. Navy linebacker Tony Brown returned a fumble 7 yards in the closing seconds to round out the scoring.
Perry finished with 111 yards on 23 carries with a pair of touchdowns. He also completed 5 of 7 passes for 144 yards.
A fumble by Navy fullback Nelson Smith gave Air Force the ball on the Midshipmen 37 midway through the fourth quarter. The Falcons capitalized on a 1-yard plunge by quarterback DJ Hammond III that pulled them within 21-19 with 7:38 left in the game.
The Falcons (3-2) then put together a six-play, 72-yard scoring drive, capped by the scoring run by Birdow to take its first lead since the first quarter before the Midshipmen (2-2) rallied.
Air Force kicker Jake Koehnke converted all four of his field-goal opportunities, including a career-long 49-yard kick that pulled the Falcons to within 14-9.
Hammond had 71 yards on 12 carries. He also competed 10 of 25 pass attempts for 205 yards with an interception.
Jake Springer managed a key sack in the third quarter that gave Navy a short field, setting up the 20-yard scoring run by Malcolm Perry that provided a 12-point margin.
The Midshipmen used an almost identical strategy to boost the lead to 14-3. Perry completed a 28-yard pass to Cooper and Smith capped the drive with a 3-yard scoring run.
The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy is presented annually to the winner of the football competition among the three major service academies — Army West Point, Navy and Air Force. The Black Knights took home the crown the previous two years.
Air Force: The Falcons have not won in Annapolis since 2011. The loss also takes them out of the running for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. After averaging 34.6 points over the opening four games, Air Force never fully got into sync against Navy until the final quarter.
Navy: It was an uplifting win for the Midshipmen, who were routed by Air Force 35-7 last season in Colorado Springs. When the Falcons stacked the box, Perry showed he could be effective throwing the ball downfield to set up a couple of scores. The Midshipmen can win their first Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy since 2015 with a victory over Army on Dec. 14.
Navy: Visits Tulsa on Oct. 12