ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Navy’s offense staged a shutdown of its own before springing to life in the second half against Air Force.
Keenan Reynolds ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns, and the Midshipmen rolled to a 28-10 victory Saturday in a game that survived the restrictions of the U.S. government mass furlough.
Although the Department of Defense has suspended athletic competition at the nation’s service academies because of the shutdown, an exception was made for this event because it was funded by non-appropriated money.
Still, it made for a difficult and unusual few days of preparation.
It was a tough week for both sides, the uncertainty of if the game was going to happen, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. You didn’t know what was going to transpire.
The game didn’t go according to the script either. Air Force came in a heavy underdog after losing four straight, but the Falcons were the better team in the first half and went to the locker room with a 10-7 lead.
We didn’t execute like we should have on offense, Reynolds said. I made a few dumb plays, a few mistakes.
After that, however, it was all Navy (3-1). It began with the opening drive of the third quarter, when the Midshipmen moved 75 yards in eight plays to take a 14-10 lead.
That was huge, Reynolds said. It really helped out with the team confidence, gave the guys some swagger. We were able to get the momentum going our way.
Early in the week, when the status of the game was still up in the air, both academies decided it best to proceed as usual. So Air Force coach Troy Calhoun didn’t use the extraordinary circumstances as an excuse.
We planned and prepared like we would any week, Calhoun said.
Navy’s Chris Johnson, who had two fourth-quarter interceptions, said, During the week, we were going through it like we knew the game was on, even though there was an uncertainty. When we found out were going to play, we were happy. But it wasn’t like we were surprised.
On a magnificent fall afternoon, a record crowd of 38,225 filled Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for this pivotal matchup. The previous 16 winners of this game have gone on to win the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, awarded annually to the service academy with the best record in games involving Air Force, Navy and Army.
Navy has won the trophy twice in a row. Air Force fell to 1-5.