For the second straight season, quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw directed a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter of the Army-Navy game.
Bradshaw was the catalyst as Army marched 65 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown that produced a 14-13 victory over archrival Navy before a sellout crowd of 68,625 at Lincoln Financial Field. Bradshaw dove over the goal line from 1 yard out to cap the decisive drive, which lasted 13 plays and took 7 minutes, 40 seconds off the clock.
Bradshaw’s touchdown with 5:10 remaining tied the score and kicker Blake Wilson booted the extra point to put the Black Knights ahead in a game that was played in snowy conditions.
“I am so proud of our team,’’ Army coach Jeff Monken said. “Just to be able to find a way to win that game. To have a group of guys as resilient as ours that believe… there was never a moment they thought we weren’t going to win the game. We never lost momentum. I am so proud of them. They found a way – we had the drive to take the lead and got the stops we needed to right there at the end.”
Bradshaw was once again the hero of the Army-Navy game one day after he was the subject of an explosive report about his conduct as a cadet. The Daily Beast published an article on Friday night that alleged Bradshaw had been accused of rape by a female member of the Corps of Cadets. The Army Criminal Investigation Division found “insufficient evidence” to charge Bradshaw. That story also detailed other alleged honor violations by the Army quarterback, who was voted Most Valuable Player of Saturday’s contest.
Bradshaw led the way with 94 yards rushing on 21 carries as Army (9-3) captured the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996. Fullback Darnell Woolfolk added 57 rushing yards for the Black Knights, who now own a two-game winning streak against the Midshipmen after enduring 14 consecutive losses in the series.
“Ahmad has led us on drives like that all year,’’ Monken said. “He is an incredible leader. The amount of confidence that our team has when he is in the huddle and the poise that he has is a great quality for a quarterback. He is a wonderful kid, and I am incredibly proud of him. He played a great game tonight.”
“Obviously, a disappointing loss. This is a great rivalry and that was another classic game. Unfortunately, we were on the short end of the stick. I just feel for our seniors right now,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said.
Malcolm Perry was spectacular in his second career start at quarterback, rushing for 250 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries for Navy (6-6). The Midshipmen have dropped six of their last seven games and must now win the Military Bowl against Virginia in order to avoid just their second losing season since 2003.
“It’s tough right now. This one hurts. You just feel for the players,” Niumatalolo said. “They’ll regroup because they’re tough, resilient kids. This one will take some time to get over.”
Navy moved into position to attempt a game-winning field goal, but Bennett Moehring’s 48-yard attempt missed wide left as time expired. Moehring’s kick appeared to be long enough, but turned at the last instant and was just outside the goal post.
“All I was telling myself was to make good contact and the rest would take of itself. I made good contact with the ball and the kick felt good,” Moehring said. “I thought the ball was going to go through the uprights. Unfortunately, it just went the wrong way.”
Moehring’s final field goal attempt was 10 yards longer than it could have been as Navy committed a pair of false start penalties after reaching the Army 23-yard line. Senior right guard Evan Martin and senior wide receiver Tyler Carmona lost concentration at the most inopportune moments and the two 5-yard penalties prevented Moehring from having a 38-yard attempt.
“There were a couple penalties at the end that really hurt us. We lost focus and that lost yardage just killed us,” Niumatalolo said. “We were in Bennett’s range, kind of the range he hit from earlier, but those two penalties took us out.”
Facing fourth-and-six from the 37-yard line, Perry made a tremendous play by picking up 12 yards and a first down after having initially dropped the snap. That set up first down from the enemy 23-yard line, but that is when Martin moved before the whistle.
On third down from the 26-yard line, it was Carmona who flinched and was whistled for the false start. That brought the ball back to the 31-yard line and Perry was stopped for no gain on the repeated third down.
Navy called its final timeout to discuss the situation and sent several players onto the snow-covered field to clear a clean patch at the spot where Moehring would kick.
“It was a hard-fought game, but we came up a couple feet short. Bennett barely missed it,” Niumatalolo said.
Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper decided two weeks ago to start Perrry at quarterback. Jasper and the rest of the offensive staff installed a zone option scheme for the sophomore sensation to operate.
It wound up basically looking like a Wildcat formation with Perry taking the snap in shotgun formation, reading the zone blocking and picking a hole to run through. The Tennessee native proved quite effective, using his speed and quickness to break away for a 68-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and getting loose for a 46-yard scamper early in the third stanza.
“I thought Malcolm played well and did a lot of good things,” Niumatalolo said. “The kid’s been amazing and done everthing we’ve asked him to do. Malcolm got us in position to win that game. He gaves us a chance at the end.”
Perry made his first career start at quarterback earlier this season against SMU and responded by rushing for 282 yards and four touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound speedster was pretty much a one-man show as four other ball-carriers accounted for just 54 rushing yards among them. Zach Abey, who played quarterback in short-yardage situations, had the only pass completion of the game for the Midshipmen – a 2-yarder to Perry.
“I was told two weeks ago that I was going to be the starting quarterback against Army. We got our gameplan in and it was obvious I was going to have the ball in my hands a lot,” Perry said. “My performance isn’t satisfying unless we win.”
Ultimately, the Mids paid the price for failing to score touchdowns on two trips inside the red zone. Navy settled for field goals of 28 and 24 yards by Moehring after having drives stall at the Army 11 and 6 yard lines.
“It’s Navy football. When we’re down near the goal-line we have to put the ball in the end zone and we just didn’t. Obviously, that really hurt us in the end,” Perry said.
Army drove downfield with relative ease on the game’s opening possession with Walker delivering the big play, a 33-yard gain on a power sweep. Woolfolk capped the impressive 11-play, 68-yard march by barreling into the end zone from 3 yards out to give the Black Knights an early 7-0 lead.
The Midshipmen responded by also moving the length of the field, but their opening possession sputtered at the 10-yard line and Niumatalolo elected to take the points. Moehring booted the 28-yard field goal that made it 7-3 with 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Army picked up one first down before being forced to punt on its second possession. Navy took over at its own 26-yard line and needed just three plays to take the lead. Perry pretended to pass on third-and-4, but tucked the ball and ran instead. The speedy sophomore cut right, slipped through a big hole on the back side and raced 68 yards into the end zone.
Army head coach Jeff Monken talked about how no one can catch Perry from behind and that was the case on this play as several chasing defenders could only watch him pull away to paydirt, giving Navy a 10-7 lead at the 11:28 mark of the second period.
It was a defensive struggle for the remainder of the first half with each team punting twice. Navy missed a great opportunity to add to its lead when wide receiver Craig Scott underthrew a wide-open Perry on a gadget play. Scott had gotten the ball on a reverse, but threw a knuckleball that was nowhere near Perry, who was all alone in the flat.
“That’s one of the plays you wish you could have back,” Perry admitted. “You wish you could complete that pass because it would probably change the game.”
Perry delivered another spectacular run on the opening possession of the second half, making the correct read on a zone option play and breaking loose for a 46-yard gain. He made a lightning-quick cutback to make one defender miss and was barely tripped up at the 11-yard line by Army defensive end John Voit.
“First off, I wish I wouldn’t have tripped. I wish I could have kept my feet and scored,” Perry said.
Three subsequent runs gained just five yards and Navy had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Moehring that made it 13-7 with just under six minutes elapsed in the third period.
It appeared Army would make the home team pay for failing to finish in the red zone by scoring a touchdown on its only possession of the third period. However, a false start penalty on third-and-eight from the 10-yard proved derailed the drive.
Blake Wilson came on to attempt a 35-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter and pushed the kick wide right.
Navy went three-and-out on the subsequent possession and that failure to move the ball from deep in its own territory or take any time off the clock proved costly. Owen White got off a 40-yard punt, but Army still got good field position – starting the decisive possession at its own 36-yard line.
Bradshaw jump-started the game-winning drive with back-to-back gains of 12 yards on option keepers. The senior standout would carry the ball seven more times for 23 yards on the determined march.
Running back John Trainor also delivered a big play on the drive, taking a pitchout and spinning out of a defender’s hands to pick up 8 yards and set up third-and-goal from the 1-yard line.