Saturday, October 03, 2009

Mids Defeat Air Force in OT

On a beautiful afternoon in Annapolis, Navy and Air Force battled to the first-ever overtime matchup between the two schools. Coming into the game the Midshipmen were having their own internal battle between kickers Jon Teague and Joe Buckley. Last week Teague handled the kicking duties in less than impressive fashion. This week Buckley got the nod and the Junior finished the game as the Brigade hero.

Buckley nailed three field goals in the game with the final boot a 38-yard game winner in overtime. Navy came away with the overtime win 16-13 and the odds on favorite to retain the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s trophy.

Navy started the defensive battle by holding the Falcons to negative four yards on three plays and forcing the first punt of the game. Mario Washington returned the punt 12 yards to the Air Force 35 yard line setting up the offense with great field position.

Ricky Dobbs carried the ball three times on the drive with the final carry reaching the end zone from 13 yards out.

Air Force got on the scoreboard when Anthony Wright picked off Dobbs and raced 67 yards to the end zone. The TD was his second of the season and the fifth for the opportunistic Falcon defense.

On Navy’s next possession, Buckley gave the Midshipmen the lead with a career long 47 yard field goal. The half would end with Navy in the lead 10-7.

Head coach Ken Niumatololo wasn’t sure what to think when sending in Buckley for the long attempt.

“I didn’t know what to think. I asked him if he could make it, he said yes, I said go do it.”

Air Force’s kicker Erik Soderberg came up big for the Falcons late in the third quarter. After Navy punter Kyle Delahooke’s punt went only 27 yards to the Navy 37, Air Force looked to be in a position to take their first lead of the game. After nine straight carries the Air Force offense stalled on the Navy 10 yard line. Soderberg coolly split the uprights and tied the contest 10-10.

The fourth quarter had a little bit of everything that kept both Academies’ fans on the edge of their seats.

Navy capped off a 15 play drive with Buckley’s second field goal of the night, this time a 37 yarder that gave the home crowd of 37,820 a reason to celebrate.

Midway through the fourth quarter Air Force fullback Jared Tew fumbled on a fourth down play and the ball was recovered by Navy linebacker Ross Pospisil. Two plays later Dobbs fumbled after fighting for extra yardage and the Falcons recovered at midfield.

After the teams traded punts, Air Force had one more opportunity to win the game.

Starting on their own 24 yard line, the Falcons moved methodically down the field converting on both third and fourth downs to keep their drive alive. On a first and ten from the Navy 44, Wyatt Middleton picked off a Tim Jefferson pass in a play that appeared to seal the win for the Mids. A questionable roughing the passer penalty was called giving new life to the visitors.

Air Force moved the ball to the Navy 22 where Soderberg kicked his second field goal of the night with no time left on the clock to send the game to overtime.

Navy took the ball first and played the overtime in front of the Brigade of Midshipmen who had been raucous the whole game. After only being able to muster four yards on the drive, Buckley came in and coolly kicked what would be the game winner from 38 yards.

“Jon Teague and I have been battling at every practice,” noted Buckley. “It is not an ideal situation, but it has made both of us better kickers. I think that showed today. Doing something like this is a dream come true.”

Air Force had one last shot, but Soderberg couldn’t match his Navy counterpart and kicked the 31 yard attempt wide left giving the Mids the dramatic home victory.

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