Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It may be a little early to declare the Army-Navy game (live now, exclusively on CBS ) over and done with, but with the Midshipmen up 24-7 at halftime , it doesn't look like this is the year the Black Knights end their eight-year losing streak against their archrivals. Army's first-half score is their single touchdown scored against Navy since 2006, so how likely is is they manage the three necessary to overturn the deficit?
Not likely, though it didn't look like likely that Army would even offer the Midshipmen a challenge after falling behind 17-0 and not recording so much as a first down until 10:15 remained in the half. But Ricky Dobbs' fumble set the Knights up on the Navy 23, and a short Trent Steelman touchdown pass broke Army's three-year touchdown drought.
But Steelman giveth, and Steelman taketh away in the most gut-wrenching fashion possible. Another Navy fumble led to first-and-goal for Army from the 3, but Steelman fumbled on a plunge over the right side, and Wyatt Middleton returned the ball 98 yards for a massive Navy score. Instead of being down three with the ball to start the second half, now the Knights are looking at scaling a near-impossible deficit. One play, a 14 points' worth of swing.
Of course, part of the reason that deficit looks as imposing as it does is because when they haven't been fumbling the ball away -- they've done it three times -- Navy has been the better team. Dobbs has torched Army through the air, connecting on four passes for 164 yards (yes, that's 41 yards a completion) and the Midshipmen own a 213-115 advantage in total yards. 77 of those came on this Dobbs touchdown pass to John Howell , the longest Navy play in Army-Navy history:
Assuming Navy hangs onto the ball, the Knights won't stand a chance of a comeback after Middleton's score.
They might not have stood a chance anyway, of course. But if the streak extends to nine games, there's also no question that's the play they'll point to as the moment things got away from them.
UPDATE, 6 p.m. EST: Army made a nice effort in the second half, getting another touchdown pass from Steelman to pull within 14 points late, but a ruthless 13-play, 87-yard Navy touchdown drive that ate up the first 9 minutes of the fourth quarter erased any real hope of a Black Knight comeback. Of course, if you take away the 7 points from the Middleton return and add them to Army's tally if Steelman had forced his way in instead, the game might have been tied down the stretch. As you might have expected at the half, here is where the game was won and lost: