Matt Slocum/Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA – Navy can hook an anchor to the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and bring it back to Annapolis, Md.
Keenan Reynolds extended Navy’s dominance against Army, scoring the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter in a 17-13 victory in the 113th rivalry game Saturday.
Navy (8-4) beat Army for the 11th consecutive time and won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy awarded to the team with the best record in games among the three service academies. Army and Navy each beat Air Force, putting the prestigious trophy up for grabs in the regular-season finale for the first time since 2005.
“It means everything,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “That’s our No. 1 goal, to get the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. I’m just so happy for these guys.”
Army (2-10) hasn’t hoisted the CIC trophy since 1996.
The Black Knights came close, but Navy recovered a late fumble, and Reynolds’ 8-yard rushing score made it 17-13.
In front of 69,607 fans and Vice President Joe Biden at Lincoln Financial Field, Navy caught a break when Army missed a late field goal attempt.
Reynolds quickly found Brandon Turner down the sideline for a 49-yard gain. Reynolds then escaped a rush and followed with the 8-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes, 41 seconds left in the game.
Unlike previous games over the last decade, the Black Knights were in this one until the final drive. Army had driven to the 14 when fullback Larry Dixon fumbled on a sloppy exchange. Navy recovered, and the Midshipmen went wild and rushed the field.
The CIC trophy was coming back to the Naval Academy for a record 13th time after a two-year stint at Air Force. Before Navy started its 11-game winning streak – the longest one in a series started in 1890 – the previous high only was five games for either team.
The Midshipmen gathered at midfield and celebrated with their trophy.
This one was the toughest victory yet during the streak.
Late in the third, Army’s James Kelly stripped the ball, and linebacker Alex Meier recovered to give the Black Knights the ball at Navy’s 37. Eric Osteen kicked a 21-yard field goal 10 plays later for a 13-10 lead.
Osteen, however, was wide left on a 37-yard attempt with 6:57 left in the game.
Navy made them pay on Reynolds’ score. The Midshipmen now lead the series 57-49-7.
“It’s hard to do,” Niumatalolo said. “It’s hard to beat anybody in a rivalry game, but to do it that long just speaks volumes about the guys in the white jerseys.”
Navy pretty much has dominated the Black Knights, winning games in 2007 and 2008 by a combined 74-3 score.
Navy’s 27-21 win last season was the tightest margin since the winning streak started. Last year was just a start at nudging closer toward ending the winning streak.
After a scoreless first quarter, Army and Navy swapped rushing touchdowns in the second: Navy fullback Noah Copeland scored from 12 yards out; Trent Steelman matched him with an 11-yarder for his program-tying (Carlton Jones, 2004) 17th touchdown run of the season.
Nick Sloan put Navy up 10-7 with a 31-yard field goal.
Then came the ugly – yet so sweet – kick for Army that sent the game into halftime tied at 10. Navy twice tried to freeze Osteen with consecutive timeouts. They didn’t work.
Osteen’s 41-yarder as time expired had the cadets rocking the Linc and put a potential upset firmly in sight for Army.
Instead, it was just the latest loss for Army.
“I feel like we deserved that game in every way possible, but it just didn’t happen,” Steelman said. “We were wearing them down, and there was nothing that was going to stop us. But that’s life.”