For Navy quarterback Zach Abey, the first half of yesterday's 117th edition of the Army-Navy game was one he wishes he could have back.
In that first 30 minutes of action, Abey, an Archbishop Spalding product making his first start, rushed for just 15 yards and was sacked once, while completing 1-of-3 passes for only 12 yards, with the other two attempts being intercepted as the Midshipmen fell behind the Black Knights 14-0 at the break.
But the Pasadena native rebounded, with the help of another Anne Arundel product, to bring Navy ahead, 17-14 with 12 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game.
However, Army went on a 12 play, 80-yard drive, culminated by a 1-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw that gave Army a 21-17 win, the first in 15 years, dating back to 2001. It was Army's first win at M&T Bank Stadium and evened its record in Baltimore at 3-3.
"I take a lot of responsibility for the game. Obviously in the first half I made some bad decisions," Abey said. "I feel horrible for the seniors because I told them before the game that I would give it my all for them, especially for Will (Worth) and Tago (Smith), knowing how much they wanted this and I could have gotten it for them."
It was Abey's zigzag, 41-yard scamper that gave Navy its first lead of a game that Army dominated from the outset. Abey finished with 19 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He completed six of 10 passes for 89 yards, was sacked twice and ended with a pair of picks.
But for everything that went wrong in the first half, it was a simple hit by a 5-foot-11, 203-pound sophomore from Glen Burnie that changed the complexion of America's Game.
Jarid Ryan, a starter at cornerback for the Midshipmen, made his first of two tackles early in the third quarter and in the process, forced Bradshaw to cough up the ball. It was the first forced fumble of Ryan's career. Sean Williams recovered it at the Army 32 for the first of his two fumble recoveries to go along with an interception.
The turnover led to Navy's first points as Abey rumbled in from a yard out to cut the Mids deficit to 14-7 with 11:23 left in the third quarter.
"They were getting a lot of yards running the ball so when I got my chance, I got in there and just put my helmet on the ball," Ryan said. "We were really trying to emphasize wrapping them up and the second guy in try to rip the ball out. I got in there, wrapped him up and the ball came out."
Ryan was making his first start against archrival Army. The Severn School product was mainly tasked with covering Army wide receiver Edgar Poe, who torched Navy for five catches, 121 yards and a touchdown in last year's Mids' victory. Ryan was thrown at just once, in the first half, and covered Poe like a blanket while fellow defender Williams undercut a throw from Bradshaw for an interception.
"It was a great experience going out there. It was my first time playing in this game so I had a little bit of jitters early on," Ryan said. "Going into the game we knew that was their guy. We really wanted to limit him as much as we could."
Jake Hawk, dressing for his second Army-Navy contest, spelled starting left tackle Blake Copeland. The Meade High product saw limited action but was excited to be a part of the game.
"It was a tremendous experience to be a part of this, but I can tell you that people have talked to me about the feeling of losing to Army and I'm starting to feel it now," Hawk said.
The sophomore was happy for the accomplishments of the local players. "It really shows that the county puts out some big-time football players,'' Hawk said.
Former Old Mil standout Donovan Franklin made the trip from West Point with the Black Knights but did not get in the game. The freshman, as listed on the Army West Point roster, returned to M&T Bank Stadium and was on the victorious end. Ironically, Franklin's final scholastic game was at the Baltimore Ravens' home stadium, but that time his Patriots were on the losing end of a 34-31 MPSSAA state championship game against Northwest.