Navy's drive that extended from the third quarter into the fourth yesterday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was all about taking control of the game against Air Force and breaking the Falcons' spirit.
That, of course, isn't what Navy coach Paul Johnson said after his team beat Air Force, 31-20, but that's what it was. And it puts Navy in the driver's seat for its fifth straight Commander in Chief's Trophy.
"It's in our hands now," said Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who directed the team to two fourth-down conversions on the drive that gave Navy a 24-20 lead. "It's up to us whether we want to beat Army."
Just before that third-quarter drive melded into the game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Air Force (3-2) had taken a 20-17 lead with a dominating 80-yard drive. It was the perfect time for the Falcons to make a defensive stand.
Instead, Navy (3-2) went on its own nine-play scoring drive. The first fourth-down test came at the Air Force 11-yard line, and fullback Eric Kettani ran for the necessary 2 yards. Then, on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line, Kaheaku-Enhada followed Kettani's block into the end zone.
It was a crushing touchdown in a game that produced the largest margin of victory by Navy in the series since Oct. 10, 1981. Navy had won the previous four in the series, all by seven points or fewer.
About his decision to go for the touchdown instead of a field goal with his team trailing by three points, Johnson said: "I'm crazy I guess. I just felt like we could make it, and if we didn't, we'd have them backed up on their own 2-yard line."
Said Air Force nose guard Jared Marvin: "'Anytime two fourth downs are converted in one drive, it just kind of takes the wind out of the defense, and you can't let that happen. Momentum just walks right across the field."
Air Force at times hurt its own momentum - missing a field goal late in the second quarter, failing to score two other times when it was inside the Navy 20-yard line, and turning over the ball on a fumble - but it was Navy's focus and lack of mistakes that made the difference.
In the first half Navy scored on a 37-yard run by Reggie Campbell, and a 12-yard run by Zerbin Singleton, who finished the run with a dive across the goal line.
And though Navy's young defense had moments when it still looked lost, leaving big holes and areas of the field open, it showed improvement.
"We didn't have a lot of crazy penalties out there," Johnson said. "That's how we have to play. We can't make mistakes and be successful.
"I told our team after the game that we were starting to look more like a Navy football team. I'm proud of them. Give them credit. They played hard and fought until the end."
And once the Mids got the lead in the final quarter, their young defense came up with big plays at the right moments. The Mids forced a punt, safety Blake Carter recovered a Falcons fumble, Tony Haberer sacked Shaun Carney, and Jesse Iwuji blocked a field goal.
And when the Mids needed a big offensive play, Kaheaku-Enhada delivered. All of it delighted the record crowd of 37,615.
Playing a sharp game and running the triple option with precision, Kaheaku-Enhada rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns - one a 78-yarder.
"We just had to play our game, and I took what they gave us," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "On my long touchdown run, Air Force messed up with their defense on the play. They had been playing really disciplined all game, but on that play I just came through and it was wide open."email@example.com
Air Force 3 7 10 0-20
Navy 0 14 3 14-31
First quarter AFA-FG Harrison 28, 2:20.
Second quarter Navy-R.Campbell 37 run (Bullen kick), 14:44. AFA-Hall 16 run (Harrison kick), 12:08. Navy-Singleton 12 run (Bullen kick), 8:25.
Third quarter AFA-FG Harrison 21, 11:46. Navy-FG Bullen 29, 7:22. AFA-Hall 5 run (Harrison kick), 1:56.
Fourth quarter Navy-Kaheaku-Enhada 2 run (Bullen kick), 13:01. Navy-Kaheaku-Enhada 78 run (Bullen kick), 9:18. A-37,615.
First downs 25 18
Rushes-yards 52-237 56-302
Passing 237 79
Comp-Att-Int 18-23-0 4-7-0
Return Yards 33 0
Punts-Avg. 2-25.0 3-42.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-65 3-25
Time of Possession 31:16 28:44 Rushing-Air Force, Ollis 15-73, Carney 15-63, C.Smith 11-47, Hall 6-29, R.Williams 3-18, McCarthy 2-7. Navy, Kaheaku-Enhada 15-101, Singleton 7-65, Kettani 17-58, R.Campbell 5-41, Ballard 11-38, Doyle 1-(minus 1). Passing-Air Force, Carney 18-23-0-237. Navy, Kaheaku-Enhada 4-7-0-79. Receiving-Air Force, Hall 8-108, Root 6-85, Quintana 3-24, Dekker 1-20. Navy, Washington 4-79.