For about a minute, Air Force got to relish the idea of beating Navy and avenging its loss to its service rival on Annapolis soil two years ago.

That didn’t last. Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry’s three-yard touchdown with 22 seconds left sent that hope to its grave.

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“They (Navy) made a few plays and some really fine plays, too,” Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said. “Catching the wheel (route) in a long yardage situation over on their (Navy) sideline was a big play. The quarterback (Perry) made some big plays and he really made big plays all game.”

As the Falcons shuffled off the field with the defeat on their shoulders, the feeling tasted eerily similar to their 2017 loss, in which Zach Abey tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Carmona with 15 seconds left, edging Air Force out after, like on Saturday, blowing a sizable lead.

“It never feels good to lose. We came here, played our heart out but didn’t play well enough to win,” Falcons defensive end Jordan Jackson said. “We didn’t play well on that last drive. We didn’t want to be in that spot to begin with, with it coming down to one drive. We didn’t play well enough as a team today.”

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo talks about his team defeating Air Force, 34-25.

Junior linebacker Demonte Meeks, who led the Falcons with 11 tackles, was a freshman then, consuming every movement of the game from Arnold Hall back in Colorado.

“Interesting game, too, that game," Meeks said. "It was similar, but I’m confident in our team and confident in our ability to rally.”

Meeks felt the burden of that fruitful drive for Navy on Saturday.

“The thing is, that last play ... if I would have heard the first word, I would have known where the ball was going," he said. "As the game progresses, you start to pick up on tendencies, formations, words, checks. I knew it was a triple-option and I knew it was either a dive or a pitch, but I didn’t know what side it was going to. I didn’t hear a 'W' or an ‘R.’ First word I didn’t hear. I’m not looking back on it, but it hurts.”

The Falcons (3-2) struggled to put distance behind them and Navy’s defensive crew on the ground, amassing just 108 yards over 45 carries.

It’s a black-and-white reversal for a squad that put up 382 yards on 69 attempts during its drubbing of San Jose State last week.

“Really, you look across the board. We gotta be able to gain more yards, no doubt," Calhoun said. "That’s everybody that’s involved, that’s handling the ball well, blocking.”

As their name would suggest, Air Force thrived in the air much more than it did on land. Lead pilot DJ Hammond III tossed 10 for 25 for 205 yards, picked off once. His successor, Chance Stevenson, tacked on an additional 41 yards on one long sling.

Senior wide receiver Benjamin Waters shouldered a majority of that yardage with 128 yards on four receptions for 32-yard-per-catch average.

“We’ll always have that, always have that outstanding arm," Waters said. "We try to get open as much as we can. Obviously, it wasn’t enough. Props to DJ for staying alive.”

In the locker room, players said they felt this loss no more than any other, despite the service academy rivalry hype.

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“It’s not the first time we’ve lost. It’s bounce-back time," Jackson said. "There’s a lot of stuff that wasn’t said in there that we already know. It’s a loss, of course we want to win the Commander in Chief, of course it’s a big game for us, but it’s a loss. Two losses on the season right now but we’ve got nine games to go.”

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