Army holds off Air Force 17-14, gets 11th straight win at home
By SAL INTERDONATO | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: November 3, 2018
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Cole Christiansen and his Army teammates sprinted toward the Corps of Cadets as Air Force's alma mater finished first.
Before Army's band started and the Black Knights began singing second, coach Jeff Monken shouted to the student body, "That trophy is staying here," drawing a loud roar.
For the first time in the 47-year service-academy, round-robin tournament, the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy will remain at West Point for consecutive seasons.
In another ending at Michie Stadium that had fans on the edge of their seats, Christiansen was one of the heroes in a 17-14 victory. Regardless of the result of the Army-Navy game on Dec. 8, the Black Knights will retain the CIC trophy for the first time.
Christiansen, a junior linebacker, and senior linebacker James Nachtigal teamed to drop Kade Remsberg for a 2-yard loss on third down. Then Christiansen darted through the line and tackled quarterback DJ Hammond for no gain on 4th-and-3 from Army's 40 with 70 seconds left.
Black Knights quarterback Kelvin Hopkins moved the chains with 14 seconds left on 4th-and-short, the last 10 seconds ticked off the clock and pandemonium ensued.
Army was once again service-academy football's best. The Black Knights (7-2) extended their home winning streak to 11 games. Seven games in the streak have come by seven points or fewer.
"It was on us," said Christiansen, one of Army's captains, of the defense. "That seems to be the case in a lot of games this year. Our backs are against the wall and we have to make a big stop. It was never in doubt. We just never flinch. When it comes down to 4th-and-1, we know we are going to get a stop."
The bitter rivalry between academies added a new chapter Saturday. A handful of players from both teams pushed and shoved each other at midfield during the postgame handshakes.
For Air Force (3-6), this was the Falcons' season. The Black Knights sent Air Force, seeking its 21st CIC trophy, back West with nothing to show for the 60-minute battle.
"It's a heated rivalry," said Monken, whose team has won five straight games. "It's a hated rivalry. Hated. When you go out there to play, you want to beat that team more than you want to beat any team that has ever played this game."
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun's postgame comments were short. When asked why he didn't call a timeout on Air Force's final play, Calhoun said, "Because we had a good play. I'll say this, we had the play we wanted, that we went to and we didn't get enough."
The CIC trophy was transported from Kimsey Center's third floor to Army's locker room prior to the game. The trophy will return to its place in the Army Hall of Fame.
"It's such a source of pride to beat one of the other academies for all of the reasons," Monken said. "Winning. Winning on the field. Things that are said back and forth in recruiting. You want to win so bad. I'm glad for our players."
Army's senior class was front and center in another victory. Slotback Jordan Asberry's diving catch at the Air Force 1 kept Army's 21-play game-opening drive alive. Darnell Woolfolk, who led Army with 117 rushing yards, scored from one yard out on the next snap. Cornerback Mike Reynolds picked off Isaiah Sanders' pass at Army's 4 with 46 seconds left in the first half. John Abercrombie continued his consistent kicking, making his sixth straight field goal, a 30-yarder to extend Army's lead to three in the fourth quarter.
The majority of Army's seniors started their college football careers with a 2-10 record in their freshmen year. They have now won 25 games, claimed two Commander-in-Chief's trophies, two wins over Navy and Air Force and two bowl victories over the their final three seasons.
That trophy, which hadn't been in Army's possession since 1996 prior to last season, is the ultimate prize.
"We strive to win the CIC every year," Asberry said. "Regardless of the outcome against Navy, that trophy will stay here and that's amazing. It's amazing for this brotherhood, this program and this school."
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