MVP Bradshaw leads Army to second consecutive victory over Navy
By SEAN MOORES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 9, 2017
PHILADELPHIA — After 14 years of futility, West Point has a streak of its own.
Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw scored on a keeper with 5:10 remaining, and Navy kicker Bennett Moehring missed a 48-yard field goal attempt on the final play Saturday as Army held on for a 14-13 victory in the 118th Army-Navy Game before a crowd of 68,625 at snowy Lincoln Financial Field.
Army (9-3), which snapped a 14-game losing streak to Navy (6-6) with a 21-17 victory last year, won back-to-back meetings for the first time since winning five in a row between 1992 and 1996.
The Black Knights also won the Commander in Chief’s Trophy, presented to the winner of the annual football competition between Army, Navy and Air Force, for the first time since 1996.
The past four Army-Navy Games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and by a total of 16 points.
Bradshaw, a senior, scored on a sneak from the half-yard line to tie the game, and senior Blake Wilson’s point-after kick put the Black Knights up 14-13.
Army’s’ go-ahead drive was a 13-play, 65-yarder that took 7:40 off the clock. It nearly ended one play sooner. Senior running back John Trainor took a pitch from Bradshaw and headed down the left side of the field. He spun away from one tackler and tiptoed down the sideline for an 8-yard gain before being pushed out of bounds by Navy senior cornerback Elijah Merchant. Trainor was ruled out just short of the goal line, but it was close enough to warrant a replay review. The call stood, but Bradshaw finished the drive on the next play.
“All year long we’ve preached being warriors in the fourth quarter and winning the fourth quarter,” Army senior defensive end John Voit said. “We just did that tonight. Navy played great, but in that fourth quarter we knew we had to win it. We did, and we came out on top.”
Navy appeared to be on its way to a comeback victory behind quarterback Malcolm Perry, who rushed for 250 yards and a TD on 30 carries. Perry led a methodical drive, but Navy took two-false start penalties deep in Army territory. The latter flag left the Midshipmen staring at third-and-11 from the Army 31 with just 22 seconds left. Perry carried the ball to the middle of the field, setting up Moehring’s potential game winner with three seconds to go.
He made a good effort. The kick had the distance, but drifted just to the left, falling gently to the turf as the snow had all afternoon. As the ball landed, the Army sideline and the cadets in the stands erupted.
“It is Navy football. When we are down at the goal line and close to the end zone, we have to put the ball in the end zone,” Perry said. “We just didn’t. That hurt us in the end. We really wanted to get the ball in the end zone.”
Moehring, a junior, kicked a 24-yard field goal that gave the Midshipmen a 13-7 lead after three quarters and a 28-yarder in the first quarter.
“So close and our kids fought hard, so you give our kids credit,” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. “They (Army) fought hard too and played well. We had another penalty on another drive and couldn’t sustain it in decent field position. In a close game it is the team that doesn’t make mistakes and those penalties hurt us.”
Bradshaw, who rushed for 94 yards on 21 carries, was voted the game’s MVP. He also led Army to its first consecutive wins over Navy since the Clinton administration, running for the deciding score in both victories.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “For one, to understand all the work that we’ve put in since I’ve been here, since we’ve been together. We’ve trusted the process, and we’ve grown as an organization.”
Army and Navy, both proponents of the triple-option offense, came into the game ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in rushing, respectively, and they stuck to the script. The Black Knights ran for 221 yards and the Midshipmen 294.
Army attempted just one pass, a 20-yarder from Bradshaw to junior fullback Calen Holt. Navy went 1-for-2 passing for 2 yards.
Army put together a promising drive early in the fourth quarter, but a false-start penalty on the 12th play of the possession gave the Black Knights a third-and-13 at the Navy 15-yard line. The Midshipmen strung out reverse for a loss of two yards to force a 35-yard field goal attempt that Wilson missed wide to the right with 14:55 remaining.
The Black Knights’ defense stepped up on Navy’s ensuing possession. Voit and junior linebacker James Nachtigal stopped senior fullback Chris High on third-and-8 to force a punt and put the ball back in Bradshaw’s hands with 12:50 to go.
Perry ran for a 69-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put Navy up 10-7. It was his fourth touchdown of 60 or more yards this season (3 rushing, 1 receiving). He might have had a fifth, but Voit took a good pursuit angle to trip him up on a 46-yard run in the third quarter. Perry gave Navy a first down at the Army 11, but the Black Knights’ defense stiffened and the Midshipmen had to settle for Moehring’s second field goal and a 13-7 edge rather than a 10-point lead.
Perry’s second 200-yard game of the season pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark. He became Navy’s second 1,000-plus-yard rusher this year, joining junior Zach Abey. There was some mystery as to whether Niumatalolo would start Abey or Perry, who spent most of the season as Abey’s backup. He opted for the faster Perry, who set the offensive tone by carrying the ball on the first six plays for the Midshipmen. It was revealed after the game that Niumatalolo had given the nod to Perry two weeks ago. It now looks like the job is his to lose.
Navy forced the first punt of the game two minutes into the second quarter. It didn’t take the Midshipmen long to capitalize. On the third play of the possession, Perry took the snap, started to his left before cutting back to the right side of the Army defensive line. In a flash, the speedy Perry was in the secondary and flying down the right sideline untouched.
Army took the opening kickoff and held the ball for 6 minutes, 54 seconds on an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive capped by junior fullback Darnell Woolfolk’s 3-yard run off right tackle. Wilson’s point-after kick made it 7-0 in favor of the Black Knights.
Navy answered with a 13-play, 64 yard drive of its own, but the Midshipmen had to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Moehring that made it 7-3 with 55 seconds to go in the opening quarter.
Army’s next game is a Dec. 23 meeting with San Diego State (10-2) in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. Navy, which has lost six of its past seven games, will face Virginia (6-6) in the Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Dec. 28.
Army's John Trainor is driven out of bounds after scampering to the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, giving the Black Knights the field position to punch in the winning touchdown.
MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES