14:53 left, first quarter: Are these uniforms awesome, or what! LOVE IT! Army has Navy beat in this category... Navy's unis are great, but Army's are amazing.
13:36: A missed opportunity in the passing game for Army. Exactly the kind of play the Black Knights must convert.
13:23: Army putting no nose tackle over center. The fullback option sure looks tantalizing for Navy's offense. It will be interesting to see how Army changes its defensive looks.
12:08: After two attempts up the middle, a pitch play springs Shun White for a 65-yard touchdown. The perfect Navy start, and the worst-case scenario for Stan Brock's club. That missed third-down pass proved to be damaging for the Brave Old Army Team. The guys in the cool unis have to get production from every avenue imaginable. If there was little margin for error on the West Point sideline, that margin has already decreased, a mere three minutes into the proceedings.
11:19: Great block on the perimeter by fullback D.C. Adamic, which springs Wesley McMahand for a huge gain. Just what the doctor ordered for Army.
9:50: A no-brainer for Brock: Go for it on fourth-and-3 at the Navy 33.
9:21: Chip Bowden is unable to make the right read, and Navy stuffs the Army quarterback for a two-yard loss. Army had one big play from the triple option, but on every other snap, Navy's defense has been up to the challenge. We're seeing the difference between an experienced triple-option team, and an Army ballclub that--for all the progress it has genuinely made in 2008--is still in the first year of its own new-look offense. That, in a nutshell, offers the biggest reason why Navy enjoyed an edge heading into this game. With two teams running the same basic offense, expect the more experienced club to perform better. This is why Army has to get plays from the passing game in order to have a good chance.
9:08: A lot of jawing in the piles so far. Trash talking aplenty.
8:33: Huge, huge defensive stand for the Black Knights. That was a must.
8:16: Kyle Delahooke, if thrown into a difficult situation during his future military career, will likely be the calmest man in the storm. The Navy punter just showed incredible poise under pressure, as he retrieved a wild snap, saw that he had time to punt the ball, and then unleashed a solid kick roughly 35 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Other punters would have fallen on the ball or scooped the pigskin out of the end zone to take a safety. Delahooke instead salvaged the play for his team. Let's see how big that play turns out to be.
7:12: Ugh! Jameson Carter drops a perfectly good pass on third-and-5. A dagger, really. Those plays can't go begging. The analysis might seem overly simplistic, but there's just no other way to say it. Delahooke--it can now be fairly said--saved Navy points with his clutch play under pressure.
6:20: Navy can probably win this game without having to throw, but the Midshipmen convert a downfield pass. Navy just the sharper, more balanced team so far.
5:27: That's what can happen when you throw the ball. Navy uses an option play with misdirection principles, and Eric Kettani rumbles down the right sideline for a huge gain to the Army 12. A little variety always helps when you have a base offense that involves multiple reads. Anything to get the defense guessing a little more than usual pays big dividends.
4:08: Massive third-and-5 at the Army 7.
3:45: Army rises up. Surprising, though, that Navy went to the fullback three consecutive times.
3:03: The good news for Navy? The Mids have a two-possession lead (10-0). The good news for Army? It's not 14-0. That red-zone stand can greatly encourage the Black Knights of the Hudson. This next drive has to produce points or, if not that, really good field position.
2:43: Crafty and very impressive play by Bowden. The play got bottled up in the backfield, but Bowden found the perfect time to pitch the ball and create a 12-yard gain for McMahand. Delayed pitches don't usually work out, but Bowden made that one count.
1:00: Boomer Esiason--in his analysis for CBS television--said it a few moments ago, and he was absolutely correct. Navy just has a lot more speed than Army. Bowden--when a pass play breaks down--has to be able to turn on the afterburners and scramble for the sticks, and it's just not there so far. If there's one thing Army needs at the quarterback position more than anything else, it's impressive speed... enough to keep a defense honest.
End of first quarter: Navy 10, Army 0.
13:39 left, second quarter: Army is defending the pass well. Right there, the Black Knights blew up a flanker screen to force a punt. Aside of one 65-yard gallop by Shun White, the Army defense is playing well enough to win. All eyes now shift to a struggling offense that figured to have tough sledding today against coordinator Buddy Green's Navy defense.
12:46: As the saying goes, that pass hit Tony Dace in the worst possible spot: right between the hands.
12:39: There's what Army needed! A caught pass moves the chains on a third-and-7 play. More of that, and watch the triple option open up for the Black Knights. A huge conversion.
11:12: The difference between third-and-4 and third-and-9 is considerable for both teams, but especially Army. There's never a good time for a false start, but that's a particuarly bad piece of timing.
10:49: Another third down converted through the air for Army. A basic pitch-and-catch. Not too complicated, and entirely within the ability of this offense to execute. Just a little consistency is all Army really needs.
9:05: Sure enough, that consistency proves to be elusive, as a screen on third-and-12 is disrupted by Navy's defensive front.
7:45: Good move by Ken Niumatalolo. He tried the passing game, but he's now rededicating the Navy offense to Shun White. The pass might open up later, but it is time to re-establish his foremost strength.
5:34: Navy moving the ball, but Army still defending the pass with distinction and not getting fooled in the secondary.
3:18: And just a little while after I say that, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada shows run action but then drops back and flips a soft toss to White for an easy 17-yard touchdown. What's instructive about that play is that Navy--unlike its other passes--didn't go for a home-run ball downfield. Instead of being more vertical, the Midshipmen used a short delay route underneath the Army defense. The clever changeup worked to perfection.
3:05: Army's Patrick Mealy with a 63-yard kickoff return precisely when his team needed it. Now at the Navy 28, this is a must-touchdown situation for the Black Knights. Nothing else will do.
1:42: Perhaps a field goal is the only call, but not getting seven here is a huge missed opportunity.
1:33: I love the boldness by Stan Brock--he had to push the button. With that said, I've always liked passes on faked kicks more than runs. Also credit Navy's defense for being disciplined enough to stop that fake. And LOOK AT KEN NIUMATALOLO'S FIST PUMP! What a great visual from the CBS production truck and camera crew.
End of first half: Navy content to go to the locker room with a three-possession advantage. Army just has to find a spark on offense. With Navy's interior defensive linemen taking away fullback Collin Mooney--whose name hasn't been called often in the first 30 minutes--it will be hard for the Black Knights to find the scoring punch they need.
Halftime score: Navy 17, Army 0.
11:23 left, third quarter: Very creative delay run drawn up by Navy’s offensive braintrust, and it converts a third down inside the Army 30. Right away, the Black Knights’ defense is forced to make a big stand in the second half. The Midshipmen have to be held down.
9:20: One would have to think that Niumatalolo would go for the first down here. Fourth-and-2 at the Army 19.
8:35: Kaipo moves the sticks with first-rate instincts. CBS shows that Navy leads in terms of first downs by a 15-4 count.
7:30: Eric Kettani makes it 16-4 with a hard-nosed run to the 5. Notice that Navy has eaten up half the third quarter on this drive.
6:56: Kettani scores. On a drive that took roughly eight minutes, the Midshipmen score and take a 24-0 lead. Navy can’t play any better, and Army—though trying hard—is just not at the level of the boys from Annapolis.
6:10: I was about to say that a huge hit jarred the ball from Mooney’s grasp, but the pigskin came out before the big stick from a Navy defender. Forget the fact that Navy has the ball at the Army 35. The Black Knights can’t score without possession, and that’s the biggest aspect of this fumble.
4:39: Showing true grit, Army’s defense stops Kaipo on fourth down. No one will ever, ever give up in this college football classic, and all credit to Stan Brock’s defense for continuing to fight the good fight.
1:02: Just to show how good Kaipo has been as Navy’s quarterback over the years, check out that option pitch he just made. He knew that Shun White was only beginning to turn upfield, so instead of putting some mustard on the pitch, Kaipo softened his touch. As a result, White was able to catch the pitch in stride and get a decent gain. It’s hard enough to make the right reads as a triple-option quarterback. It’s just as difficult to put the right touch on various pitches performed at various times from different angles… all while bracing for a hard hit from a linebacker or interior lineman. First-rate execution under center is precisely why Navy’s been so good over the past several seasons. Having a top-notch trigger man is essential, and that’s been the difference today.
End of third quarter: Navy 24, Army 0.
Start of fourth quarter: Very simply, Navy has the perfect offense with which to drain clock and protect a lead. Army doesn’t have the kind of offense that’s suited to mount a big comeback.
12:37: Downfield passing still not working for Navy. It’s amazing that as relentlessly as the Midshipmen have run the ball in the second half, Army’s secondary is still not biting on fakes and vertical pass plays. Navy should be using short misdirection passes, because the well-schooled Black Knights are locking down on the home-run attempts. Army’s defense has played admirably today, and that reality can’t be emphasized enough. This is simply a case where Army only has one leg to stand on.
11:05: Army with another good defensive stand, but Matt Harmon boots a field goal to nudge the lead to 27-0.
10:15: One of Collin Mooney’s better runs of the day. Let’s see Army dent the scoreboard. These kids deserve a positive development.
7:47: If ever a perfect punt existed, there it is. Army’s Andrew Rinehart crushes a 59-yard kick that dies at the Navy 1.
6:17: Army gets another stop, and this one could produce points, given that it occurred at the Navy 5. The Midshipmen have dominated first downs and time of possession, but given the time Army’s defense has spent on the field, those eleven men have done something praiseworthy.
5:30: Delahooke has been huge for Navy today. He booms a 52-yard punt from the back of his own end zone. Add an illegal blocking penalty to the mix, and the Midshipmen get a net of 60 yards on that exchange. Delahooke’s quick thinking after that air-mailed snap in the first quarter is one of the three biggest plays of this contest. Shun White’s 65-yard touchdown would qualify as the second play on the list, and the stopped fake field goal would check in at number three.
2:20: Hand the ball to Mooney, coach Brock. Give him a shot at Army’s single-season rushing record. He needs just four yards.
2:01: Well, that first-down-gaining catch can now allow Mooney to break the record. Let’s go. Give Collin the rock. I know this is a team game, and service academy men are taught to think about the community before self, but Army needs something to take from this game, and Mooney’s record is it. Besides, the virtues of the team are reflected in individual accomplishments.
0:30: Navy’s Ram Vela gets a pick-six that he’ll cherish for the rest of his life. Now, Army can just try to give Collin Mooney a handoff or two. That’s the only drama left in Philadelphia, save for the playing of the alma maters.
0:10: Thank goodness that Army had one more timeout in the bag. Mooney just tied the record with a three-yard gain, and now, he’ll get one more carry in need of one more yard. This is a big deal. One yard for a lifetime of memories.
End of game: MOONEY FOR TWO YARDS! That’s not just an empty shout of joy, either. A kid busted his rear end all season long, and now he’s moved past Mike Mayweather (1990) on Army’s all-time single-season rushing list. The Black Knights just found their meaningful moment, along with the fine performance turned in by their defense. Kudos as well to coach Brock and the staff for working to make this happen in the final half-minute of regulation time.
Final score: Navy 34, Army 0. Another year, another Commander-In-Chief Trophy for Navy. Another year, another discouraging loss for Army against the Midshipmen. It’s all about the skill positions. The Black Knights took some forward steps this year, but Ken Niumatalolo’s team showed them how far they have to go in order to be competitive in this ballgame. In particular, Navy taught Army how much speed matters when running a triple option. With some quickness on the edges, Army can begin to do what Navy started in the 2002 season… and has continued to do ever since.