Navy 16, Air Force 13, OT
The result, however, was oh so familiar for Air Force.
Navy got a leg up on winning another Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, holding the Falcons without an offensive touchdown and using a field goal in overtime by Joe Buckley to pull out a 16-13 victory Saturday.
After Buckley kicked a 38-yarder to end Navy's first possession in the extra period, Erik Soderberg was wide left from 31 yards for Air Force (3-2).
The Midshipmen (3-2) have won seven straight over Air Force, six of them by seven points or fewer. This was the first time the teams ever went to overtime, but that was of little consolation to the Falcons.
"It hurts," Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson said. "We didn't put the ball in the end zone. Our team, we're kind of demoralized, especially the seniors on the squad because they've never beaten this Navy team."
Soderberg said his kick felt good.
"I looked up and it was just trailing to the left," he said. "I just pulled it."
Buckley knows exactly how Soderberg feels. The Navy junior missed two of his first three field goal attempts this season and lost the starting job two weeks ago before gaining it back this week.
"I'm on Cloud 9 right now. It's a dream come true to do something like that," Buckley said.
The kick put Navy in excellent position to win the coveted Coomander-In-Chief's Trophy, awarded annually to the service academy with the best record in games among Air Force, Navy and Army.
"It means a lot. It sets the tone for the rest of our season," quarterback Ricky Dobbs said.
Navy has won a combined 14 straight over the two other academies. A win over Army, or an Air Force victory over Army, would enable the Midshipmen to claim the trophy for a seventh straight year.
The Falcons forced overtime when Soderberg kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired. The frantic 54-yard drive was extended when Navy's Tony Haberer was called for roughing the passer after Wyatt Middleton intercepted a pass by Jefferson.
Jefferson injured his right ankle late in the third quarter and missed several plays while receiving treatment. He returned in the fourth quarter with the Falcons trailing 13-10 and promptly took Air Force to the Navy 44 before a botched handoff on fourth down was recovered by the Midshipmen.
"That was a key play in the game," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "It was a missed exchange. You just cannot have that happen at that point."
But Navy gave it right back on a fumble at midfield by Dobbs with 7:15 left.
In the end, though, one final mistake by the Falcons left Air Force lamenting another loss to its service academy rival.
"I think when you lose seven in a row, there's a difference," Calhoun said. "There is always more work you can do to get better, and we must do better."
Down 10-7 in the third quarter, Air Force got the ball at the Navy 37 following a 27-yard punt. Three plays later, Jefferson hurt his ankle on a 6-yard run. Although the Falcons converted a fourth-and-1 from the 16, they ultimately settled for a field goal.
Navy answered with a 14-play, 52-yard march that consumed nearly 8 minutes and ended with a 37-yard field goal by Buckley. During the drive, Dobbs threw for 21 yards on a third-and-10 and ran for 5 yards on fourth-and-3.
Both defenses dominated a first half that ended with Navy up 10-7.
The game started ideally for the Midshipmen. After stopping the Falcons inside the 10, Navy used a 17-yard punt return by Mario Washington to start at the Air Force 35. Seven plays later, Dobbs ran in from the 13 for a 7-0 lead.
Air Force went three-and-out on its next possession, and its third drive ended with an interception.
After the Falcons punted again, Navy ran 11 plays and got to the Air Force 37 before Anthony Wright picked off Dobbs' pass and took it 67 yards down the left sideline for the tying score. It was the fifth defensive touchdown for the Falcons this season, the second by Wright.
Buckley kicked a 47-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in the half.