ANNAPOLIS, Md – What looked like another nail-biting classic with Navy instead turned into something more recently familiar to Air Force — another lopsided loss.
In front of a sellout home crowd, the Midshipmen made all the important plays in the second half to overcome a deficit and pull away 28-10 on Saturday afternoon as the game that almost wasn’t played instead turned into the most lopsided Navy victory the series had seen since 1978.
Air Force fumbled, threw two interceptions and failed to convert a key fourth and 2 — all in the fourth quarter — and generally missed a chance to right its ship as it was outscored 21-0 in the second half.
“We have yet to finish a game,” said fullback Broam Hart, who led Air Force with 67 rushing yards but came up short on fourth down in Navy territory and the Falcons trailing by four points early in the fourth quarter. “We have yet, as team, to finish a second half. That’s a trend we’ve seen here.
“We come out strong, that’s not an issue. Finishing hard is an issue.”
Air Force certainly put itself in position to be competitive. The defense shut out Navy over the first quarter — the first time since the third quarter in the season opener against Colgate that Air Force held an opponent scoreless in a quarter — and the Falcons led 10-7 at halftime.
Navy’s touchdown early in the third quarter marked the game’s third lead change, reminiscent of recent meetings in a rivalry that has needed overtime in three of the past four installments.
Instead, Air Force returned home with a losing streak that stands at five and off to its worst start at 1-5 since 1993. This one wasn’t the wire-to-wire blitzkrieg that it has seen at times this year, but instead mirrored last week’s game at Nevada in which a late 12-point lead wasn’t enough.
“There were times in the first half where we might have made first downs when it came to third down and fourth down,” Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said, “and in the second half we didn’t.”
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds rushed for two of his three touchdowns in the second half. He amassed 126 rushing yards and completed 6-of-10 passes for 54 yards.
The Midshipmen outrushed Air Force 273 to 231 and, though the Falcons dominated time of possession early, Navy held the ball for all but 3 minutes, 56 seconds in the fourth quarter to make it nearly impossible for the Falcons to play catch-up.
“I made a few dumb plays, a few mistakes,” Reynolds said. “We went back into the locker room, regrouped, and we were able to get it going in the second half.”
In his second start, Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts completed 6-of-14 passes (at least two were dropped) for 67 yards and an interception (on one of the drops). He also ran for 31 yards.
Jon Lee ran for 66 yards on 13 carries and Anthony LaCoste had half of his 36 yards on Air Force’s lone touchdown — an 18-yard burst up the middle.
Will Conant connected on a field goal from 45 yards in the first quarter and later came up short on a 50-yard try into a breeze.
“We played 100 percent effort the whole entire game,” Roberts said. “But it’s just a matter of executing the plays, getting a couple of extra yards and things like that. We didn’t do that.”
This game almost didn’t happen. Air Force has postponed all other sporting events during the government shutdown and was in danger of losing this trip before United Services Automobile Associationstepped in with a $230,000 gift.