Army needed 7 yards. Air Force needed four stops.

The Falcons got there first.

Air Force’s defense forced three incomplete passes and stuffed one run, providing the defensive stand inside its 10-yard line necessary to close out a 17-13 victory over Army on Saturday.

The win — bookended by Falcons defensive stops on the first and final possession — ended a two-game losing streak to the Black Knights, knocked Army out of bowl contention and gave Air Force a fourth consecutive victory.

Oh, and it exorcised the demons of the season’s low point — a similar situation at Navy in which the Midshipmen scored the go-ahead touchdown on a long drive in the final minute.

“For the defense to close out against Army definitely means a lot,” said cornerback Zane Lewis, who made the stop on the running play and knocked away one of the Black Knight’s three passing attempts in that final sequence.

But were there nerves?

Yes, Lewis admitted.

How could it be any other way?

This game between heated rivals that again saw a little pushing and shoving beyond the final whistle was played in front of 41,401 at Falcon Stadium and looked like it was about to slip away.

Army had forced an Air Force punt with 2:53 remaining and took possession at its 20. Soon came a 15-yard pass, then another for 11, then a 31-yard pass (combined with a personal foul for targeting against Jordan Jackson) that put the Black Knights at the 7-yard line with a minute remaining.

But Air Force had seen this already Saturday.

The game opened with Army driving 74 yards in 13 plays, only to be turned away on a stop from Parker Noren and Jackson at the 1 on fourth down.

The Black Knights later scored on a fourth down during the second quarter, but missed the PAT. That obviously factored heavily at the end, as they couldn’t tie the game with a field goal.

“We got killed in the opening drive by not scoring on the 4-inch line, and missing the PAT,” Black Knights coach Jeff Monken said. “Those are opportunities lost and those are the two biggest disappointments from the first half that could have made a difference at the end there.”

Air Force said it took some energy from the crowd in completing its two defensive stands.

“It’s sick,” linebacker Demonte Meeks said. “We love to see a full crowd. It doesn’t happen very often — I wish it did. Getting the crowd behind us on the goal line and having them get super loud to where they can’t hear the snap, we love it.”

Army’s final two pass attempts fell incomplete.

“The defense knew the situation at Navy was sort of similar and they had to come up big for us, and they did,” quarterback Donald Hammond III said. “We’re thankful for them.”

Air Force’s offense produced another big game on the ground with 328 rushing yards and rushing touchdowns from Timothy “Duval” Jackson and Joshua Stoner.

Jackson ran for 155 yards, making the sophomore the first fullback in program history with four consecutive 100-yard games.

The Falcons were knocked out of contention for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy with the loss at Navy, but this gives them just their second victory over a rival service academy in the past six tries.

“It definitely means the world to me,” Lewis said. “It was my last game to play Army, so I was definitely trying to do everything I could to stop them.”

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