Forced Fumble Fails to Foil Falcons’ Flight.
That’s the alliterative way of summarizing the Air Force Academy-Army West Point game Saturday afternoon.
A literal alternative is: The Falcons evaded what would have been a stunning end-of-the-day defeat to the Black Knights of the Hudson.
As several of us stood 5 yards from the goal posts at Falcon Stadium, we couldn’t believe what our eyes were seeing.
Air Force had just stopped Army on four consecutive plays inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line. A touchdown there would have given the Knights’ a fairy-tale finish at 20-17. However, Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins had been been hurried into an errant, too-long throw on first down, and was limited to only 2 yards on second down. At the 5, Hopkins threw incomplete with 38 seconds to go. After an Air Force timeout, Hopkins, who should have been rolling right giving himself three options, flung the ball into the end zone wide and high.
The Falcons and the full house were ready to celebrate in a half minute at 3:38 p.m.
But, wait! On first down, Army nose tackle Swabena Bonsu burst prematurely into the center of the offense, disrupted the play and displaced the ball that bounced off quarterback Donald Hammond III.
Wot just happened!
No flag had dropped. The ball was loose at the 3.
An Army recovery would put Air Force back on defense.
This would be the Falcons’ Fumble of all Fumbles.
However, Air Force tailback Kadin Remsberg, all 5-foot-9 of him, squirted onto the ball.
The final play was uneventful as Hammond dipped his knee.
The Falcons survived — barely — in a fantastic, fantasy finish after more than a half of inaction that would set the game back to the discovery of the forward pass in 1895.
Air Force is 7-2 and actually still has a chance to become coach Troy Calhoun’s first team (since his hiring in 2007) to win 11 games. He has 10 twice. The Falcons will be invited to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, on Jan. 4, and play a team from the Big Ten. An Air Force-Nebraska confrontation (the third since two in the 1960s) seemed possible, but the Cornhuskers lost, as usual, Saturday.
Despite the victory, the Falcons can’t win the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, which will be decided by the Army-Navy game. But Air Force made those couple of hundred Army cadets who sat in the corner of the stadium sad. Air Force players went over to console them afterward.
The happiest fellow on the field had to be — take your pick — Timothy, or Duval, Jackson.
Jackson, a sophomore who didn’t play in any games last year, began this season as third string, then, as he told me following the game, suffered a concussion in the loss to Navy.
But, get this: Jackson has returned to rush for more than 100 yards in four straight games — and become the first fullback to accomplish the feat at the academy.
“When I came back, I just decided I’d play every play like it was my last.’’
One play will last.
The Air Force offense had stalled from the beginning into the middle of the third quarter, and Army led 6-3. On first down at the Falcons’ 36, Jackson took off around right end and sprinted for 40 yards. At the Army 26, was faced down, “but I didn’t want to go out of bounds.’’
Jackson thoroughly bulldozed Army defensive back Elijah Riley and added 2 more yards.
He then scored on a 3-yard run to give Air Force a 10-6 advantage.
Even though Jackson calls himself Duval (his middle name), the academy, based on the registar’s office, lists him as Timothy.
I asked if I could call him “T.D.’’ because “you ran like Terrell Davis today.’’
He has made a name for himself, averaging more than 6 yards a carry and with a season total of 661 rushing yards with random playing time until lately.
Calhoun said Jackson has “given us a lot of chunk plays. He just needs some more girth and can be a good one.’’ He is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.
Air Force, No. 2 in the country in rushing yards, had its customary 328 Saturday after the sluggish start.
The Falcons won, but it was a real ordeal.