WEST POINT – For the second-straight season the Army West Point football team will have some prime hardware to show off after it retained the Commander In Chief’s Trophy following a 17-14 victory over Air Force on Saturday.
The Falcons had already defeated Navy earlier in the year and a win from them on Saturday would have sent the 170-plus pound trophy back to Colorado. Fortunately, the Cadets ended any thought of that happening when they held off a late rally by their service-academy foe.
With the win, Army will at least retain the trophy for another year as the worst all three academies can now do is win one game each. In the case of a three-way tie, the previous year’s winner retains the trophy. The Black Knights will have a chance to win the trophy outright when they face off against arch-rival Navy in the Army-Navy Game on Dec. 8.
Saturday’s triumph marked the first time in program history Army will have the trophy at West Point in back-to-back seasons. The win also handed the Black Knights their second-straight victory over Air Force since they claimed three consecutive from 1976-78.
Darnell Woolfolk rushed for a team-high 117 yards on 21 carries. The senior added his 32nd career score when he punched one in from one-yard out in the first quarter.
Kelvin Hopkins Jr. chipped in 75 yards rushing and one touchdown, while finishing 3-of-5 in the passing game. Jordan Asberry was his main target gathering 35 yards on two receptions.
Senior James Nachtigal led the defense with 11 tackles, including eight solo shots. This was the first time this season the Fort Atkinson, Wis., native registered double-digit tackles.
The Black Knights took the opening drive of the game 75 yards to take an early 7-0 advantage after Woolfolk found paydirt. That drive was filled up with an impressive 21 plays and ate up a season-high 13:03 off the game clock. The senior racked up nine of those 21 plays during the drive for 32 yards.
Midway through the second period Army added to its lead when Hopkins crossed into the end zone from six-yards out. That drive was highlighted by a 52-yard scamper by Woolfolk that put the Black Knights into the redzone.
Neither team was able to muster anything throughout much of the third period until Air Force finally got on the scoreboard with a late touchdown. DJ Hammond III rushed in from the 1-yard line to cut into Army’s lead at 14-6. A missed extra point kept the Falcons from pulling to within seven with 54 ticks remaining.
On the ensuing drive the Black Knights went 62 yards, on 13 plays but had to settle for a 30-yard boot from Abercrombie. That kick made it a two-score game at 17-6 with just 8:35 left to play.
Air Force used 3:16 of that remaining time to drive 75 yards to again cut the advantage to 17-14 after a Joseph Saucier score and two-point conversion.
The Falcons then forced the Cadets to punt after five plays handing them the ball back with a little over three minutes to play. Air Force picked up a first down by way of penalty but was halted to a 4th-and-3 situation after only picking up seven yards. Hammond kept the fourth down snap but Cole Christiansen read it all the way as the junior drove the sophomore back for no gain. Turnover on downs.
Army still needed to gain a first down to secure the win since Air Force stopped the clock with two timeouts. And that’s exactly what the Black Knights did as head coach Jeff Monken decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Army 49-yard line.
After the final cannon sounded the only thing left to do was to Sing Second.
Army is back in action this Saturday when it welcomes Lafayette for a noon kickoff at Michie Stadium.