Blumenfeld's kick keeps Navy perfect, 24-21

0-for-4 in 2004, he's good on 30-yarder at :04 to top Air Force

Mids now 5-0

October 01, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The magical season continued here last night for the Navy Midshipmen.

After seemingly taking control with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, then watching Air Force tie the game with a little more than two minutes left, the Mids escaped with a stunning 24-21 victory on a 30-yard field goal by senior Geoff Blumenfeld with four seconds to go in a nationally televised game.

The field goal was Blumenfeld's first this season after misses of 40, 26, 47 and 49 yards and came after the Falcons had called two timeouts. It set off a wild celebration on the Navy sideline and sent most of crowd of 44,279 at Falcon Stadium scurrying for the parking lots.

The victory for the Mids (5-0) all but assured that the Commander in Chief's Trophy will remain in Annapolis for another year. It also means that Navy will take its perfect record into Giants Stadium against Notre Dame two weeks from tomorrow.

"How much fun is this to be able to kick a game-winning field goal in Colorado to get the team to 5-0?" Blumenfeld said after giving the Mids their best start since beginning the 1979 season with a 6-0 mark. "You couldn't have written a better story."

It marks the first time since 1978 and '79 that Navy has a chance to win for two years running the silver trophy coveted by the nation's service academies. The only thing standing in the way of the Mids in that regard is the season finale against Army in Philadelphia.

Asked about the significance of the win, the first here for the Mids since 1996, Johnson said, "It means that for two years we've been better than them. We know it [the CIC Trophy] is not coming back here."

Said Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry: "What you witnessed out there tonight was a great college football game. We're disappointed that we came up with fewer points, but you've got to give the Navy football team a lot of credit. I think the national TV audience got a bird's eye view of the character that's in both of these teams."

Particularly in the fourth quarter. The fireworks came after the Mids couldn't build on their 14-6 first-half lead. As happened in the first quarter, when they turned the ball over twice but survived because their defense gave up only two field goals, the Mids survived with their defense.

"It was an amazing game because offensively we just disappeared in the third quarter," said Johnson. "I had never seen a team so lethargic, so nonchalant. There was nothing I could do to prod them over there. All of a sudden, when they scored, the care factor came back."

It returned in the most unusual way.

After Air Force (2-3) tied the game on a 19-yard pass from freshman quarterback Shaun Carney to wide receiver Darnell Stephens, and a two-point conversion by Carney, with 7:50 remaining in the game, the Mids appeared to be fading after senior defensive end Jeremy Chase left with a dislocated shoulder.

Carney, benched briefly earlier in the game after being intercepted twice in the first half, finished 17 of 21 for 221 yards, while gaining 49 yards on the ground. But it was his counterpart, Navy senior Aaron Polanco, who wound up making the biggest plays of the game, and winning the game's Ben Martin Award as its Most Valuable Player.

Sacked for a 9-yard loss to force a third-and-19 from his team's 14, Polanco hit little-used wingback Marco Nelson for a 66-yard completion, the longest pass of Polanco's career. The play was set up for Polanco to roll left, but the defense forced Polanco to scramble to his right.

"That was a huge play because of the down it was and the time it was," said Polanco, whose two first-half rushing touchdowns and 176 yards of total offense contributed to winning the game's MVP award. "It was a good job of Marco to get open. It wouldn't have happened if he didn't get open."

The pass to the Air Force 20 set up five straight runs by senior fullback Kyle Eckel, whose 3-yard run with 4:15 remaining helped give the Mids a 21-14 lead. But the Falcons came back behind Carney to go 80 yards in less than two minutes, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Carney to J.P. Waller with 2:21 left.

"The defense did a great job in the third quarter," said Johnson. "They threw it over our head twice."

Polanco went back to work, driving his team from its own 25. After the Mids began with a 3-yard run by Eckel, Polanco hit Jason Tomlinson with a 12-yard pass. Polanco then made another big play, breaking free for a 32-yard run to the Air Force 29.

Eckel then rushed for 13 yards, and suddenly, a field goal seemed possible. As the time ticked away, all Johnson wanted his offense to do was get the ball in the middle of the field. The Mids got another five yards on two plays to set up Blumenfeld's kick.

DeBerry called timeout with seven seconds to go, then called another timeout.

Despite the fact that Blumenfeld had missed eight of the previous 13 attempts during his Navy career, Johnson said he had confidence. At least that's what he said after the senior drove the winning field goal straight through the uprights.

"I had a feeling Geoff was going to make the kick," said Johnson. "I didn't have any doubts."

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