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 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 the crowd of 44,279 at Falcon Stadium headed for the parking lots.

The win 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.

"What an opportunity. How much fun is this to kick a winning field goal in Colorado to put us 5-0 going into Notre Dame?" said Blumenfeld, who had made only five of his previous 13 field-goal attempts. "You couldn't have written a better story than this."

It's the first time since 1978-79 that Navy has a chance to win the CIC Trophy two years in row.

Asked about Blumenfeld's late heroics, Navy coach Paul Johnson said: "I had a feeling Geoff was going to make the kick. I didn't have a doubt."

The significance of the win was not lost on the third-year Navy coach.

"It gives us a chance to win the Commander in Chief's Trophy," Johnson said. "We know it's not coming back here [to Colorado]."

The Mids took a 21-14 lead when a 66-yard pass from Aaron Polanco to Marco Nelson, on third-and-19 from the Navy 14, set up a 3-yard run by Kyle Eckel with 4:15 remaining.

But the Falcons (2-3) came right back behind freshman quarterback Shaun Carney, who hit wide-out J.P. Waller for a 12-yard touchdown to cap off an eight-play, 80-yard drive in 1:54.

Getting the ball one last time with 2:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Mids started at their own 25. After a 2-yard gain by Eckel, Polanco found Jason Tomlinson for a 12-yard gain. Polanco then made another big play, a 32-yard run that was followed by a 13-yard run by Eckel to set up Blumenfeld's winning field goal.

Leading by eight points early in the fourth quarter, Navy watched defensive end Jeremy Chase go to the sideline with an injury and the Falcons drive to the Mids' 35. But on third-and-2, senior free safety Josh Smith sneaked through the line and tackled wingback Darnell Stephens for a 7-yard loss, forcing Air Force to punt.

The Navy offense, which had gained only 27 yards on its first 13 plays in the second half, started from its own 20, but stalled again as Polanco threw wide of a wide-open Eric Roberts. But the Mids found an unexpected hero in beleaguered punter Eric Shuey, who followed a 62-yard punt late in the third quarter with a 69-yarder to the Falcons' 8.

It didn't matter, as a rejuvenated Carney found Waller for a 48-yard gain to the Navy 29. Carney then hit Alec Messerall for 10 yards before throwing a 19-yard pass to Stephens for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion tied the game at 14 with 7:50 remaining.

The game didn't start particularly well for Navy.

After electing to open the game on defense, the Mids gave up Air Force's longest drive of the season and were fortunate to wind up with only a 3-0 deficit after a 28-yard field goal by Michael Greenaway with 7:57 left in the first quarter.

Navy's tone for the first quarter was set on its opening play from scrimmage, when senior tackle Tyson Stahl was called for a false start. The first possession ended when Polanco was picked off, the second when punt returner Tomlinson fumbled at his team's 31.

The Mids got out of it with only three points against on the scoreboard, this time on a 21-yard field goal by Greenaway. That Navy trailed only 6-0 after having the ball only two minutes in the first quarter and having two turnovers had to be psychologically uplifting.

Even more of a boost was a bruising 18-yard run by Eckel, who jumped over one tackler at the line of scrimmage and knocked over two others to help the Mids get into Falcons territory for the first time all night. Navy used another 18-yard run, this one by Polanco, to get into the end zone.

The Mids then used their first takeaway - an interception by sophomore cornerback Hunter Reddick - to score again. Unable to gain a yard on its first three plays from the Air Force 35, Johnson gambled on fourth-and-10. It paid off when Polanco hit Eckel on a 13-yard pass.

The other big play in the drive was a 16-yard rumble by senior slotback Frank Divis to the 5. The Mids got it to the 1, overcame a 5-yard penalty and scored again on a 1-yard run by Polanco with 3:23 remaining in the half. Blumenfeld's extra point gave Navy a 14-6 lead.

Leading 14-6 at halftime, Navy had a chance to put the game away in the third quarter when it seemingly had stopped the Falcons at their own 32. But a roughing the punter call against Marvin Dingle took away that opportunity, and seemed to take away some momentum the Mids had going into the second half.

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