Black Knights maintain grasp on Commander-in-Chief's Trophy
WEST POINT, N.Y. — The Commanderin-Chief's Trophy is staying put — for now — in the Army locker room.
Fullback Darnell Woolfolk rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown, Kelvin Hopkins Jr. scored on a 6-yard run, and Army held off service academy rival Air Force 17-14 on Saturday.
It was the 11th straight victory at Michie Stadium for Army (7-2), which will keep the prized hardware, emblematic of supremacy among the three service academies, regardless of the outcome of its game next month against archrival Navy. Army won the trophy outright last season for the first time since 1996.
“It was a battle. I was proud our team was able to find a way to win,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “I think our guys were pressed into a corner. Give them credit. They were fighting, too.”
Air Force (3-6), which beat Navy 35-7 a month ago, is 33-14 in Commander-in-Chief's Trophy games against Army since the trophy was first awarded in 1972 and could have won the trophy again on Saturday with a victory. The Falcons had won 18 of the previous 21 in the series against the Black Knights, but they couldn't overcome a costly interception by Army's Mike Reynolds at the Army 4 in the final minute of the first half.
The Falcons were unable to score in the opening half with Isaiah Sanders at quarterback, fell behind by two scores, and couldn't recover despite dominating the second half. Air Force outgained Army 212-77 after halftime with Donald Hammond III at quarterback. The Black Knights secured the victory when Hammond was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-3 play at the Army 40 with under 2 minutes to play.
“We were driving downfield. We should have made some plays we didn't make,” Hammond said. “I just wanted to win this game for the team. We're never going to give up. That's one thing we're not going to do.”
Hammond had replaced Sanders to start the third quarter and quickly hit Marcus Bennett for 31 yards into Army territory, but the drive ended when the Falcons were called for an illegal block on a fourth-and-3 play and had to punt.
Hammond had completions of 17 yards to Geraud Sanders and 13 yards to Marcus Bennett late in the third quarter, but the Falcons turned the ball over on downs when a fourth-down pass by Hammond attempt fell incomplete.
The Falcons finally caught a break when safety Jeremy Fejedelem got a hand on a punt by Army's Nick Schrage and it traveled just 4 yards to give Air Force a first down at the Army 34 and they capitalized. Hammond scored from the 1 two plays after converting a fourth-and-1 play, cutting the lead to 14-6 with under a minute to play in the third. Jake Koehnke's point-after try hit the left goalpost and stayed out.
Senior John Abercrombie kicked a 30yard field goal with 8:35 left to complete a 13-play drive that took 7:19 off the clock on a gusty day and gave Army a 17-6 lead midway through the fourth.
Undaunted, Hammond drove the Falcons 75 yards in 10 plays to pull within a field goal. The drive was kept alive by a pass interference call against Army on a third-and-10 play. Cole Fagan's 30-yard catch-and-run set up Joseph Saucier's 6-yard touchdown run off a pitch. Saucier also converted on the 2-point try to make it 17-14.
“When our backs are against the wall, we never flinch,” said Army linebacker Cole Christiansen.
The Black Knights have now beaten service academy rivals Air Force and Navy two straight times. Another victory over Navy in December will give Army the upper hand again in the annual three-way series.