Falcons sink Navy 48-7

  • Published
  • By John Van Winkle
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Forty-eight unanswered points let Air Force sink Navy 48-7 and advance in the national rankings following the Oct. 5 game.

The Falcons advanced from No. 25 to No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN college football poll, and cracked the Associated Press Top 25 poll at No. 21.

Undaunted by Air Force's previous and potential national rankings, Navy came in and scored during their first possession. Quarterback Craig Candeto led the Navy's option attack 68 yards on nine plays. Fullback Kyle Eckel scored on a 5-yard touchdown.

"Whenever you have to make that transition from having played four passing teams to playing a predominantly rushing team, it takes you a quarter to get into the speed of the game," said Falcons head coach Fisher DeBerry.

Air Force's offense was the first to adjust, driving to the Navy 34-yard line to score on a Joey Ashcroft field goal, with 23 seconds left in the half.

Then Air Force defense took its pound of flesh from the midshipmen, as Navy running back Robert Butler juggled an option pitch as he was hit.

"Mark Marsh and Joel Buelow hit the pitch man and forced the ball to squirt out," said senior cornerback Wes Crawley, who was following Marsh and Beulow to the ball carrier. Then the ball bounced Crawley's way.

"I saw the opportunity to scoop it up and score on it, instead of jumping on the ball like they always tell us to," admitted Crawley. "I was trying to make a big play. Luckily, I was able to do it."

Crawley took the ball 52 yards for the score, giving Air Force a 10-7 lead.

"The biggest touchdown today was Wes'," said Air Force quarterback Chance Harridge. "When I saw Wes and our defense step up and make a big play, that's when I realized 'hey, let's do this ourselves. It's our turn offensively to go out and help our defense,' because they've been the workhorse the last couple of weeks."

Offensively, Air Force scored on every remaining possession, and gave its second- and third-string players significant game experience during the 48-7 win. Air Force's rushing game accounted for 429 yards and moved the Falcons back into the No. 1 slot nationally, among division 1A rushing offenses, with 1,649 yards on the ground in five games. Harridge, who is carrying 18 semester hours of classes this fall, accounted for four touchdowns and 161 yards running, and was 6 of 7 passing for 107 yards.

Navy gained almost as much ground offensively. The Midshipmen gained 260 yards rushing and 87 yards passing, but could not escape the Air Force defense.

"It was a good game between academies," said Dr. James Roche, secretary of the Air Force. "The Air Force cadets did a beautiful job of coming back and they played superbly. But the Navy midshipmen gave it their hearts, and it showed in everything they did."

As retired Navy captain, the service secretary understandably had some mixed feelings over the win.

"I'm very happy the Air Force won, but I feel sad for the midshipmen," he said.

Yet there are no mixed feelings from the Air Force side over the Falcons' next opponent. Air Force hosts conference rival Brigham Young University on Oct. 12.

"Obviously we can't stop and rest on our laurels," said DeBerry. "We've got to get better as a football team, we've got a team coming in here next week that thoroughly embarrassed our football team last year."

BYU is 3-2 this season, but holds an 18-4 advantage in the series over Air Force, including a televised 63-33 win last year.

"That game still hurts," said Falcons linebacker Trevor Hightower. "It still hurts. It's still in our memories."

Kickoff for the BYU game is 8 p.m. CDT and the game will be televised by ESPN2.