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Strong Second Half Propels Air Force Past Navy

Air Force took a huge step towards capturing the Commander-in-Chief trophy with a 30-21 win over Navy at the Air Force Academy on Saturday afternoon.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Robinette leaped high in the air and grabbed the ball on the onside kick by the Navy Midshipmen and returned it to the Navy 32 yard line to set up a Kale Pearson to Garrett Brown touchdown throw that would seal the Air Force Falcons victory in Colorado Springs Saturday by a score of 30-21.

Air Force took control of the second half after a 14-14 halftime tie by speeding up their offense and getting the ball to sophomore running back Jacobi Owens. Owens only ran for four yards in the first half but came out strong in the first drive of the third quarter. The Falcons methodically moved the ball down the field with runs by Owens and Pearson before Pearson pulled off a great play action pass to Garrett Griffin from the Navy four yard line to give Air Force the 21-14 lead. Owens would end the game with 78 yards rushing.

Air Force's defense would also get more physical in the second half, as it would keep the Midshipmen out of the end zone until there were two minutes left in the game. The Falcons went to a soft zone late in the fourth quarter which allowed Navy to complete some passes after struggling in the passing game most of the day, including a 40 yard pass to DeBrandon Sanders from Keenan Reynolds that cut the Falcons lead to 24-21, setting up the Robinette heroics and late touchdown reception by Brown.

The Falcons' defense continued to show an improved ballhawk attitude as they would force two turnovers in the first half that would help keep them in the ball game. Senior defensive end Nick Fitzgerald would recover a fumble midway through the first quarter that would set up the first Air Force touchdown, a 1-yard pass to junior wide receiver Alex Ludowig. The touchdown was set up by a 48-yard pass to Griffin as Air Force made most of their yardage in the air in the first half.

Navy was physically dominate in the first half, as the fullback tandem of Chris Swain and Noah Copeland gutted the Falcon defense. A 46-yard touchdown run by Swain tied the game at seven. Air Force would pull out a trick play to retake the lead late in the first quarter when wide receiver Robinette took a backward lateral pass and then threw to Brown for a 54 yard touchdown to get Air Force up on Navy 14-7.

Surviving the second quarter also proved to be very important for Air Force. The Falcons defense came up with an important goal line turnover after surrendering a 53-yard run by Copeland that put the ball deep in Falcons territory for Navy. The Midshipmen tried to run a play action pass but Falcon safety Christian Spears intercepted the pass in the end zone to deny the Navy drive.

Navy would have more success on their next drive, thanks in large part to two questionable personal foul calls on the Falcons. Reynolds would score a touchdown on a 10-yard keeper to tie the score at 14. Navy would have an opportunity to take the lead on the Falcons late in the second half after a third personal foul in the quarter by the Falcons helped keep a drive alive. Navy kicker Nick Sloan would miss the 38-yard kick to keep the score knotted at 14.

With the victory, Air Force improves to 4-1 on the season. They also take a huge leap forward in retaining the Commander-in-Chief trophy which they are looking to capture for the 19th time. Next week, the Falcons return to Mountain West play as they travel to Logan, Utah to take on the Utah State Aggies at 8:15 p.m. MDT on ESPNU.