The Army football team and its fans around the world can finally rejoice.
No longer will they have to listen to barbs from Navy or lament another missed opportunity in the biggest game of the year.
At long last, The Streak is over.
Army ended a 14-year run of frustration against the Midshipmen, using an overpowering running game and opportunistic defense to carve out a long overdue 21-17 victory Saturday.
With future commander in chief Donald Trump looking on, the Black Knights blew a 14-point lead before quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw scored on a 9-yard run with 6:42 left to give Army the win it had been waiting for since 2001.
The Black Knights’ 14-game losing streak was the longest by either academy in a series that began in 1890. Army (7-5) now trails 60-50-7 in one of the nation’s historic rivalries.
“We heard for a long time here at West Point about the streak and all that,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “It feels good to be a part of the team that put that to an end.”
Navy (9-4) was coming off a physical 34-10 loss to Temple in the American Athletic Conference title game and had only one week to prepare for Army with a new quarterback, sophomore Zach Abey, who was making his first college start. Abey took over Will Worth, who broke his foot against Temple.
Abey ran for two touchdowns but passed for only 89 yards and was intercepted twice. Navy had four turnovers, three in the first half.
“I take a lot of responsibility for the game,” Abey said. “Obviously, in the first half I made some bad decisions. I feel horrible for the seniors.”
This senior class at Navy has accounted for 37 wins, most ever at the Academy over a four-year period. But they’ll never forget this defeat.
“It hurts a little bit. It hurts a lot a bit,” senior receiver Jamir Tillman said. “We will take this loss into the offseason and use this as inspiration and run with it.”
That was a mantra chanted by the Black Knights for the past 14 years. Not anymore.
“I’m just happy for our seniors,” Monken said. “The sense of pride that they’ll have to go on, having beaten Navy, having beaten our biggest rival in their senior year. It’s great for everybody in that locker room. I want them to enjoy it.”
By halftime, Army led 14-0 and owned a 14-1 advantage in first downs.
After watching from the Navy side of the field before halftime, Trump visited the TV booth on the Army side in the third quarter. The interview with the president-elect coincided with a big shift in momentum.
“In the second half we made some adjustments, and those helped us out pretty well,” Navy defensive end Amos Mason said.
Andy Davidson lost a fumble on the Black Knights’ first possession of the second half and the Midshipmen recovered at the Army 32. A screen pass for 16 yards set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Abey to get Navy to 14-7.
Minutes later, the Midshipmen got a field goal after a replay overturned a lost fumble by Abey at the Army 11.
A 41-yard touchdown run by Abey gave Navy the lead with 12:42 remaining. But Army wasn’t done.
The Black Knights put together a 12-play, 80-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes and ended with Bradshaw’s TD.
“It was a great feeling,” the junior quarterback said. “I can’t describe it. It just felt amazing. Our team worked really hard for this to happen today.”
Bradshaw went 2 for 4 for 35 yards and an interception in Army’s first win in Baltimore since 1944.
Davidson ran for 87 yards and two first-half scores, and Kell Walker carried 16 times for 94 yards.
Some teams might fold after letting a two-touchdown lead vanish. Not Army.
“When they took the lead 17-14 … maybe some teams get that look in their eye of doubt, or concern,” Monken said. “But I think our guys just knuckled down and were determined that they were going to win.”
This was the final game in the broadcasting career of 76-year-old Verne Lundquist. He was cheered by the crowd during a live shot on the scoreboard.
Army: The Black Knights appear to be on the upswing under Monken, now in his third season. They’re headed to a bowl game and have a victory over Navy to celebrate.
Navy: The Midshipmen are staggering to the end of the season after a 9-2 start. The loss to Temple was tough to take, but this was much, much worse.
Army: The Black Knights meet North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Army’s first postseason action since 2010.
Navy: The Midshipmen face Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23. It will be Navy’s 13th bowl appearance in the last 14 years.
Republished with permission from the Associated Press.