Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada rushed for 101 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns, including a 78-yard run with 9:18 left to play to close out the scoring.
"Air Force messed up with their defense on the play. They had been playing really disciplined all game, but on that play I just came through and it was wide open," said Kaheaku-Enhada.
"Most people we play, when [Kaipo] gets in the open field, they aren't going to catch him. He's got good speed when he can get those legs going," said Navy head coach Paul Johnson.
Kaheaku-Enhada, who was named the game's most valuable player, also scored on a two-yard run on fourth down with 13:01 left to play to put Navy ahead for good, 24-20.
Although Navy was outgained 474-381 by the Falcons, the Midshipmen offense did not turn the ball over for the first time this season nor did they allow a sack. Collectively, Navy also only committed three penalties which is something that caught Johnson's attention.
"We didn't have a lot of crazy penalties out there," said Johnson. "That's how we have to play. We can't make mistakes and be successful."
Also, in a rarity for their triple option attack, Navy never had a drive that lasted more than five minutes.
Air Force, on the other hand, made several mistakes, including committing three consecutive penalties on their first drive of the fourth quarter which ultimately forced the Falcons to punt. On their next possession, Navy's Blake Carter recovered a fumble by Jim Ollis on Air Force's 25 yard line. The Falcons also missed two very makeable field goals (32 and 41 yards) on the day, the latter of which was blocked by Navy's Jesse Iwuji to seal the game with 2:55 left to play.
"We really felt like we left 24 or 31 points out there," said Falcons quarterback Shaun Carney
Some credit for Air Force's inability to execute needs to go to Navy's much maligned and extremely inexperienced defense that, according to Johnson, played their best game of the season.
Senior outside linebacker Matt Wimsatt, who led the defense in tackles for the second game in a row with 14, concurred with his coach's sentiment.
"We cut down on mistakes today," said Wimsatt. "This was our best game of the year."
On several occasions the unit stopped Air Force inside
the red zone. The Falcons' last two
drives of the first half were both thwarted by an all-of-a-sudden stingy
Midshipmen defense. The next to
last possession for Air Force came to a halt on a tackle by linebacker Tony
Haberer on a fourth-and-one play at the Navy four yard line. The ensuing possession for Air Force
Meanwhile, Navy offense used the fullback tandem of Eric Kettani and Adam Ballard early in the game to soften up the edges for its speedy slot backs. Both Reggie Campbell and Zerbin Singleton scored touchdowns in the first half, on runs of 37 and 12 yards respectively, to help give the Midshipmen a 14-13 edge at halftime.
The victory is the Midshipmen's tenth in a row over a service academy rival, and head coach Paul Johnson is now 10-1 all-time against both Air Force and Army.
"I told our team after the game that we were starting to look more like a Navy football team. I'm proud of them…They played hard and fought until the end," said Johnson.