Army owned the ball. Army owned the clock. Army owned damn-near everything. Except the scoreboard. In a first half in which the Black Knights plodded up and down the field in its patent-pending workman-like precision, it nevertheless came away tied 21-21 with Air Force. The second half – and the game – belonged to Air Force, and it emerged from a seven-game losing streak to defeat Army 42-28 at Falcon Stadium.
The star of the show for Air Force was running back Anthony LaCoste, who left a vapor trail between himself and the Army defense on two touchdown runs of 73 and 78 yards; he finished the game with 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Army took the first of its three leads on its first possession, a 9-play, 75-yard drive in which four different players ran the ball, mostly halfback Terry Baggett, whose 12-yard run came on the game’s first play. The drive included another big Baggett run, of 21 yards, and an 18-yarder by quarterback Angel Santiago. And it was Santiago’s legs that gave Army a 7-0 lead when he rolled out, faked a pass, then got into the end zone with a 4-yard run.
It took Air Force 57 seconds to respond. After quarterback Austin Romine fumbled – and recovered – the ball on his team’s first play, the second was a handoff to LaCoste, who broke through the line with nary a hand laid on him for a 73-yard scoring run.
The Black Knights, 3-6, came right back with another of its drives, another 75 yarder that featured four Larry Dixon runs totaling 26 yards and ending with another Santiago touchdown, this one from inside the 1-yard line. The first quarter ended with Army having achieved 11 first downs, 154 yards rushing and a 14-7 lead.
Another drive, this one beginning at the Black Knights’ 34-yard line, ended with a 49-yard field-goal attempt by Dan Grochowski. It was blocked by a soaring Dexter Walker, then recovered by Air Force. And it took only eight plays for the Falcons to complete the game-tying drive, a 14-yard run by Garrett Brown.
Army got the ball back and once again plodded its way up the field, the two big plays being a 19-yard completion from Santiago to Xavier Moss, and a 21-yarder to Dixon, on which a 15-yard penalty for a late hit was assessed to Walker. The 70-yard, 4 1/2 –minute drive ended with Santiago taking the ball in from the 1.
Air Force, 2-7, responded on its first play on its subsequent possession, and once again it was LaCoste, who broke a 43-yard run on a misdirection play to bring the ball down to the Army 14. On attempting to tackle LaCoste, Army linebacker Julian Holloway was tackled, suffering a right leg injury which required him to be carted off the field and his leg put into a splint. Finally, with a third and goal from the 1, Romine ran in for a game-tying touchdown with 11 seconds left in the half.
Army’s first possession of the second half brought it down to the Air Force 22, and on a fourth and 1 the Black Knights opted for a field-goal attempt. Grochowski 39-yard attempt was wide right. Air Force took over, but not for long. On the Falcons’ first play, LaCoste, again untouched, busted it open for a 78-yard touchdown. Air Force had taken a 28-21 lead.
The two teams exchanged three punts – two by Army – and this time it was Romine’s turn. Seven runs and a pass-interference penalty on Army brought the ball to the Army 29, at which time Romine hit a wide-open Brown for a 28-yard completion. LaCoste finished the drive with a 1-yard run up the middle and a 35-21 lead.
An Army punt with just over seven minutes in the game would have given Air Force a chance to run off most of the remaining time, but Brown muffed the ball and Steve Ricciardi recovered at the Air Force 25. It took the Black Knights four plays, the last an 11-yard Baggett to close to within 35-28 with 5:58 remaining.
Air Force’s final scoring drive featured an astounding one-handed, diving catch by Garrett Griffin and a 30-yard completion from Romine to Brown that brought the ball to the Army 8. Broam Hart scored three plays later to put the game away with 3:41 left.