- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Kickers occupy a substantial part of Navy’s recent history against the service academies.

Geoff Blumenfeld added a chapter of his own last night.

The senior kicker, who missed his first four field goals of the season, connected on a 30-yard attempt with four seconds to play as Navy survived a wild finish to defeat Air Force 24-21 in front of 44,279 at Falcon Stadium last night.

“You really can’t describe it except euphoria,” Blumenfeld said. “What an opportunity. How much fun is this to kick a game-winning field goal in Colorado to put our team up 5-0 going into Notre Dame? You couldn’t have written a better story.”

Navy’s offense disappeared for much of the second half last night but returned just in time to rescue the Midshipmen’s undefeated season.

The Mids went five drives without a first down to begin the second half before Air Force tied it at 14-14 with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Then, facing a third-and-19 on the next possession, quarterback Aaron Polanco avoided a sack and found Marco Nelson on a crossing pattern for a 66-yard gain.

Fullback Kyle Eckel finished off the drive with a 3-yard run to put Navy ahead 21-14. But the Falcons (2-3) answered.

Freshman quarterback Shaun Carney marched Air Force down the field, completing several short passes before finding J.P. Waller for a 12-yard, game-tying score.

Left with 2:14 in regulation, the Mids began with a conservative rush up the middle. After Polanco completed a pass for a first down, he rumbled up the middle on a 32-yard scramble.

Eckel gashed through the middle of the defense for 13 more yards, and Navy coach Paul Johnson was ready to set up the field goal by running. Air Force called consecutive timeouts to try to disrupt Blumenfeld before he made the kick.

I told him on the sideline, ‘You’re going to win the game for us,’” Johnson said. “Then I left him alone. He wanted to be left alone, and I just went and told all of our kids to stay on the sideline when he makes it.”

It was hardly the first significant kick — made or missed — by a Navy kicker in recent years to cap an emotional game against a service academy. Ryan Bucchianeri missed an 18-yard field goal in the final seconds of the 1993 Army-Navy game, while Tom Vanderhorst nailed a game-winner against Air Force in 1996 — a 25-yarder with 12 seconds to play.

Air Force dominated the first 16 minutes, running 27 plays to Navy’s five. But when Carney was stuffed on a third-and-goal at the 1, Air Force settled for its second field goal and a 6-0 lead.

Navy responded with a pair of efficient touchdown drives, both capped off by Polanco scoring runs, to seize control of the contest.

Carney finished with 270 yards of total offense in his first academy rivalry game — 94 more than Polanco — but it will be the senior Midshipman who will face Army with the Commander in Chief’s Trophy on the line.

“It means that for two years we’ve been better than them. That’s all,” Johnson said. “It gives us the chance to play for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy in the last game of the season no matter what. We know it’s not coming back here.”

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