- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — As a jubilant mob of Navy players ran off the field and through the tunnel at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, one voice could be heard over the others.

“Never give up! Always believe!” a Midshipman shouted from the middle of the pack. Rarely did those words ring more true.

Joey Bullen drilled a 46-yard field goal in a steady downpour with four-tenths of a second left, and the Mids prevailed in improbable fashion against rival Air Force 27-24 in front of 35,211 saturated fans.

“Those guys basically called us out,” quarterback Lamar Owens said. “They tried to come to our house and take a trophy that they said is theirs, but it wasn’t happening today. We made some mistakes early. … They didn’t put us away, and when you let a hungry team like us hang around, we’re going to come back and get you.”

Bullen, a sophomore kicker form St. Simons Island, Ga., came to the academy as a soccer player. He didn’t make the team after Plebe Summer, so he kicked for the sprint football team.

He made a 49-yard field goal against Army’s sprint team in the Pride Bowl, but he had never attempted a kick of this magnitude.

“Joey never seems to get flustered,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “I thought the harder kick was the extra point to tie the game.”

The Mids (2-2) trailed 24-17 with 4:26 left and 80 yards of turf in front of them. Navy hadn’t reached Falcons territory in the fourth quarter and needed four plays to gain 11 yards to start the drive. After Owens threw the ball away on first down, the offense suddenly clicked.

Owens floated a pass to sophomore slotback Reggie Campbell in the middle of a soft zone defense for 29 yards.

“It was the same pass I dropped earlier in the week [during practice Wednesday],” Campbell said. “I went back and told him I would make up for it.”

On the next play Campbell took an option pitch from Owens, shrugged off an arm tackle and sprinted 40 yards to the end zone.

Navy’s defense held in three plays, and Air Force punter Donny Heaton lined up with less than a minute left. Heaton shanked the ball to the right — a 9-yard punt to the Air Force 35 — and suddenly the Mids had a chance to win.

Navy had 45 seconds to move closer, but Johnson called two fullback dives, and the Mids burned their final two timeouts. On third-and-6, Owens gained 2 on a quarterback draw, and the kicking team had 20 seconds to run on the field, set up and get the kick away.

“I tried to focus as much as I could,” Bullen said. “Time was running out, so I didn’t have much time to think about things. Having to rush may have helped. I could focus that much more.”

Air Force (2-4) controlled the line of scrimmage and the game for nearly three-fourths of the game. Navy didn’t help itself with a pair of first-half turnovers that led to 10 Air Force points.

The Falcons scored the game’s first 10 points and threatened to add more, but quarterback Shaun Carney’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by sophomore Keenan Little, who was making his first start at cornerback after three games at rover.

After the Falcons took a 24-14 lead with 4:05 left in third, their offense produced only one first down in the final four drives.

“We played about as bad as we could in the first half, so it could only get better,” said junior linebacker Rob Caldwell, who finished with 21 tackles and a forced fumble.

Owens threw for 171 yards, including 114 to wideout Jason Tomlinson, and ran for 64 more. He connected with Tomlinson on the longest play of the season — a 61-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter.

With the win, Navy can retain the coveted Commander-In-Chief’s trophy by defeating Army in Philadelphia on Dec.3. Next season will be the third consecutive season the trophy won’t be in Colorado Springs, Colo., after Air Force dominated the series for more than a decade.

“It hurts,” Carney said. He threw for 111 yards and two touchdowns while running for 71 more but is now 0-for-2 against Navy. “The goals of our program are gone.”

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