- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | Navy’s kickers have been so inconsistent throughout the course of the season that coach Ken Niumatalolo has held a competition each week to see who would kick come the weekend. The second-year coach has even said the uncertainty has even kept him some nights.

Niumatalolo can rest somewhat easier this week because his biggest uncertainty was answered in the Midshipmen’s biggest game of the season to date. Junior Joe Buckley hit field goals of 47 and 37 yards in regulation and a 38-yarder in overtime in a 16-13 win against rival Air Force in the first overtime game between two service academies. It was Navy’s seventh straight victory over Air Force.

Navy had the ball first in overtime and was stuffed on its first two carries. A third-down screen pass was sniffed out, but Buckley hit his third field goal of the day.

Similarly, the Falcons tried to run on their overtime possession and Navy’s defense was up to the task. But Air Force coach Troy Calhoun decided to go for it on fourth-and-one and tailback Savier Stephens picked up the first down. Three more runs netted no gain, and kicker Erik Soderberg’s 31-yard field goal was wide left.

The Mids appeared to have the game locked up when safety Wyatt Middleton intercepted a floating pass by Falcons quarterback Tim Jefferson with just over a minute left in the game. But linebacker Tony Haberer was called for a roughing the passer penalty, extending the Falcons’ drive.

Air Force failed to get a first down and Soderberg’s 39-yd field goal was wobbly, but floated through the uprights as time expired to force overtime.

It capped off a wild fourth quarter in which the teams traded momentum. The Mids appeared to gain the upper hand when Falcons fullback Jared Tew dropped the handoff on a fourth-and-one midway through the fourth quarter. But on the second play of the ensuing drive, Air Force nose tackle Ben Garland popped the ball loose from Dobbs while he was fighting for extra yardage.

However, the Navy defense forced a three-and-out thereafter to preserve Navy’s advantage.

Air Force knotted the score at 10 with a 27-yard field goal by Erik Soderberg late in the third quarter. It took advantage of great field position, starting at the Navy 37.

Navy scored first is a similar fashion. The Mids effectively squibbed the opening kickoff and Air Force started on its own 11 yard line. Navy’s defense was stout, stuffing the Falcons on three straight rushing attempts.

As a result, Navy started its first drive on the Air Force 35. Seven plays later, Dobbs scored from 13 yards out to give Navy a 7-0 lead.

Both defenses remained stout for the rest of the first half, and each came up with an interception. But the Falcons made theirs count. The Mids were driving, and on a second-and-nine from the Air Force 37, Dobbs looked to Mario Washington on a quick out. But Air Force corner Anthony Wright jumped the route and raced 67 yards down the sideline untouched for the touchdown.

Joe Buckley added a career-long 47-yard field goal just before halftime to give Navy a 10-7 lead at the break.

Navy fullback Alexander Teich aggravated a left ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return.

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