Four games into the season, Navy’s football team is four points from being unbeaten. The narrow defeats are nothing new for the Midshipmen, who are 7-9 in games decided by eight points or less but 14-1 in one-sided contests the last three seasons.
So while last Saturday’s 35-34 home loss to Air Force was the same old, same old in general, it was really galling to Navy.
First of all, any loss to a fellow service academy is especially painful. The rivalry with Air Force doesn’t quite reach the intensity of the showdowns with Army, but this one pretty much hands the Commander In Chief’s Trophy to the Falcons for the second straight year after Navy had won seven consecutive seasons.
Second, in their first game since falling 24-21 at then-No. 10 South Carolina, the Midshipmen mounted a furious comeback from a 28-10 fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. Navy got the ball first and scored, only to have quarterback Kriss Proctor get in the face of Air Force safety Jon Davis and get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The penalty pushed the extra point back 15 yards. Jon Teague’s low kick was blocked and then the Falcons drove for the winning touchdown and extra point.
Proctor didn’t exactly deny his transgression, saying, “I got up and was trying to run to our sideline (and) some guy got in my way and I just told him to move – explicitly,” before terming the call unfortunate.
Unfortunately, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo went a lot further with his criticism of the officials.
“To make a call like that at such a critical point of the game is tough,” Niumatalolo said, raising the specter of handling situations differently depending when they happen. “It’s just unfortunate a guy would make a call like that in a hard-fought game between two service academy teams.”
Does Niumatalolo really believe that service academy games should be officiated any differently than, say, a Maryland-Temple contest?
Coach, if anything, service academies should be held to a higher standard than their fellow Football Championship Subdivision programs.
After all, not only are, we the people, paying for the Midshipmen, Falcons and Black Knight to attend school, but many of today’s players are the future leaders of our military. Shouldn’t we expect better behavior from them than from their rivals whose highest aspirations are defending NFL offenses, not defending their country?
Watching the Air Force-Navy game, I felt awful for the Midshipmen that their wonderful rally was ruined by an emotional reaction in the heat of celebration, but the rules are the rules.
Navy fullback Alexander Teich said having a game decided that way was “pitiful.”
Teich’s right, but what was pitiful is that Proctor gave the zebras the chance to make that call.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.