In the end of this 93rd meeting between Army and Navy, it was the faces and the embraces that told the story: the tears and sobs of defeat as Navy safety Chad Chatlos and his dad, George, embraced on one side of the field, and the cheers and screams of victory as Army kicker Patmon Malcom and his family embraced on the other.Minutes earlier, Chatlos and his Navy teammates watched in disbelief as Malcom's 49-yard field goal with 12 seconds left gave Army an emotional 25-24 win over the Midshipmen before a crowd of 65,207 at Veterans Stadium.
Navy lost its third straight game to finish the season at 1-10. Army ended the year 5-6.
It was a game in which the emotions and excitement level rivaled that of 1989 when Frank Schenk's field goal in the final minute gave Navy a 19-17 Navy win. This time, Army -- behind the kicking of Malcom and the running of quarterback Rick Roper -- was able to overcome a 17-point second-half deficit.
"It's probably the toughest loss I've ever seen as a coach," Navy coach George Chaump said afterward. "We totally dominated, and we lost it."
Dominated statistically, that is. Navy had a 21-10 advantage in first downs, a 237-174 advantage in rushing yards, and a 33:39 to 26:21 advantage in time of possession.
But those numbers were left meaningless by the right leg of Malcom.
An all-East kicker for Army as a sophomore, it was Malcom's somewhat controversial fourth-quarter punt that put his team in position for his the game-winning field goal.
With 3:17 left and Navy leading, 24-22, Malcom's punt on fourth ** down from the Navy 46 appeared to be carried into the end zone by Army's Aaron Mitchell for an apparent touchback.
But the officials ruled that Mitchell had possession of the ball on the 1-yard line before sliding 5 yards deep into the end zone.
With Brian Ellis at quarterback for the first time in nine games (Jason Van Matre suffered a sprained thumb on Navy's preceding possession), the Midshipmen were unable to move the ball.
Pinned against the back of the end zone, punter Brian Schrum could get off only a 31-yard kick.
Army had the ball at the Navy 32. Three plays later, with time running out, Malcom hit a 44-yard field goal that set off a wild celebration on the Army sideline.
But the 25-second clock had expired before the kick and the Cadets were penalized 5 yards.
Facing another pressure kick, Malcom, with a 25 mph wind at his back, knocked the next one through the uprights from 49 yards out with 12 seconds left to seal the Army comeback.
"This is the best feeling, ever," said Malcom, whose longest kick before yesterday was 46 yards two years ago against Duke. "I dream this kick every night.
"After [the first kick] went through I started celebrating and my holder came over and told me we had to do it again," Malcom added. "I knew that the first kick had made it by at least 5 yards and I knew that if I hit it again, just like the first time, that it would be good. The second kick was almost easier."
And harder to stomach for the Midshipmen, who finished 1-10 for the second straight season.
This was a game that the Midshipmen never should have lost, not after jumping out to 17-0 and 24-7 leads and not after holding in check the ground game of a team that was ranked fourth in the nation in rushing.
The Midshipmen could do no wrong in the first half. Fullback Duke Ingraham, who had two touchdowns this season, scored two more in Navy's first four possessions on runs of 24 and 7 yards. Navy led 17-0 and appeared up to the task of salvaging its season with its second straight win against Army.
But a solid first half, both offensively and defensively, was ruined by a 43-yard bootleg run by Roper that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Chad Davis that cut the lead to 17-7 with 5:20 left in the half.
In the third quarter Van Matre threw a strike to Tom Pritchard for a 27-yard touchdown and Navy led, 24-7. But instead of putting the Cadets away, Ingraham and Van Matre lost fumbles on Navy's next two possessions. One play after Van Matre's fumble, Roper again faked out the Navy defense and scored on a 22-yard bootleg run that narrowed Army's deficit to 24-14.
"They got two touchdowns on what I call risky plays," Chaump said of the bootleg runs. "They were out of character for a wishbone team."
Army's next touchdown was completely out of character, a 68-yard pass from Roper to Gaylord Greene in the fourth quarter that -- with the two-point conversion after a fake point-after attempt -- pulled the Cadets within 24-22 with 7:23 left. The Cadets entered the game ranked ranked third from the bottom in passing among all Division I teams and hadn't had a touchdown pass of over 47 yards all season.
"In the third quarter, the coaches said we we were going to start throwing the ball more," Roper said. "I was a little worried because we were going against the wind. But I knew that we had to keep nipping at them and we would eventually get a big play."
That big-play touchdown pass, and two-point conversion, put the Cadets into a position to win the game with a field goal. From there, Malcom took over.
"Their kicking game certainly paid off," said Chaump, who had an empty, dazed look on his face as he crossed the field after the game. "On the field goal we made an effort to block and we were pretty close. That man's a pretty good kicker."
And Malcom's a big hero for the Cadets at West Point, as well as a heartbreaker for the Midshipmen in Annapolis. Afterward, the Navy players stood around looking as if they needed to be awakened from a nightmare.
"It's difficult. We moved the ball; we stopped them on defense," said Chatlos, who had seven tackles. "We stopped them all game with what they're used to doing the most. This was frustrating."
And it ended Navy's worst back-to-back seasons since 1947 and 1948, when the Midshipmen finished 1-7-1 and 0-8-1. In its last game of the season, Navy went before a national television audience and put up its highest point total of the season (Navy's previous high was during the 27-22 loss at Rice).
But on the strength of Malcom's 49-yard field goal with 12 seconds left, it proved all for naught.
"For a fan looking at the game, it was exciting -- it was back and forth, which an Army-Navy game is always like," Chaump said. "But it's tough to lose a game like that. It hurts worse than anything."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times