AFA v. Navy 7.JPG

Air Force Falcons quarterback Haaziq Daniels (4) tries to push past the Navy Midshipmen near the end zone during the first quarter of a football game at Falcon Stadium at the United States Air Force Academy on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (The Gazette, Parker Seibold)

When all things were even between Air Force and Navy, the advantage went to the team that had Brad Roberts.

The Falcons fullback rumbled for 108 yards – including 28 on the go-ahead drive late in fourth quarter – as Air Force toppled Navy 13-10 in front of 36,947 on a postcard of a fall day at Falcon Stadium.

“We knew we just had to get it done,” Roberts said. “Obviously it was a tie ballgame, I knew that every yard was going to matter.

“We were playing like every inch mattered, and it paid off.”

The Falcons had led 10-0, jumpstarted by a 67-yard touchdown pass from Haaziq Daniels to David Cormier on the third snap of the game. But Navy forced a pair of turnovers and eventually pulled even with a 5-yard touchdown run from quarterback Tai Lavatai in the fourth quarter.

“It’s kind of one of those as you got into it where you thought you really didn’t want anybody to lose, quite honestly,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “They played their hearts out. And our guys did, too. I think for all of us, we couldn’t be luckier that those are the men and women from those two schools who are going to go fight for our country.

“I hate to go a little bit beyond football, but it is beyond football.”

Air Force answered with a 71-yard scoring drive, spearheaded by Roberts, that finished with a 22-yard Matthew Dapore field goal with 4:14 remaining.

Dapore also connected from 23 yards earlier in the game and has made 12 of his last 13 attempts this season.

The Falcons defense then forced a quick three-and-out and the offense, behind a Daniels run for a first down, were able to run out the clock.

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“It was tense,” Cormier said. “But we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a service academy game and that’s how they go.”

This is the fourth time in the past five meetings that Air Force has limited Navy to 10 points or fewer.

The Midshipmen started the game 0-for-7 on third down, and they finished 4 of 13 in those situations. The third-down yardage they faced – averaging third and 7 – put them outside the regular framework of the offense and contributed to nine tackles-for-loss for the Air Force defense.

“When you can get them in third and longs it makes them change their philosophy a little bit, their system,” said linebacker TD Blackmon, who had a sack and a quarterback hurry to go with seven tackles.

Air Force led 356-243 in total yards and outrushed Navy 200-114. Daniels went 6-of-8 passing for 156 yards, with Cormier taking three of those catches for 120 yards.

It was the third straight loss to Air Force for the Midshipmen (1-3), the longest streak for the Falcons since taking six in a row from 1997-2002.

“Everybody involved with our program is hurting right now,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “It’s like somebody has split your heart open. There’s nothing I can say that would take away the pain. We just have to come back and get ready for Tulsa.”

Air Force (4-1) will try to secure its first Commander-in-Chief’s trophy since 2016 as it faces Army next month in Arlington, Texas.

“It means a lot,” Roberts said. “But obviously the drive’s not finished. We’ve beat Navy for the past three years in a row, but we haven’t beaten Army yet.”