AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force defense turned in a goal-line stand in the final minute to help the Falcons beat service academy rival Army 17-13 on Saturday.
The Black Knights were well positioned with a first-and-goal at the 7. But they didn’t have starting QB Jabari Laws for the pivotal moment after he took a big hit to set them up and had to leave the game. Kelvin Hopkins Jr. entered and overthrew his intended target on fourth down with 33 seconds remaining to help the Falcons (7-2) snap a two-game skid against Army (3-6).
Laws moved Army into scoring position late when he completed a 31-yard pass. He had to be helped off the field after a wallop from Air Force defensive lineman Jordan Jackson, who was called for targeting and ejected from the game. It moved the ball to the 7.
Hopkins, who’s been the starter this season but has been banged up, gained 2 yards on a run and threw three incompletions as Army turned the ball over to Air Force on downs.
Still, the Falcons weren’t out of the woods. They fumbled the snap trying to run out the clock. It was recovered by tailback Kadin Remsberg.
This was a solid performance for Laws, who rushed for a score and threw for 214 yards, including an 87-yard TD strike. It was the fifth-straight loss for an Army team that entered the game as a two-touchdown underdog.
Timothy Jackson finished with a career-best 155 yards in becoming the first fullback in Air Force history to turn in four straight 100-yard performances. He also had a 3-yard score. Joshua Stoner added a go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter.
The Black Knights are trying to capture a third straight Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which goes annually to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin competition. Despite the loss, they can still retain the prize if they beat Navy on Dec. 14 since all three service academies would split the competition.
Air Force can’t capture the trophy after losing at Navy 34-25 on Oct. 5.
Army led 6-3 in a defensive tussle late in the third when the scoring pace picked up. First, Jackson scored from 3 yards out to give Air Force a 10-6 lead. Then, on the next offensive play, Laws completed a pass over the middle to Camden Harrison, who went 87 yards for the score to hand Army back the lead.
And then, Stoner went in from 5 yards out with 13:08 remaining to give Air Force a 17-13 lead.
Both triple-option teams ran chunks of time off the clock in a first half that featured only three drives apiece. Army grabbed the lead with 1:17 left before halftime when Laws ran it in from the 2 on fourth down. The extra point sailed wide right.
On the opening drive of the game, the Black Knights chewed up 8 minutes, 34 seconds in making their way to the 1-yard line. Laws’ fourth-down sneak was stuffed by Jordan Jackson and Parker Noren.
Army: Coach Jeff Monken falls to 2-4 against the Falcons.
Air Force: Coach Troy Calhoun improves to 10-3 against the Black Knights.
There was a concerning moment at halftime when Air Force’s mascot falcon Karena wound up in the stands as she tried to land. Karena, who was born in 2014, was fine the Academy said. She was flapping her wings as trainers led her up the steps.
A falcon named Aurora died in October after serving as an Air Force mascot for the past 23 years. She was the longest-serving live mascot in the school’s 65-year history.
Aurora had recovered from injuries to both wings in 2018 during a prank abduction before the annual football game against the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Army: Hosts UMass on Saturday.
Air Force: At New Mexico next Saturday. The Falcons lead the series 22-14.