Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks with Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo prior to a in a NCAA college football game with BYU Saturday Nov. 23, 2013 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, here talking with Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo last year, told ESPN that any scheduling rules eliminating a Notre Dame-Navy game would be a “deal-breaker” for the Irish. (Associated Press photo by Joe Raymond)

When he’s not busy riding a horse to training camp, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is entering heavy preparations for the 2014 college football season. That prep involves chalk talks, two-a-day workouts and, naturally, talking to ESPN reporters.

Regardless of what Navy fans think of Kelly, or the Fighting Irish, or horses, they should be pleased with a response he gave to a recent ESPN poll, asking coaches of the so-called “Power Five” schools about scheduling preferences.

A quick primer: The Power Five consists of teams in the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern and Pacific-12 football conferences (and independent Notre Dame). The group of schools recently earned the right to all but police themselves within the NCAA Division I football structure, setting the stage for possible changes to what benefits student-athletes can receive and how schedules are created.

ESPN surveyed the Power Five coaches on whether they’d prefer a schedule limited to the Power Five — ending the sometimes-lopsided nonconference games that can help pad a team’s won-loss record (or, if things go the other way, get their own Wikipedia page). Throwing out the undecided votes, the majority of coaches said they would like to stick with the Power Five. Kelly wasn’t among them.

From the article:

Even though Notre Dame has never played an [Football Championship Subdivision] team and plays almost exclusively Power Five opponents already, Irish coach Brian Kelly said he would be against it if it meant no longer playing Navy.

Kelly said removing Navy from Notre Dame’s schedule would be “a deal-breaker.”

Navy, set to enter the American Athletic Conference in 2015, frequently features Power Five teams on its schedule — the Mids open the season against Ohio State later this month, for example. Games like that, plus the rivalry with the Irish that dates to 1927, could vanish if the Power Five cuts the lower-level schools off its slate.

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer stood with Kelly against the plan, as did Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson, whose team will host Army on Sept. 20. Stanford’s David Shaw, whose Cardinal will host the Black Knights seven days earlier, was for it.

Get the full service-academy football slate here.

And yes, Kelly really road a horse to practice:

 

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Keenan Reynolds and the Navy Midshipmen will play four games at NFL stadiums this year, including Dec. 13's clash with Army. (USA Today Sports photo by  Tim Heitman)

Keenan Reynolds and the Navy Midshipmen will play four games at NFL stadiums this year, including Dec. 13′s clash with Army. (USA Today Sports photo by Tim Heitman)

Aside from the typical midseason TV-directed time changes (more on them later), the 2014 service academy slate is just about set. And as sweltering summer temperatures signal the beginning of full-pad practices and traditional preseason speculation, here’s a few things for the more-than-casual academy football fan to take notice of:

1. A normal Saturday slate. Aside from a trio of games in late November, including two on the day after Thanksgiving, every service academy game will be played during a time typically reserved for college football. Last year, Air Force alone played four non-Saturday games.

2. Mids going big time: One-third of Navy’s 12-game schedule will be contested in stadiums that host NFL teams — two games in Baltimore (season-opener vs. Ohio State and season-closer vs. Army), one in Philadelphia (Week 2 vs. Temple) and one in Landover, Maryland, home of the Washington Redskins (Nov. 1 vs. Notre Dame).

3. Home cooking: Navy won’t leave the state of Maryland between its Oct. 11 home game vs. VMI and hosting Georgia Southern on Nov. 15. Army makes the two-hour drive to New Haven, Connecticut, to face Yale on Sept. 27, then has two home games before a trip to Ohio to face Kent State Oct. 18, another home game versus Air Force, and a Nov. 8 trip to Yankee Stadium to face Connecticut. Air Force’s longest homestand is two games and they won’t be easy; the Falcons host Boise State and Navy on back-to-back weeks.

4. Program your remote: At least six of the 14 football weekends leading up to the Army-Navy game will feature multiple service academies squaring off on the CBS family of networks. And the Dec. 13 Army-Navy game will be on CBS at 3 p.m., live from Baltimore.

5. Early lines: Even though the schedule’s barely set, the folks at The Golden Nugget already have some wagering information out. Ohio State is favored by 14 points over Navy in the opener for both schools; Notre Dame’s a field-goal favorite over the Mids for early November; and the Black Knights are 13-point underdogs to Navy in their Dec. 13 clash. Navy was a nine-point favorite on the early line last year.

Before clicking through to the full schedule, clipping it out and affixing it to the wall next to your television set for optimal Saturday visibility, remember three words that are part of every college football TV slate: Subject to change.

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The College Football Playoff trophy, unveiled Monday at a news conference in Irving, Texas. (USA Today Sports photo by Kevin Jairaj)

The College Football Playoff trophy, unveiled Monday at a news conference in Irving, Texas. (USA Today Sports photo by Kevin Jairaj)

Could a team lose the Commander in Chief’s Trophy and win that shiny trophy on the right in the same year?

Yes, it could. But wagering on it might be a bad idea.

The College Football Playoff begins this season, with four teams from the NCAA’s top tier selected to face off in a single-elimination tournament to crown a champion. It’s a history-making innovation … unless you count the postseason for nearly every other team sporting event on the planet.

Regardless, the group said Monday that it will make its semifinalist selections public on Dec. 7, live on ESPN before the start of that day’s NFL schedule. Media reports on the decision have played up the fact that some of the conference-title games — including the Mountain West Conference championship, which might feature Air Force if the preseason polls miss their mark — could end less than 12 hours before selection time.

They neglect to mention the one top-tier game that won’t start until six days after selection time — Army faces Navy in Baltimore on Dec. 13.

While Navy’s had a recent run of success that extends beyond its 12-game win streak over the Black Knights, and while Army hopes for a return to bowl consideration under a new head coach, neither program has been considered a threat to crack the playoff system. Based on scheduling, it would almost certainly take an unbeaten season for either squad to be in the mix, and even then it could be passed over for another unbeaten club or a one-loss team in a power conference.

Army went 9-0 in 1996 before losing to Syracuse and still just barely cracked the national top-25 rankings. The Black Knights’ last unbeaten regular season came in 1958 (8-0-1); Navy’s last was 1926 (9-0-1), but the Mids would’ve been considered a playoff contender in 1963, when Roger Staubach led them to a 9-2 mark and a No. 2 national ranking at the end of the year.

Still, both teams remain eligible for championship consideration — Gina Lehe, the senior director of communications and brand management for the College Football Playoff confirmed as much over email on Tuesday. So, how do you judge a team worthy of the national title bracket if it has yet to play the most important game of its season?

“The committee will evaluate the teams based on their records as of selection Sunday (December 7 this year) and the final selections will be made that day,” Lehe wrote.

In short, if a talented Army or Navy squad had a series of breaks go its way (how long of a series isn’t the issue), it could enter the rivalry game with a ticket to the College Football Playoff already punched. How that game would play out is anybody’s guess, but it’s very likely someone would write a book about it.

Wishful thinking? Sure, but if fans aren’t allowed wishful thinking, ticket lines would be a whole lot shorter.

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It’s less than four minutes long, which I guess is what happens when your team goes 3-9 and the coach gets canned.

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Vikings assistant and Naval Academy grad Mike Priefer (USA Today Sports photo)

Vikings assistant and Naval Academy grad Mike Priefer (USA Today Sports photo)

In about a week, Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer has gone from seeing his name on a watch list for NFL head-coaching jobs published by a newspaper of note to seeing it on the wrong end of what could be career-killing allegations.

Priefer, a Naval Academy grad who reportedly flew helicopters as part of SEAL missions in the early 1990s, stands accused by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe of “using homophobic language in my presence” in a response to Kluwe’s outspoken support of gay rights — outspokenness that, the punter says, cost him his job last May.

Kluwe gave his side in an article he penned for the sports blog Deadspin, titled “I was an NFL Player Until I was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot.” Priefer’s labeled “The Bigot” in an image atop the piece. Published Thursday, it’s been read nearly 4 million times.

Kluwe offers multiple reasons for telling his story in this fashion and so long after his dismissal. One of them is fairly straightforward: “If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level.”

Priefer’s response, which came hours after Kluwe’s article went up, was just as straightforward, reading in part: “I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe.” A Vikings response was also fairly clear, reading in part: “Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy.”

The Vikings have begun an investigation into Kluwe’s claims and have not disciplined Priefer. They fired his boss, head coach Leslie Frazier, days before Kluwe’s claims went public. There are no indications that firing is related to this individual player transaction — it is much more likely to be related to the team’s last-place finish in the NFC North — but new coaches often mean new staffs, and it’s possible Priefer’s job could be in jeopardy regardless of how this incident plays out.

A number of Vikings players have come out in support of Priefer, including kicker Blair Walsh. Kluwe, in an interview with USA Today, said he has “multiple witnesses” to Priefer’s statements, but didn’t name them and said he has no recordings of any of the alleged conversations. No players have publicly confirmed Kluwe’s allegations.

Priefer graduated from the academy in 1989 after playing on the sprint football team. He earned a Navy Achievement Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal during his time in service, according to an alumni register published by the Naval Academy Alumni Association, and left as a lieutenant; personnel records were not immediately available.

He returned to Annapolis as an assistant coach in 1994, then made several more stops in the collegiate ranks before catching on with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a special teams assistant. He ran the special teams for the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos before taking the Vikings job in 2011. Much of the press he’d earned as an NFL assistant coach centered on his Navy experience.

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Army Apache helicopters fly over Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013 before the start of the 114th Army-Navy football game. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Army Apache helicopters fly over Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013 before the start of the 114th Army-Navy football game. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Midshipmen take the field before the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Midshipmen take the field before the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Blue Angels fly over Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013 before the start of the 114th Army-Navy football game. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Blue Angels fly over Lincoln Financial Field Dec. 14 in Philadelphia, Pa., before the start of the 114th Army-Navy football game. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey spends a few minutes in the first quarter with the midshipmen during the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey spends a few minutes in the first quarter with the midshipmen during the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy fullback Noah Copeland runs into the end zone for Navy's first touchdown of the game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy fullback Noah Copeland runs into the end zone for Navy’s first touchdown of the game Dec. 14. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Cadets watch as Navy extends its lead in the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. Navy won for the 12th straight year, 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Cadets watch as Navy extends its lead in the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Navy won for the 12th straight year, 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds carries the ball against Army at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds carries the ball against Army Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Army running back Terry Baggett carries the ball as snow falls on the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Army running back Terry Baggett carries the ball as snow falls on the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Army quarterback Angel Santiago pitches the ball to running back Terry Baggett during the Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Army quarterback Angel Santiago pitches the ball to running back Terry Baggett during the Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Black Knights huddle under a heavy snow during the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. Navy won for the 12th straight year, 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Black Knights huddle under a heavy snow during the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Navy won for the 12th straight year, 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Keenan Reynolds seals Navy's 12th-straight win over Army with a touchdown with 46 seconds on the clock at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. Navy won 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Keenan Reynolds seals Navy’s 12th-straight win over Army Dec. 14 with a touchdown with 46 seconds on the clock at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Navy won 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel crosses the field with West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr at halftime of the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel crosses the field with West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, Jr. at halftime of the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Quarterback Keenan Reynolds celebrates his second of three touchdowns against Army. The Midshipmen won 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Quarterback Keenan Reynolds celebrates his second of three touchdowns against Army. The Midshipmen won 34-7. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry signals the end of the first half of the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry signals the end of the first half of the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Midshipmen celebrate beating Army 34-7 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Midshipmen celebrate beating Army 34-7 Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Naval Academy superintendent Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller and athletic director Chet Gladchuk celebrate navy's twelfth-straight win over Army in the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Naval Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller and athletic director Chet Gladchuk celebrate Navy’s 12th-straight win over Army in the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Black Knights sing the West Point alma mater following the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Black Knights sing the West Point alma mater following the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Midshipmen celebrate their 12th-straight win over Army in the 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Midshipmen celebrate their 12th-straight win over Army in the 114th Army-Navy football game Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (Mike Morones/Staff)

 

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The 114th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, December 14, 2013. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Midshipmen celebrate after Navy’s win over Army on Saturday at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. (Mike Morones/Staff)

A winter wonderland became a frigid mess. A defensive struggle became a rout. A packed stadium became a ghost town long before the final gun.

And an 11-game win streak became a dirty dozen.

Behind three touchdown runs from quarterback Keenan Reynolds — the first tying the NCAA single-season record for QBs at 27, the last setting a new record at 29 — the Navy Midshipmen used a punishing ground game to hand the Army Black Knights a 34-7 loss Saturday at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.

Navy hasn’t lost to Army since 2001 and now leads the all-time series 58-49-7. Reynolds, a sophomore, led the Mids to victory with a 30-carry, 136-yard performance. He also threw seven passes, completing two, for 10 yards; Army’s Angel Santiago added 50 yards in the air on  a windy, cold afternoon — the lowest passing total all season in top-tier college football.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds celebrates one of his three touchdowns against Army. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds celebrates one of his three touchdowns against Army. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The Midshipmen (8-4) rattled off 17 straight points in the first half, with second-quarter touchdown runs by Noah Copeland and Reynolds breaking what had been a defensive stalemate. Freshman Brendon Clements did the damage on defense for Navy, forcing a fumble in the early going and snaring the game’s only interception.

Navy’s defense cracked only once, as Santiago led the Black Knights (3-9) on a third-quarter scoring drive keyed by a 29-yard pass to freshman Xavier Moss, who had all five of Army’s catches on the day. Santiago looked for Moss on the next play but couldn’t find him, instead scrambling for a 4-yard touchdown.

Down just two scores with about six minutes to play in the third quarter, Army needed a quick stop to capitalize on its momentum. Instead, Reynolds led Navy on an 11-play, 51-yard march that ate up almost the entire quarter and ended with Nick Sloan’s second field goal of the day, a 34-yarder that made it 20-7.

The Black Knights failed on a fourth-down conversion on their next drive and never got any closer. As snow turned into freezing rain and fans began bailing out, Reynolds capped off his Most Valuable Player performance with two more touchdown runs — an 11-yard scamper with 6:22 left to play (he caught a two-point conversion pass from Brendan Dudeck on a trick play afterward) and a 1-yard plunge on fourth down with 46 seconds left.

A minor scuffle broke out in the end zone after the last score, and the remaining Army fans were less than pleased with Navy’s scoring drive, which included Dudeck considering another pass attempt on another trick play with the game well in hand. Sloan missed the extra point.

Junior Terry Baggett led the Black Knights with 41 yards rushing, followed by Santiago’s 40. Navy outgained Army 353-207 and benefited from 50 yards in Army penalties.

Navy will wrap up its season by facing Middle Tennessee State in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, on Dec. 30. Army heads home for the year; head coach Rich Ellerson is now 0-5 against the Mids, and Saturday’s loss was the worst during his tenure.

The series moves to Baltimore next year before returning to Philadelphia in 2015.

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Navy's Noah Copeland rushes for a 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter of Saturday's Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy’s Noah Copeland rushes for a 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter of Saturday’s Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Army quarterback Angel Santiago didn’t start the game, but he’s hoping to create an improbable finish.

The junior hit freshman Xavier Moss with a 29-yard strike about midway through the third quarter, then followed it with a 4-yard scoring run to give the Black Knights life.

Navy freshman cornerback Brendon Clements intercepts a pass from Army quarterback Angel Santiago in the second quarter of Saturday's Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy freshman cornerback Brendon Clements intercepts a pass from Army quarterback Angel Santiago in the second quarter of Saturday’s Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy answered with a clock-eating 11-play drive and a 34-yard Nick Sloan field goal to make it 20-7 at the end of three quarters.

If Santiago and Army continue to put the ball in the air, Navy may need some more heroics from freshman cornerback Brendon Clements, who has already forced a fumble and snared an interception.

Passing remains a novelty for both sides: Santiago had five completions on nine attempts for 50 yards after three quarters, while Navy’s Keenan Reynolds was 2-for-6 for 10 yards.

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Army senior offensive lineman Colin Joy, right, and Nicole Veroline kiss after Joy proposed to her on the field before the Army-Navy game, Saturday in Philadelphia. She said yes. The couple is from Long Island, N.Y. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A heartwarming moment — before things got very, very chilly — in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Army stumbles. Navy capitalizes. Mix in snow. Repeat.

A simple formula, sure, but the Arctic conditions and stingy defenses in Philadelphia are keeping both the Black Knights and Mids from doing anything too complicated.

In the first quarter, Navy followed an Army fumble with Quinton Singleton’s 58-yard run, setting up a field goal.

In the second, Navy followed an Army personal-foul penalty with a 39-yard touchdown run by Noah Copeland, leading to a 10-0 lead.

Later, the Army offense stalled and forced the Black Knights to punt from deep within their own territory. The next play, quarterback Keenan Reynolds watched his blockers cut a perfect, snow-covered running lane through the Lincoln Financial Field turf, giving him room for a 47-yard touchdown scamper; he’s one more rushing TD away from breaking the NCAA record.

That made it 17-0. And with Army’s offense showing few signs of life and the weather showing no signs of improvement, more than a few fans have left their seats — and may not return for the second half.

About that Army bright spot: That’d be the picture above, taken in happier times for fans of the Black Knights — 17 points and one snowstorm ago. That’s Army senior Colin Joy proposing to his girlfriend, Nicole Veroline. She said yes.

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A heavy wind, some snow and a pair of tough defenses added up to make the first quarter of Saturday’s Army-Navy game practically offense-free.

Except one play.

Following a fumble from Army quarterback A.J. Schurr caused by Navy’s Brendon Clements, Midshipman Quinton Singleton took a handoff up the middle and looked up to see … nothing. Navy blockers cleared out the middle of the Black Knights front, and 58 yards later, only Chris Carnegie’s last-grasp tackle stopped a Navy touchdown.

Army’s defense snapped back, and Navy’s offense faltered at the goal line, leaving Nick Sloan to kick a 20-yard field goal and give the Mids a 3-0 lead.

Army’s driving to start the second, with Angel Santiago taking over for Schurr under center.

 

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