PHILADELPHIA — Navy’s decade of dominance over Army was 14 yards away from sinking.
Then the Black Knights botched a handoff with an overdue victory in sight and the Midshipmen pounced on the fumble.
Tight games or blowouts, Navy has made a habit of beating Army. Keenan Reynolds helped Navy top Army for the 11th straight time, scoring the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter in a 17-13 victory in the 113th rivalry game Saturday.
The Midshipmen can hook an anchor to the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and take it to Annapolis.
“It means everything,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “That’s our No. 1 goal, to get the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. I’m just so happy for these guys.”
Navy (8-4) won the CIC trophy awarded to the team with the best record in games among the three service academies. Army and Navy each beat Air Force, putting the prestigious trophy up for grabs in the regular-season finale for the first time since 2005.
Army (2-10) hasn’t hoisted the CIC trophy since 1996.
Unlike previous games over the past decade, the Black Knights were in this one until their final 70-yard drive. Army had driven to the 14 when QB Trent Steelman and fullback Larry Dixon fumbled on a sloppy exchange. Navy recovered and the Midshipmen on the sideline went wild and rushed the field.
“We expected to win from the beginning to the end,” Army coach Rich Ellerson said.
In front of 69,607 fans and Vice President Joe Biden at Lincoln Financial Field, Navy caught a break when Army missed a late field goal attempt.
Reynolds quickly found Brandon Turner down the sideline for a 49-yard gain. Reynolds, named the game’s MVP, then escaped a rush and followed with the 8-yard touchdown run with 4:41 to play in the game.
The CIC trophy is going back to the Naval Academy for a record 13th time after a two-year stint at Air Force. Before Navy started its 11-game winning streak, the longest streak in the series, started in 1890, was five games for either team.
The Midshipmen gathered at midfield and posed with the trophy while their classmates in the stands celebrated the win.
This one was the toughest victory yet during the streak.
“It’s about not letting your brothers down,” Turner said. “This is the best I’ve ever felt after winning a football game.”
Late in the third quarter, Army’s James Kelly stripped the ball and linebacker Alex Meier recovered to give the Black Knights the ball at Navy’s 37. Eric Osteen kicked a 21-yard field goal 10 plays later for a 13-10 lead.
Osteen, however, was wide left on a 37-yard attempt with 6:57 remaining in the game.
Navy made them pay on Reynolds’ score. The Midshipmen now lead the series 57-49-7. Navy not only won for the 11th straight time, it pretty much dominated the Army.
“I feel like we deserved that game in every way possible but it just didn’t happen,” Steelman said. “We were wearing them down and there was nothing that was going to stop us. But that’s life.”