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Army digs deep to end Navy's 14-year winning streak in a beautifully ugly football game

The Black Knights have done it at last.

NCAA Football: Army vs Navy Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Army ended a 14-year losing streak against Navy on Saturday in Baltimore, beating the Midshipmen, 21-17, in the 117th playing of their iconic rivalry game.

Ahmad Bradshaw’s 9-yard touchdown run with six minutes to play, after Navy had stormed back from a 14-0 deficit to take its first lead, held up as the decisive score.

The game went back and forth, and it had seven combined turnovers — three by Navy, four by Army. The Knights still managed to pull it out.

The Black Knights have had a lot of excruciating near misses over the years, and this nearly went down among the worst. They dominated the first half and staked themselves to a two-touchdown lead at the break, and Jeff Monken’s team seemed intent on not leaving another tight finish to chance. In the end, they had to sweat one out. But they managed to do it, and maybe it’ll make it sweeter in the end.

Sophomore Zach Abey made his first career start for Navy, in relief of the injured Will Worth. It was a brutal situation for an inexperienced player to get tossed into, and Army had Abey off balance. At the half, he’d completed more passes (two) to Army players than Navy players (one), and the Mids had run 13 first-half total plays to the Knights’ 14 first downs. Things just didn’t click for Navy, not at first.

Of course, Navy’s charge was coming. The Mids cut the lead to 14-10 by the start of the third quarter, with Abey finding the end zone for Navy’s first touchdown. Then Abey ripped off a 41-yard scoring run to give Navy its first lead with 12:42 left.

But the Black Knights answered after that. After Abey’s score, the Knights mounted a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Bradshaw’s critical score. It was a game-turning response, right as Army was in trouble. The Black Knights forced a punt after that, and they drained the clock upon getting the ball back.

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That was that.

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This game mattered a ton, just like it always does.

Navy fell short of an American Athletic Conference title and potential Cotton Bowl bid this year, but a chance to make it 15 in a row against arch rival Army meant everything was still on the line. The Black Knights entered with their best record since 2010 and their best shot in years at ending the streak.

Navy entered as a 5-point favorite with a scoring total over/under around 47, meaning Vegas forecasted a final score in the area of Navy 26, Army 21.

Navy began the day with the country’s No. 25 offense, per S&P+, despite being down to third-string QB Abey. Army hadn’t been nearly as lethal on offense on the year, but the Black Knights had been far better than Navy on defense, even adjusting for opponent.

Oh, and both teams wore amazing uniforms, as is custom. Army’s are tributes to World War II paratroopers, while Navy’s paid homage to the program’s 1963 Cotton Bowl and include some devastating (and now perhaps embarrassing) rivalry shade.

A wounded Navy still has the Armed Forces Bowl against Louisiana Tech to go, while underdog Army’s first bowl bid in years will come against North Texas in the Heart of Dallas.