Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 9, 2012
PHILADELPHIA— Trent Steelman walked off the field, about ready to burst into tears.
Army’s quarterback finished his career 0 for Navy.
Four starts, four losses.
So many around him felt his pain. Army officials hugged him. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo wrapped his arm around Steelman and told him how proud he was to have him go out and protect this country.
He felt as empty as his number in the win column.
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 bring it to Annapolis.
Army (2-10) hasn’t hoisted the CIC trophy since 1996.
“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.”
Navy (8-4) and 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.
Unlike previous games over the last decade, the Black Knights were in this one until their final 70-yard drive. Army had driven to the 14 when 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’ve talked about Trent’s career a lot,” Army coach Rich Ellerson said. “This is unfortunate because this doesn’t correlate with what he’s accomplished here. He deserves to feel better on the last day.”
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 left in the game.
The CIC trophy was coming back to the Naval Academy for a record 13th time. Before Navy started its 11-game winning streak, the longest one in the series, started in 1890, was only five games.
“It means everything,” Niumatalolo said. “That’s our No. 1 goal, to get the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. I’m just so happy for these guys.”
The Midshipmen gathered at midfield and posed with the trophy while their classmates in the stands celebrated the win.
Niumatalolo sought out Steelman for some encouraging words.
“They don’t get any tougher than Trent Steelman,” he said. “I know everyone in our locker room has nothing but respect for that young man.”
Late in the third, 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.