Army’s heartbreaking loss to Navy

It’s been about a week since Army’s late meltdown handed Navy its 11th consecutive win in the big game. For Army, this was not a fun season — they Black Knights finished 2-10 and suffered a heartbreaking loss to a Navy team that looked vulnerable and actually trailed late into the evening in Philadelphia. I was on the field taking photos, so I actually didn’t see Trent Steelman tearing up after the loss, but it seems like despite the loss, Trent and this Army squad earned a lot of respect from fans on both sides.

I actually did not shoot the pre-game march-on this year. In fact, my pre-game images were pretty limited — the game began at 3 p.m. and I got myself setup in the field level media workroom around 1:45. For those of us who are filing/transmitting images editorially throughout the game, preparation and planning is key. Lincoln Financial Field has a media entrance opposite Lots E and D at the neighboring Wells Fargo Center (home of the Flyers, remember them?) Anyway, there’s an L-shaped hallway that connects the elevator lobby to the field level media room. I went up to the press box around 2pm and grabbed a philly cheesesteak and hot dog for lunch before coming back down to grab my gear and get on the field for the ceremonies.

That’s when things didn’t go as planned. Vice President Joe Biden was the honored guest for this game, and evidently the secret service moved him near the press area around 2 p.m. Photographers inside the workroom were now locked inside, and those of us (me) not in the workroom were forced to vacate the entire floor. I plead my case to a couple Secret Service agents who advised me to just go upstairs and wait. Not ideal for taking photos of Biden walking on to the field.

So, with my hands tied, I waited up in a main concourse area lobby with another agent, who felt my pain but couldn’t do much to help out. Around 2 p.m. I got the green light to run downstairs, grab my gear and get on to the field. In the process, I pulled a muscle in my lower back and had the pleasure of shooting the entire game in pain.

Here’s Biden, who I actually managed to get some real nice portraits of despite my late arrival and back pain. A few moments later, both teams took the field:

Army was predictably fired up prior to kickoff.  Here’s Richard Rainey letting out a scream on the sidelines, and you can see co-captains Trent Steelman and Nate Combs on the right warming up. On the left, out of focus, is former Heisman winner Pete Dawkins:

Combs gets ready for kickoff:

Army turned the ball over downs on the first drive — here’s Raymond Maples bracing for impact on an early run:

Ricky Dobbs? Kriss Proctor? This year it was freshman Keenan Reynolds, who went toe-to-toe with the veteran Steelman and scored on an eight-yard run late in the game to setup Navy’s win.

Navy uses similar play cards with cryptic photos to relay formations:

Here’s Reynolds looking for a lane after picking up a block:

Army forced a punt, but Navy’s Don Pearson (below, left) downed the ball on the one-yard line:

Steelman was on a mission this day, his final game as a college quarterback:

Army wore special World War II-themed uniforms for the game, complete with a map of the Battle of the Bulge in Belguim/France on the numbers and helmet. Most everyone thought these were pretty cool, but Verne Lundquist on CBS complained it was impossible to see the numbers from higher up:

Head coach Rich Ellerson took the blame for an ugly loss to Temple three weeks ago, but will have to regroup after his team went 2-10 this season and loses key players like Steelman, Combs and Malcom Brown:

Navy fullback Noah Copeland had plenty of carries on Saturday:

Here’s a close-up of the map on the Army numbers:

Brown gets an option pitch to the side while fullback Larry Dixon looks for a victim to run over:

The Corps was fired up as usual. I believe that’s AJ Mackey on the left:

Here’s a nice clean portrait of Copeland:

Alex Meier (23) and friends actually picked up Copeland on this tackle:

Moments later, Copeland rumbled in for a touchdown:

Army responded quickly when Steelman marched down the field and took the ball in for a score himself, saluting the Corps in the endzone. Suddenly, Army was back:

Army free safety Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires, pumped after a big stop below, was named second-team Freshman All-America by Phil Steele Publications.

Reynolds hands off to Copeland:

Bobby Kough celebrates a big stop here. I shot some of the game with a custom Kelvin temperature white balance since it was sort of an in between light — it was very misty, kind of foggy almost, and the lights were on but the sky was still sort of bright during the first half. I prefer warmer colors in my photos, so I went with a warmer temperate early on:

You can see the color difference here on a corrected shot of retired Colonel Dan Ragsdale back in the middle of the Corps:

Here’s Geoffery Bacon wrapping up Copeland:

Reynolds throws a pass over Bacon (6) and James Kelly:

Army took a lead on Eric Osteen’s field goal, but the senior kicker missed his second opportunity later in the game.

Nothing special about this shot but I liked it:

Navy connected on a 49-yard pass to Brandon Turner, and that pretty much sealed up the win in the fourth:

Here’s Larry Dixon gaining yards on Army’s final drive. He couldn’t quite handle a hand-off from Steelman late and Navy recovered the fumble, putting a sad end to the season:

Before the fumble, Steelman connected on a pair of nice passes to Chevaughn Lawrence to setup what we all thought would be the game-winning touchdown:

Navy, though, took a few knees and ran down the clock to seal up the 17-13 win.

Army sang first before watching Navy celebrate the win again:

As usual, a lot of players jumped up into the seats with the sea of Midshipmen for a celebration:

Here’s Copeland soaking in the win:

And Biden came out to celebrate Navy’s Commander-in-Chief’s trophy win:

What else can you say? Army beat themselves in this game with turnovers. It seems like there comes a point in every one of these recent Army-Navy games where Army responds and you think, they have a chance, this might be it.

A lot of people will point at Ellerson and his staff after this season. The defense was inconsistent at best, the turnovers from 2011 continued to hold the offense back, and the team moves on as key seniors graduate. I really don’t know what to expect in 2013 — we saw shades of freshman quarterback A.J. Schurr this season, and Army has a few options who will compete for the starting job next summer, but it makes you wonder, if Army couldn’t finish the job with four years of Steelman — who will go down as one of the best all-time for this program — then what happens next?

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