The Army Black Knights have won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the third time in four years with a come-from-behind 10-7 win over the Air Force Academy at West Point’s Michie Stadium. 

In a game where points were at a premium, both defenses dominated. But the Army running back Jacob Buchanan scored the game-winning touchdown on a fourth goal attempt from the one-yard line giving the Knights the win and bragging rights for the next year. 

Coupled with Army’s 15-0 win over Navy in the annual rivalry game, the Black Knights now sit at 9-2 and were slotted for the Independence Bowl game against a team from the Pac-12. However, because of the number of Pac-12 teams opting-out of bowl games, the Independence Bowl Foundation, for the first time since the contest’s inception in 1976, canceled the game on Sunday. 

A bowl win — if they can find an opponent — would elevate the Army cadets to their third 10-win season during the tenure of head coach Jeff Monken.

Army was able to totally regenerate a schedule that was thrown into chaos by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cadets also had a revamped defense under new defensive coordinator Nate Woody. Eventually, their defense became a point of pride and the team’s calling card in 2020. The Black Knights have held opponents to 10 points or less in six of their 11 games this season. 

Likewise, in the game against Air Force, it was Army’s defense that turned the tide. Air Force had scored in the fourth quarter to take a 7-3 lead. Falcons quarterback Haaziq Daniels led an impressive 10-play, 87-yard drive including a scrambling throw to Kyle Patterson for 39 yards down the right sideline. He connected again with Patterson on third down for a 10-yard touchdown to take the lead. 

Daniels and Air Force were driving again to put the game away when Army’s defense came up with another big play. Army picked off Daniels in the end zone and got the ball at their 20-yard line with just a little more than eight minutes remaining in the game. It was then that the Black Knights offense was finally able to finish. 

Relying on their triple-option ground game, Army pounded the Falcons. Their running game relied on Christian Anderson, the backup quarterback, who replaced starter Tyhier Tyler after he took a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him out of the game. Anderson rushed for 85 yards on 18 carries, while Buchanan led the way with 86 yards on 21 carries.   

Army ate up seven of the eight-plus minutes of the clock before Buchanan punched the ball in from a yard out to give the Black Knights the lead at 10-7 with a little more than a minute to go. Daniels was trying to give the Falcons one more magical moment, but with just 1:13 on the clock, his pass was deflected by Kwabena Bonsu and intercepted by Arik Smith. Army’s defense (fittingly) turned the tide for the Knights again. 

“I’m just so proud of the effort. When we needed a drive there at the end the offense came through… Great to see that trophy is coming back home,” Army Head Coach Jeff Monken said after the game.

The bowl picture for the Army’s service academy is murky right now, which brings up some of the fundamental issues with college football: Army, in the midst of a 9-2 season, may miss out on a bowl game which is always a big draw in terms of recruitment. On the other hand, 12 of the 14 SEC teams, including five with losing records, are going to a bowl game. 

So, it would be a shame if Army’s season were to end  — but at least they beat the Navy. 

Congratulations Black Knights!