Griffin, Roberts lift Air Force to 20-3 win over Army


L. Strebel 22 yd FG GOOD

Luke Strebel 22 yd FG GOOD

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Tight end Garrett Griffin retreated into the locker room late in the third quarter and simply covered his eyes.

Ten minutes of solitude, that's all he needed to get rid of his nagging migraine.

Crowd roaring and headache retreating, Griffin returned to the bench just in time to be placed into the game, where he caught a game-clinching touchdown pass -- his second of the game -- to help Air Force beat Army 20-3 on Saturday.

"They're like, `Don't come out if you're having symptoms," recounted Griffin, whose team won their 11th straight home game. "But I got up and felt good.

"It's not that big of deal."

This win certainly was, because with it Air Force (6-3) became bowl eligible. Even more, the Falcons remain in the running for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, which is presented annually to the winning academy in the round-robin competition. Air Force lost to Navy earlier this season and needs the Black Knights (2-7) to beat the Midshipmen next month to retain the trophy.

That means -- as difficult as this may be for Air Force players to hear -- they have to pull for Army.

"Definitely weird," defensive end Alex Hansen said.

Air Force and Army know each other so well that yards were hard to gain. The Falcons' smothering defense limited the Black Knights to 169 total yards and just nine first downs. The Falcons have now gone 11 quarters without surrendering an offensive touchdown.

That shutout was oh so close, though, spoiled only by Daniel Grochowski's 47-yard field goal late in the third quarter. Army never got inside Air Force's 20-yard line.

"We just had a really good game plan going into it," Hansen said. "I think a lot of the calls we made, they really put us in the right position to make plays."

For Griffin, this sort of performance was a long time coming. He missed five games to start the season with a knee injury.

With Army concentrating on big-play threats Garrett Brown and Jalen Robinette, Griffin found room to get open. He caught a 3-yard TD pass just before halftime.

Then, the migraine materialized. Sometime in the third quarter, he ducked back into the locker room. He didn't fall asleep or anything -- the crowd was too energized -- but once he took his medication, the pain began to dissipate.

When he returned, Karson Roberts found him for a 23-yard TD to wrap up the win in the fourth quarter.

"Standing on the sidelines is the worst feeling in the world," Griffin said. "It's nice to come back and help out any way you can."

Roberts ran the offense efficiently and finished 7 of 10 for 156 yards. He had long pass plays to Brown (59 yards) and Robinette (34) that kept Army's defense honest against the run.

While Army's offense struggled, the defense actually kept the team in the game against an Air Force squad that's scored 100 points the last two weeks. The Falcons finished with 196 yards rushing, well below their average of 353.4, the second-best total in the nation.

"We let up some big plays," Army linebacker Jeremy Timpf said. "But I thought we played well."

Army's Ahmad Bradshaw, who was returning from injury, was held to 42 yard rushing. He also completed 2 of 8 for 45 yards, including one to Edgar Poe that went for 33.

On three occasions, the Black Knights had the ball inside the Air Force 50 and facing fourth down, but elected to punt.

"It's a field position game," Army coach Jeff Monken explained.

Air Force jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first half courtesy of a 22-yard field goal from Luke Strebel and Griffin's first TD catch of the season.

Strebel added a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter.

This was the 50th all-time meeting between the schools. Air Force leads the series 35-14-1.


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