The Air Force Academy's football team went into today's game against Army hoping to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and came out of the 45-7 victory hoping to be the best football team in the country.
Representatives of 13 bowl committees watched quarterback Bart Weiss run for 114 yards and two touchdowns and throw a 64-yard pass to Ken Carpenter for another score in leading fifth-ranked Air Force's victory in freezing temperatures and occasional snow.
Air Force is 10-0 this season and has won 13 straight games, the best streak in the nation.
As the Falcons had already beaten Navy, they earned the trophy today as the service academies' best football team.
"Never in my wildest imagination did I think we would have a blowout like this," the winning coach, Fisher DeBerry, said.
"Army is a well-disciplined team, but things just didn't go their way. This was a complete effort from the people on the field to the coaches upstairs. But the players are the ones who executed it, and they are the real heroes.
"That might have been the best our team has played this year. Our quarterback did a super job. And I can't say enough about our defense.
"They took a team that in five of its eight games had scored over 40 points and almost shut them out. They shut down a dad-gummed good offensive machine, I guarantee you."
It was the most lopsided score in series history. Air Force totaled 501 yards, 396 of it on the ground. Army, which came into the game with the second-best rushing game in the nation (averaging 358 yards per game), rushed 168 yards and totaled 186.
"They dominated us," said Army Coach Jim Young.
"They just beat us, outcoached us, outplayed us and made the big plays. Bart Weiss gave us a lesson in wishbone football."
Snow fell before the game and during the second quarter, but Weiss successfully negotiated the slippery conditions, running 56 yards for an early third-quarter score and ending a short drive with a one-yard plunge later in the period, giving the Falcons a 28-0 advantage.
Weiss can become only the third player in NCAA history to both run and throw for 1,000 yards in a season.
Safety Scott Thomas' interception set up the Falcons' first score. Weiss ran 18 yards to highlight the drive, and halfback Greg Pshsniak plunged the final yard late in the opening quarter.
Just minutes into the second quarter, Weiss connected with a wide-open Carpenter at the Army 35-yard line, and the senior receiver outran the defenders for a 64-yard scoring play and a 14-0 lead.
Following Weiss' two scoring runs, Tom Ruby kicked a 22-yard field goal with 12:28 to play for a 31-0 lead.
Army's wishbone, held in check most of the game, finally put together a 67-yard scoring drive, with Clarence Jones taking a pitchout and running seven yards to draw the Cadets within 31-7. Air Force, however, added two subsequent scores behind backup quarterback Brian Knorr.
Army (7-2) wasn't able to move past midfield until late in the first half. Behind quarterback Tory Crawford, who alternated with Rob Healy throughout the game, the Black Knights moved to the Falcon 44-yard line, where Craig Stopa was short on a wind-aided, 61-yard field goal attempt.
Given good field position by the miss, the Falcons had two more opportunities to score as the half wound down, but Ruby missed on field-goal tries of 45 and 44 yards. Healy's fumble at the AFA 27 set up the second kick.
Leading by 14-0 at halftime, Air Force wasted no time extending its lead in the third quarter. Thomas returned the second-half kickoff 39 yards to near midfield, and two plays later Weiss wriggled out of two tackles at the line of scrimmage and ran 56 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
A short Army punt into a brisk wind meant Air Force needed to drive only 37 yards for its next score. Weiss called it a day after subsequently completing back-to-back passes to Carpenter to set up Ruby's final-period field goal.
Chris Vellanti, sprung by a block from Knorr, weaved his way to a 57-yard touchdown run with 8:09 left, and Marc Munafo ended the scoring with a one-yard run with 1:41 left.