COLORADO SPRINGS, OCT. 6 -- Air Force completed one pass, was assessed 10 penalties and still defeated Navy with consummate ease today, 24-7.
The Midshipmen once again were their own worst enemies, turning the ball over six times for the second straight week.
They also made some unwise decisions, on and off the field, that contributed to their ninth straight setback by the Falcons.
"I'm very proud of our seniors, because they have never lost to Navy," said Air Force Coach Fisher DeBerry. "That kind of effort leaves a great tradition for our younger players to follow."
That works the opposite way as well, and Navy senior Jerry Dawson said, "That's the worst feeling you can have, to go through four years and not be able to beat a team. It's the worst feeling you can imagine."
The Midshipmen started in adversity, with quarterback Alton Grizzard forced to watch from the sidelines with a bruised lung while senior Gary McIntosh from Gonzaga High School took his first snaps of the season as his backup.
McIntosh did a creditable job, completing 15 of 32 passes for 210 yards. However, forced to operate under heavy pressure from the blitzing Falcons, he was intercepted three times and lost a fumble.
"I felt good and well-prepared after a week of practice," McIntosh said. "The guys up front played their hearts out, but things didn't come together as well as I wanted them to."
Air Force benefited from a big early break, as Mike Rodgers blocked a punt by Jefferson Triplett, and the Falcons took over on the Navy one-yard line. Halfback Chris Howard dove over on Air Force's first play and it was 7-0 after less than two minutes.
There was reason to feel Navy Coach George Chaump made an earlier mistake, when he chose to receive the opening kickoff after Air Force won the toss and deferred.
The Falcons thereby started with a 20 miles per hour wind at their backs against a team whose quarterback had not taken a game snap this season.
"If I chose to defend, they'd take the ball each half," Chaump said. "I didn't want them to get the ball twice. That kind of thing can catch up with you. Of course, if I'd known the kick would be blocked, I'd have chosen to defend. But those crazy things happen."
"That blocked punt gave them emotion and momentum," said linebacker Byron Ogden, one of many heroes on the Navy defense. "It was a big emotional boost for them and the crowd."
After McIntosh lost a fumble at the Air Force 48, the Falcons moved close enough early in the second period for Joe Wood to kick a 34-yard field goal, the first of three for a specialist who has converted 10 of 11 attempts, with the only miss from beyond the 50.
Wood lofted the ensuing kickoff into the wind and two Midshipmen backed away from the ball at the Navy 32, enabling Shanon Yates to recover the free kick for Air Force. Although the Falcons stalled, Wood kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 13-0 halftime lead.
"I kicked off that way because of the wind," Wood said. "I've been practicing that, because it hangs up there and you can get under it just as quickly as they can."
It was not until the third quarter and the Falcons' 12th possession, with Rob Perez replacing starter Jarvis Baker at quarterback, that Air Force finally managed to put two first downs together on the same drive.
Staying entirely on the ground, the Falcons marched 49 yards in eight plays, with Perez sneaking the final yard. Halfback Wayne Young took a pitch from Perez and added the two-point conversion that made it 21-0.
Navy finally got on the scoreboard with 9:13 left in the game. A 42-yard pass from McIntosh to B.J. Mason put the Midshipmen on the Air Force two and halfback Jason Pace went over on the second play.
Wood's 47-yard field goal completed the scoring, although Navy later drove to the Air Force three before McIntosh's pass was intercepted by cornerback Carlton McDonald in the end zone.
If McIntosh had a tough time, Grizzard probably suffered even more. He sought an appointment with Air Force physicians today in an effort to prove that he was healthy enough to play, but was turned down. He had been told by doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital that he could not engage in any strenuous physical activity for at least a week.
"It's hard not to play as a senior, especially against Air Force," Grizzard said. "It's like you not being able to cover a story that's worth a Pulitzer Prize. It's hard to accept doctors' statements when I don't feel anything is wrong."
Neither team did much to inspire fear in future opponents.
Navy (2-3) recorded a full house of sorts in the first half when it lost possession on a fumble, an interception, a blocked punt and an opposing kickoff, prompting Chaump to say, "Our execution needs so much improvement. I feel terrible. We just didn't play well."
The Falcons (3-3) repeatedly fouled their own nest with penalties, for a total of 78 yards, and DeBerry said, "I'm concerned by the number of penalties. That's the most I can remember since I've been here and we stopped ourselves so many times."