Play of the Year (Nominations)
The already iconic image of Ram Vela flying over Armando Allen's head to disrupt Evan Sharpley and Notre Dame's offense on a 4th down play that may have given Notre Dame it's 44th consecutive win over Navy. The play was so much more than just the critical stop that pushed the game into overtime, but a play which swung the game's momentum decidedly in Navy's favor after Notre Dame stole momentum midway through the 4th quarter. It's come to symbolize the never say die attitude that is a hallmark of this Navy program, and the triumph of the guy who they thought was too small or too slow to play Division I-A football.
Bobby Doyle to Jarod Bryant
In a game filled with big plays and game changing moments, this one stands out to me as the most memorable. There was Buffin's interception and Jarod's 35 yard run in which he seemingly made every Duke player miss in the open field, but none of it would have been possible had reserve slotback Bobby Doyle (a former QB at Chardon High in Ohio) not thrown a picture perfect pass to backup quarterback Jarod Bryant for the two point conversion. Not only did it tie the game at 43, but it helped to save a season that seemed to be rapidly heading for disaster.
Bullen Does It Again
Taken as statistics only, an outside observer may have seen Joey Bullen's kicking career at the Naval Academy as decidedly average. But for periods of inconsistency and even losing his job for much of the 2006 season, Bullen always proved himself in the clutch and came through when the game was on the line. As incredible as his 44 yard field goal as time expired to beat Duke was, maybe more incredible is how the former backup came in almost stone-cold to redeem himself and prove that it wasn't just the starters who don't quit.
Up 24-20 with just over nine minutes left in the game, Navy needed a score to keep Air Force at arms length and make it a two possession game. With a defense that had struggled and an Air Force offense determined not to be defeated for a fifth straight year, the Mids got a much needed lift when Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada accelerated past the entire Air Force defense en route to a 78-yard touchdown run off the option. The play put Air Force into panic mode, and helped lead Navy to it's fifth consecutive win over the Falcons.
Not One Step Back
Resiliency. We talked about it so much in the course of the season, but there is no more perfect example of it than in the final play of Navy's 46-44 overtime win at Notre Dame. After four quarters and three overtimes the 2007 Navy football team was not about to let it's best chance in year's pass them by. Need I say more?
Be sure to check in tomorrow afternoon when I present my individual awards for the 2007 Navy football season.