WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman found out on Friday that he would be making his first career start. Apparently, that it would come against service academy rival Army on the road in a critical game was no big deal.
The sophomore quarterback passed for 195 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 63 yards and another score, and Air Force beat Army 31-12 on Saturday to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy at Michie Stadium.
"It just shows the grit of our team," said tailback Jacobi Owens, who rushed for 106 yards and caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Worthman. "It's good to have the trophy back. We'll just put it in the middle of the locker room so everybody can see it."
The second leg of the round-robin competition between the three service academies ended with the Falcons claiming the prized hardware, emblematic of supremacy among the three schools, for the 20th time. Air Force (6-3), which dispatched Navy 28-14 a month ago, has won all but two of the last 20 games against Army and is 14-10 at Michie Stadium.
"There are much, much prettier football teams, but we do a super job when it comes to playing together in a group that's just unrelenting in terms of preparation," said Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, who is 9-1 against Army. "We're just a gritty, feisty, overachieving (team). It's unlike anything I've ever been around."
Army (5-4) needs to win two more games to become eligible for the postseason for only the second time in 20 years.
"It's tough, but our guys will bounce back," Army coach Jeff Monken said. "We'll put it behind us and try to get ready for the next one."
Worthman played in place of injured starter Nate Romine. In Air Force's comeback win over Fresno State last week, Worthman relieved Romine in the second half and displayed an instant burst of speed running the triple option with keepers around the edge and used his 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame to muscle through the middle on inside runs.
On Saturday, Worthman displayed his multiple talents again, giving Army fits all afternoon, scrambling out of trouble when he had to and hitting the Black Knights time after time with key plays. After an even-fought first half, he gave the Falcons some breathing room on the first possession of the third quarter, scrambling right on a pass play when protection broke down and hitting a wide-open Owens for the game-winning TD.
"I prepared all week for my opportunity, and I think that helped us mentally," Worthman said. "We had a great game plan going in. The first two drive we were able to move the ball. We just didn't put any points on the board. Once the game got flowing and I got my feet wet a little bit, I think we were able to execute a little bit better and finish drives."
In their win over Navy, the Falcons held the Middies to 57 yards on the ground, 259 yards below their average and limited Army to 144 yards on 40 rushes. Army entered the game ranked second in the nation in rushing with a 342-yard average and managed just 65 on 19 carries in the opening half, and Kell Walker accounted for half that total on a 32-yard scoring run.
"Not much to say after that one," Monken said. "We're awfully disappointed. Words can't even describe the disappointment."
Air Force: The Falcons clinched their third straight postseason bowl and may have found their quarterback of the future in Worthman, just a sophomore. Romine relieved him late in the game.
Army: Army has no tie-in this year to a bowl and probably needs to win its next two games, against Notre Dame and Morgan State, prior to the finale against Navy on Dec. 10 to have a chance to play in the postseason.
Jalen Robinette had three catches for 104 yards to become Air Force's all-time leading receiver with 2,410 yards, 18 more than Ernie Jennings (1968-70).
Air Force: Hosts Colorado State next Saturday.
Army: Travels to San Antonio for a neutral site game against Notre Dame in The Alamodome.
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