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Thrilling Cadet Win Caps off Successful 124th Army-Navy Game at Gillette Stadium

After years of planning and weeks of anticipation, an Army win was the culmination of the 124th Army-Navy game.

Foxborough - America's Game came to Gillette Stadium on Saturday, as the 124th Army-Navy football game descended upon Foxborough for an unforgettable day that took college football's centerstage and culminated with a last-second win by the Cadets of West Point.

"I've never seen anything like this," Patriots owner Robert Kraft told ESPN's College GameDay early in the day from the stage outside the stadium. "We had a gala last night and people are coming together in a way that is unique and the gravitas of this game is something, yeah, maybe when you get to the Super Bowl and you win it's a similar kind of feeling, but you can't replace it. It's what's great about America."

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also joined the GameDay stage as the week's celebrity guest picker and not surprisingly, Navy was Belichick's pick as he donned the team's vintage 1962 helmet, one emblazoned on the front with a Jolly Roger.

Belichick grew up largely in Annapolis while his father Steve was a long-time assistant for the Midshipmen from 1956-1989, and was grateful the Patriots own schedule, coming off a victory on Thursday Night Football over the Steelers, coincided so favorably for the head coach to truly enjoy the historic game for the first time in a long time.

"This is awesome, it's a unique experience," Belichick told the GameDay crew, which included Lee Corso, who coached with Belichick's father at Annapolis in the 1960s. "I'm thrilled that the game is here and I'm thrilled to be here. It's great for New England, great for our fans and our stadium and hopefully, both academies."

Belichick also relayed his memories of the 1967 Army-Navy game to Corso, recalling how Corso's offense closed out a Navy win with aggressive play calling, something that stuck with Belichick.

Fans packed the stands many hours before kickoff as there was plenty else to see in the pregame lead-up, including the March-On of both schools and the finale of the Patriot Games that presented an obstacle course finale for participants. The two school's parachute teams, the Leap Frogs and Golden Knights, executed pinpoint landings on the field, and then two flyovers, featuring a fleet of jets for Navy and a collection of helicopters for Army, buzzed overhead as the teams took the field and the energy in the stadium built to a crescendo for the opening coin toss.

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Both teams executed a run-heavy approach as the contest started, with some downfield shots mixed in at key times. The game's first big play came as Navy took one of those passing shots down the field, but Army safety Max DeDomenico read the play all the way and picked off the pass at the five-yard-line and returned it out to Army's 35-yard line.

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Army would then go on a 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ate up over seven minutes of game time. Quarterback Bryson Daily fired a quick pass to tight end Tyson Riley from four yards out for the touchdown that gave Army a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

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Navy made a quarterback change after four unsuccessful first-half drives, inserting Tai Lavatai and the senior provided a spark as the Midshipmen put together their best drive of the day. It lasted nine plays, 45 yards until Army stopped Lavatai short on a quarterback run on fourth down at the Army 37-yard line.

Army would make the most of their last possession of the half, using six plays to go 34 yards, setting up a 47-yard field goal by Quinn Maretzki that gave the Cadets a 10-0 lead at halftime.

The teams would continue to trade punts into the third quarter as neither could find a sustained rhythm for their respective offenses. Navy's offense went three-and-out on their first possession of the second half but on their second Lavatai took a keeper for 25 yards to break their funk and provide a late-third-quarter spark for the Midshipmen with their biggest play of the day. They'd add a 37-yard field goal to cap off the drive and cut the Army lead to 10-3 early in the fourth quarter.

Navy was driving again late in the fourth, crossing into Army territory and looking to tie the game up with a touchdown when the game took a dramatic turn. Army linebacker Kalib Fortner stripped Lavatai of the ball and returned the fumble 44 yards for a Cadet touchdown.

The big play made it 17-3 Army with just under five minutes left, however, Navy would respond, executing a seven-play, 59-yard touchdown-scoring drive but a failed two-point conversion. It was a gutsy drive at a critical time that made it yet another Army-Navy classic that came down to the very end with a one-score game, 17-9.

Looking back at our favorite photos from the Army-Navy game which was held at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, December 9, 2023.

Army recovered the ensuing onsides kick but Navy's defense held strong, forcing a final punt. The Midshipmen took over at their own 25-yard line with 1:39 left. With no timeouts left, Navy hit on two big plays to cross into Army territory. Two more passing connections set up Navy inside the Army 10-yard line with a first-and-goal opportunity, bringing the electric crowd to their feet for a heart-pounding finish.

Incompletions on first and second down, led to a third-down completion, with the Navy receiver being tackled at the two-yard line. The clock continued to run as Navy ran to the line to try one final fourth-down quarterback sneak. But it was stopped short of the goal line, handing Army a thrilling victory courtesy of a goal-line stop. Army would take a safety to run out the final seconds, sealing a 17-11 win.

The Army win gave West Point an outright win of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, their first since 2020 and fourth overall, by virtue of this win over Navy as well as their upset of Air Force earlier this season, and capped off an exciting and ground-breaking event at Gillette Stadium.

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