The Army Black Knights held a 10-0 lead against their bitter rivals, the Navy Midshipmen, heading into the fourth quarter of the 119th game between the two academies. Faced with a fourth-and-two situation, and having used the break between quarters to mull things over, Army coach Jeff Monken elected to go for the first down as the team was on Navy’s 43-yard line.
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. took the ball himself, ran to the right of his line and appeared to convert the first down based on where the officials initially spotted the ball. Though the play was automatically reviewed, and it didn’t look there was conclusive evidence to overturn the play on one of the first camera angles shown on the broadcast, nearly 7.5 minutes had passed before any decision was officially made. When the referee finally addressed the crowd after the long deliberation, he announced that the ball would be re-spotted near the 41-yard line, and that the chains would be reset so that officials could measure if the first down was achieved based on the new spot.
The process of remeasuring took another couple minutes because officials couldn’t figure out where exactly to place the ball, and the people holding the chains had already moved down to the original placement because they thought Army got the first down. The ball’s new location was a few feet behind its original placement, so the new measurement determined that Hopkins Jr. was short of the first down.
The turnover should have brought new life to Navy, whose defense just made a big stop and gave the offense great field position to chip away at their rival’s lead. Instead, Midshipmen quarterback Garret Lewis fumbled the ball eight plays later, and gave possession back to the Black Knights—a play that more or less encapsulated the essence of this game.