The USF Bulls turned to red-shirt freshman Jordan McCloud as their new quarterback to replace Blake Barnett who suffered a season ending ankle injury just a few weeks ago. McCloud was originally set to replace Barnett for however long it took to get the starting quarterback healthy again, but the Bulls doctors and staff eventually decided it was in the best interest for Barnett to get a surgery that would force him on the sidelines for the remainder of the 2019 season. He finished the game 11/23 for just 50 yards and an interception, far short of what the Bulls would need to pull out a win over the Midshipmen in Annapolis.
McCloud struggled to get going in this one and it showed from the opening possession. While USF went three and out on the opening possession, the Bulls defense responded and stopped Navy’s Malcolm Perry and company with a three and out of their own. Neither team could get much going in the early portions of the first quarter and it seemed as if all that was unfolding was nothing more than a field position battle. Senior Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry, however, had other plans.
On second-and-nine, about halfway through the first quarter, the Clarksville, TN native dropped back for what appeared to be his first pass attempt of the day but instead Perry tucked it and ran 67-yards to earn his 13th-touchdown of the season.
Perry’s touchdown run was the first of three explosive plays for the Midshipmen in the first half as sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers scored on a 58-yard run up the middle to start the second quarter and C.J. Williams got into the action with a 23-yard TD pass, yes pass, to senior receiver OJ Davis.
After taking a 21-3 lead into the locker room at the break, Navy started the third quarter moving the ball well and into USF territory before a lost fumble on the exchange between Perry and Carothers set-up USF near midfield. Navy defensive coordinator Brian Newberry put the defense in a position to answer the call and forced McCloud into an ensuing turnover-on-downs that highlighted the quarterback’s struggles. McCloud walked off the field favoring his throwing shoulder and showing signs that he was clearly not in pristine condition this weekend. Jacob Springer stole the show for the defensive unit contributing three sacks and a forced fumble while Diego Fagot added 10 tackles of his own.
Following the slow start of the second half, Navy kicked it into high gear and managed to put together two touchdown drives of greater than 75-yards. Perry and senior Tazh Maloy each had touchdown runs of greater than 20-yards in the fourth quarter to finish off the Bulls.
While the Navy defense took advantage of Charlie Strong’s offensive game plan with McCloud under center, the offense struggled to find consistency. Turnovers, missed open receivers, penalties, and overall confusion at the snap dampened a performance that looked good in the box score for a team that accounted for 457 total yards.
Overall, the defense shined and the offense had its ups and downs but that combination resulted in more than enough to contribute to a convincing 35-3 win for the Midshipmen. It’s crazy to think the Navy offense didn’t look fully in sync and still put over 400-yards on the ground.
Areas of concern that reared its ugly head during this game include Malcolm Perry’s passing and overall team turnovers. The senior quarterback threw two interceptions at the end of the first half, yet the Navy defense answered the call in both instances by only allowing USF to convert those turnovers into three points. The Midshipmen undoubtedly hope they were able to get those out of their system before next week’s game with heavy AAC-West implications against Tulane.
Navy football is 5-1 and one win away from bowl eligibility. Quite the turnaround from last year’s disappointing 3-10 campaign.
Special Notes: Plebe Chelen Garnes earned his first interception of his career to end USF’s final drive of the first half. Senior OJ Davis’ touchdown was the first of his career. Senior quarterback Malcolm Perry failed to complete a pass but carried the ball 22 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns.