Saturday was a special night for the Navy Midshipmen.
After running the gauntlet of the third toughest schedule in the country, Navy finished the season with a positive result in the biggest of them all, America’s Game. The Midshipmen beat Army by a final score of 17-13 for its 62nd win all-time against Army. That is nine more than the Black Knights can hold to their name.
Navy opened the game with an 11 play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Only two other teams this season, Ball State and Wake Forest, had scored on Army in their first drive of the game.
After falling behind at the break, the Midshipmen responded with a gritty drive to begin the second half, taking the lead. Their defense held on from there, holding the second ranked rush offense to only 41 rushing yards in the second half.
As they have all year, Navy played through adversity. And this one resulted in a huge victory and momentum heading into the 2022 season.
Here are some takeaways from America’s Game...
Navy played shutdown defense, especially in the second half
To hold any academy to under 100 yards in a half on the ground is an accomplishment, but only 41 to the second ranked rushing offense in the country — that’s incredibly impressive, and I think this deserves another bump.
Throw out the 56-yard rush by Christian Anderson to open the game, and Army only had 68 yards on the ground all of Saturday afternoon.
As Army fell down, they started to panic and throw the ball. That wasn’t a problem for Navy either. The Black Knights only completed two of their nine pass attempts in the second half, as the likes of Rayuan Lane and Michael McMorris made crucial plays in Navy’s secondary.
The Black Knights finished the afternoon with 232 total yards.
Navy’s biggest plays were on the sidelines and with passes
Yeah, it can be nice to grind out your opponents down with small gains up the middle, but outside runs and passes were where the Midshipmen did their damage.
Take the opening drive of the second half, for example. It began as Tai Lavatai found freshman Maquel Haywood for his first college catch and a 24-yard gain. Chance Warren followed that up as he turned an all-but-dead reverse into a 26-yard rush down to the Army two-yard-line. It looked like he was initially planning on passing the ball, but instead of throwing the ball away or cutting up defenders, he ran to the sideline, and blockers followed.
Behind center, Lavatai had one of his best games as the Midshipmen quarterback. He finished the afternoon completing four passes for 83 yards, and with a stellar QB rating of 181.5.
Just imagine if Lavatai can perform like that all of next season.
Navy DOMINATED the third quarter and carried that momentum into the fourth quarter
I want you to take a guess how many yards and first downs Army had in its two third quarter drives…
The answer is one first down for a total of 12 yards. The Midshipmen had one touchdown, four first downs, and a total of 100 yards in that quarter. It was domination by the Men of Ken.
Navy won the second half by a score of 10-0, and a lot of that was because that third quarter momentum carried into the fourth with a long drive lasting 8:56. It ended with a Mids’ field goal.
It was arguably the best half of Navy football the whole season.
Navy will enter the offseason with a ton of momentum from this win. Next season, hopes are high. The Mids will aim to begin the 2021 campaign with a win, hosting an old regional rival in the Delaware Blue Hens on Sept. 3.