The Mids took their late-season anger out on an overmatched Virginia squad, smoking the Cavaliers 49-7 in the Military Bowl. Here is the Mids’ report card:
Rushing Offense: A
This is how Navy football looks when the triple-option is running as it should. The Mids played at a different level against the Cavaliers, rushing the ball for 452 yards and seven touchdowns on 76 carries.
The craziest aspect of the rushing game in this bowl was that all seven Mids’ touchdowns came from their quarterbacks. Zach Abey joined a list of names that includes Barry Sanders as he rushed for five touchdowns in a single bowl game. The other two scores came from Malcolm Perry, who also led the Mids in rushing with 114 yards on 16 carries.
That is not to say though that the other backs didn’t help dictate the way this game played out. Fullback Chris High led the Mids in carries with 19 and had himself over 100 yards on the ground. Josh Brown, Anthony Gargiulo, and Garret Lewis, all joined Abey, High, and Perry in having runs of over 15 yards.
In total, the Mids saw 10 different players gain positive yards on the ground as Ken Niumatalolo emptied his bench to get everyone on the roster that bowl game experience.
Passing Offense: N/A
The classic N/A grade is back for the bowl game as the Mids didn’t even have to think about passing the ball against a bad Virginia defense. Zach Abey was the only Mids attempting a pass on the day, a pass that fell incomplete. About the only interesting fact here is that Abey’s QBR for the game was 88.0, so now you know that anyone with a score below that (including Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert) is having a really bad day at the office.
Rushing Defense: A+
The other aspect of the running game in Annapolis was that the Navy defense basically didn’t allow Virginia to have one. The Mids – as we said earlier – rushed for 452 yards. The Cavaliers, well they rushed for 30 yards. That means that Navy outgained Virginia by more than 420 yards on the ground.
Nothing worked for Virginia here. With the Cavaliers being ahead early, it would have made sense to run the ball and keep the Navy offense off of the field as much as possible. Virginia tried to run the ball, with running back Jordan Ellis having 11 carries for 37 yards. The problem was that the Navy front seven was dominating the contest, pushing the Virginia linemen into the backfield and allowing tackles for a loss and short gains at most.
It was an utterly dominant performance from a unit of the Navy team that is not always thought of as being elite.
Passing Defense: A
Benkert was expected to be a problem for Navy to deal with. In reality, the quarterback and his receivers did nothing of note against a Mids passing defense that shut down everything that the Cavaliers tried.
Virginia ran 54 plays from scrimmage and on those plays the Mids recorded an impressive five tackles for a loss. Benkert – a talented quarterback – did his best, but it is hard to be productive when you are running for your life in the face of a pass rush that your bigger, and theoretically stronger, offensive linemen cannot deal with.
Special Teams: F
Navy was so good in every other area on Thursday that we have to be brutal when it comes to the special team’s performance.
Literally, the only thing that Virginia did well in this game was Joe Reed catching the opening kickoff and returning the ball 98 yards for a score. It was a play that should never have happened and one that could have caused Navy problems if Virginia had been able to progress on from the score with either a defensive stop or a big play on offense.
The coverage team was pretty much non-existent as Reed cruised down the field, but the best/worst part of the play was the angle taken by kicker Bennett Moehring when he came into view to attempt to tackle Reed. The returner barely had to change his body angle to blow by Moehring in one of the worst kicker tackle attempts of all time.
Niumatalolo needed a response from his team and he got it here. It wasn’t just the Army loss – though that was as deflating as they come – but the overall scope of the second half of the season that saw Navy looking a shadow of the team that had taken on all-comers over the past three or four seasons.
This was an angry Navy. A team that wanted to show America what they could do against a Power Five opponent on a field free from ice and snow. The preparation had been hard and physical, but the outcome was more than worth it as the Mids can now power into the offseason and improve as opposed to drifting that was on a four-game losing streak.
The future here – with Perry at the quarterback position – is an exciting one.