Navy lost to Army in brutal conditions in Philadelphia by the slimmest of margins, going down 14-13. Here is the Midshipmen’s report card:
Rushing Offense: C+
The rushing game gets downgraded because while it was outstanding between the 20s, the Mids were unable to force the ball into the end zone twice on red zone trips, settling for field goals in a contest they lost by one point.
Navy – as expected – started Malcolm Perry at quarterback. Perry was the best player on the field on Saturday, tearing through the Army defense with speed to the outside and with power up the middle. There were times when Zach Abey came in to give the Mids added bulk in short yardage situations, but this is Perry’s team now.
That was clear from the outset of the first drive, where the play calling was less triple-option and more a case of snapping the ball the Perry and letting him find a hole. It was an effective strategy – one that saw Perry rush for 250 yards on 30 carries – as his ability to break the big play kept Navy moving through the snow.
Ironically it was one of his best plays that also turned the game. Perry looked to be going in for a touchdown on a long sprint when Army defensive end John Voit tripped him by his ankle at the 11-yard line. It was a remarkable hustle play and after Navy failed to convert in the red zone it was one that saved Army four points.
Add in the two false start penalties late in the game that cost Navy 10 yards on the field goal attempt to win and this rating can’t be any higher.
Passing Offense: F
There were a lot of factors in this game that led to the passing game being even less effective than normal for the Mids. The conditions obviously played a part, with the snow being thick enough at times to make it hard to see downfield, and with the Army defenders subtly camouflaged in their all-white uniforms. The other was that with Perry at quarterback, head coach Ken Niumatalolo did not feel comfortable putting the ball in the air.
The most frustrating part of the passing game for the Mids was the play they missed. Dipping into the back of the playbook wide receiver Craig Scott got the ball on a reverse, only to pull up and look for Perry who had snuck unnoticed out of the backfield. The most dangerous player on the field had no Army player within 15 yards of him and Perry would have walked into the end zone to give Navy a 17-7 lead. Scott, though, hesitated before the pass, putting up a wounded duck that fell agonizingly incomplete.
It was only the second quarter, but it was a play that would have changed the outcome of the game.
Rushing Defense: B
The Navy rushing defense coped better with the triple-option attack than their Army counterparts.
While the Mids rushed for 294 yards, Army managed just 221 yards on the ground. Black Knights quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw was kept quiet all game as he rushed for just 94 yards on 21 carries, though primary fullback Darnell Woolfolk did have a solid game as he bashed his way for 57 yards and a score on 12 carries.
The Mids defense though was frustrated with the two touchdown drives they did give up. On the first drive of the game, it looked like it would be a long day for Navy as Army marched down the field using lead plays right up the middle to power in for a score. After that, though the Black Knights offense did next to nothing until their final drive of the game, but that drive was enough for a second – winning – touchdown.
Passing Defense: N/A
Not enough information to grade this really. Army completed its only pass of the game for 20 yards. Apart from that, the Mids secondary was – as expected – untested through the air.
Special Teams: B
Normally we downgrade a special teams unit for a missed field goal, but that seems like it would be harsh here given the circumstances of the game in Philadelphia.
Navy kicker Bennett Moehring had already made two field goals, with the longest of those two being a shot from 28-yards. Kicking in the snow is so much harder than kicking in any other type of conditions because the plant leg can easily slip and the ball is colder and travels less of a distance. That is why the two false start penalties on the Mids on their final drive were so crucial.
Moehring ran onto the field to attempt a walk-off 48-yarder, only to see it sail just wide of the left upright. The kick was actually a very, very good one as it had the distance, yet slightly lacked the direction. From 38-yards it would have been good. From, 43-yards it would have been good. Moehring though had to over-kick the ball to get the distance from 48-yards in those conditions and as a result, he couldn’t get the direction needed.
The coaching from Niumatalolo was fine, but this season has been plagued by inaccuracies that we haven’t seen from Navy in recent years.
The missed pass, the false start penalties, the lackluster defense on the Black Knights first drive. Those are the reasons Navy lost this game. The Mids outgained Army and outplayed them for much of the contest, to the point where it feels like the better team lost the game because of a few dumb mistakes.
Niumatalolo never seemed happy with his quarterback play this season and now he has practices before the bowl game to start to work with Perry and get him to where he needs to be. This one hurts, it will be interesting to see how the Mids recover both in the short and long term.