Quarterback Kriss Proctor started in place of the injured Ricky Dobbs and had a whale of a day, running for 201 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. The 201 rushing yards were the most by a Navy quarterback since Dobbs ran for 224 against SMU in 2008, and is tied for the eighth-highest single-game rushing total by a quarterback in Navy history. Eight different runners carried the ball for the Mids, who finished with 437 rushing yards. Alexander Teich had 55 yards and two touchdowns, while Aaron Santiago and John Howell each scored the first rushing TDs of their careers.
"I am really proud of Kriss Proctor. He did some real nice things out there," said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. "I give a lot of credit to Coach (Ivin) Jasper. He did a good job of getting Kriss ready. Ricky Dobbs has played a ton of games for us, but we found out Monday that he may be down and got Kriss ready to go."
"Kriss has made runs like he had today on the practice field. It is unfortunate that he plays behind the guy who is going to have every school record. That doesn't mean that Kriss is not a good football player."
"You work hard in the offseason, work hard during the season, and you want to get it done when you have the chance," said Proctor when asked about his performance. "They (CMU) came out in a 6-1, and I was just trying to get people the ball. It was an excellent job of blocking up front."
Central Michigan was able to produce equally impressive offensive numbers. Ryan Radcliff had a career day guiding the Chippewas' spread offense, throwing for 394 yards and 3 TDs on 36 for 58 passing. His favorite target was 5-10 wide receiver Cody Wilson, who consistently found gaps in Navy's coverage and gashed the secondary for 126 yards and a touchdown on 13 catches. Tight end David Blackburn added 66 yards and two touchdowns of his own, and Radcliff distributed the ball to nine Chippewa receivers.
After the game, CMU head coach Dan Enos praised his young signal-caller.
"I loved the way he played. His feet were better, he was making good decisions. He set his feet and he threw the ball very well. Like I said, we probably had seven or eight balls dropped; if you take those out then he has an unbelievable day. I thought he competed and played well. We will have to look at the tape, but this may have been his best game."
Navy won the coin toss and elected to receive, presumably to get an early lead and avoid having to play from behind once again this season. The plan almost backfired, as the Mids' lost a fumble on their second play from scrimmage and gave the Chippewas the ball at the Navy 41 yard line. "Coach Jasper kept Kriss up after that first turnover. It could have set him back and set the team back, but he came back and played a great game."
Fortunately for the Midshipmen, CMU failed to capitalize when their drive stalled and David Harman missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right. Navy responded with a 9-play, 71-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by two key plays from Aaron Santiago. The first came through the air, coming across the field and catching a 3rd down pass from Proctor for 26 yards to move into CMU territory. The second was his first career rushing TD, a pitch from Proctor that he took 18 yards and into the end zone.
Central Michigan responded with an 11-play, 71-yard drive of their own to tie the game at 7. Radcliff connected with Blackburn, who dodged three Navy defenders and tiptoed 15 yards down the left sideline for the score.
The back-and forth would continue for the rest of the half. Navy took possession on the next drive and drove 88 yards in 6 plays, aided by a Greg Jones reverse that went 28 yards and a 15-yard personal foul on Central Michigan.
The Chippewas started at their 40 on their next drive after Navy was offside on the kickoff and had to re-kick. Radcliff was able to connect on a 20-yard pass to Cody Wilson on 3rd and 7—one of many 3rd and long conversions that CMU was able to make on the afternoon—to move the ball to the Navy 20. Four plays later Zurlon Tipton punched it in from three yards out to tie the game at 14.
Navy held serve on their next possession, driving 80 yards on only 6 plays. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper tried a little bit of trickery, attempting a slotback pass with Bo Snelson. Both receivers were well covered downfield, though, and Snelson was forced to hold on to the ball and was stopped for only 1 yard. There was a face mask penalty on the play, however, which gave Navy the ball at the Chippewa 34 yard line. Aaron Santiago ran for 31 yards down the left sideline on the next play, and Alexander Teich finished the drive after that.
Once again, Central Michigan was able to answer, converting twice on 3rd and 10 on their way to the end zone.
"Third downs killed us the whole game. We just had a hard time getting off the field," said Niumatalolo. "But I think to our kids' credit they just continued to battle."
Proctor scampered 40 yards down the left sideline on the first play of Navy's next drive, putting the ball on the CMU 36, but the Mids weren't able to take advantage. On 2nd and 3, Gee Gee Greene had difficulty catching an errant toss from Proctor. He appeared to recover and fall forward for a one-yard gain, but the line judge ruled that Greene's knee was down two yards behind the line of scrimmage. The play was not reviewed, and instead of facing an easy-to-convert 3rd and 2, the Mids had a 3rd and 5. Proctor overthrew Teich and Greene on the next two plays, and Navy turned the ball over on downs. Central Michigan took over and drove 46 yards, converting on 3rd & 10 and 4th & 3 along the way, to take a 24-21 lead into halftime.
Navy SB Gee Gee Greene vs. Central Michigan
Central Michigan took the opening drive of the third quarter to the Navy 36, but was unable to convert on 4th and 3 when Kwesi Mitchell stepped in front of Jerry Harris on a slant pattern to knock Radcliff's pass down. Navy took over at their own 36. Proctor ran for 14 yards on Navy's first play. After a couple handoffs to Teich forced the CMU safeties to cheat inside the tackle box, Jasper called a toss sweep to Greene that went for 9 yards and a first down. A counter option pitch to Snelson to the other side of the field went for 19 yards, and Proctor scored two plays later to put Navy back into the lead, 28-24.
Navy's defense held again on CMU's next drive, forcing a punt. Proctor then ran for 48 yards on a counter option keeper where he started right, then cut back left after the defense overpursued. John Howell took a toss sweep into the end zone two plays later, and the Mids owned what appeared to be a commanding 35-24 lead.
Navy SB John Howell jukes a Central Michigan Defender
The Navy defense stiffened again on the next drive. Billy Yarborough tipped a Radcliff pass, and Jabaree Tuani and Jerry Hauburger sacked Radcliff on the next play. A third down pass was complete, but well short of a first down. Central Michigan attempted a fake punt on 4th & 7 that was sniffed out and stopped for a 2-yard loss. Wyatt Middleton said that it wasn't an adjustment that led to Navy's defensive success in the third quarter.
"We really didn't make many adjustments. We didn't come to play as hard as we wanted to at the start of the game."
Navy made it to the CMU 2-yard line on the ensuing drive before a late hit penalty pushed them back to the 18. Joe Buckley connected on a 35-yard field goal, and Navy led 38-24 with 7:27 left to play.
Central Michigan drove 72 yards on 10 plays on their next drive to cut the lead to 38-31. Navy lined up for an onside kick, but the Chippewas instead elected to kick off and give Navy the ball with 3:04 to play. The Mids were able to milk two minutes off the clock, but on 3rd and 3, Central Michigan sold out to stop the option, sending everyone crashing down on the line of scrimmage. Gee Gee Greene was stopped for a two-yard loss, and Navy was forced to give the ball back with 1:04 left to play.
The Central Michigan drive started at their own 20, but passes to Blackburn and Harris put the ball on the Navy 40 after only 4 plays. Moving to the Navy 7 and facing 4th and 2, Radcliff completed his third TD pass of the game after Kevin Edwards tipped the ball into the air, but Cody Wilson came down with it.
"I didn't make the play," said Edwards. "They did. When you battle all game you are not going to win every play. I have to make a play the next time."
That made the score 38-37, and Dan Enos chose to go for the 2-point conversion and the win.
Radcliff had a receiver wide open moving from right to left, but he didn't see him. Instead, he threw to Kito Poblah, who was double-covered in the back of the end zone. The pass was high and fell incomplete, securing the Navy victory.
"We kind of knew what was coming," said Wyatt Middleton of the two-point attempt. "Everyone did their job."
Despite the result, Enos did not regret going for the win.
"I asked our team and our coaches and it was 100 percent ‘let's go.' I asked them again in there [in the locker room], ‘would you want to do it again?' and they said, ‘coach we would do it all over again.'"
"It was a hard-fought game," said Niumatalolo. "It was a shame someone had to lose. Fortunately for the Naval Academy, we had one more point in the end."
"We're still the Naval Academy. We respect everybody. They (CMU) are twice our size. We have to play hard."