Navy downs Army, 31-17

PHILADELPHIA-- After the Navy football team lost to Air Force on Oct. 2 to fall to 2-2 on the season, senior captains Ricky Dobbs and Wyatt Middleton called a team meeting. The purpose: To tell the team the season was not over, and to go out and have fun.

The two seniors then led the fun for much of the rest of the season, including in a 31-17 victory over Army before 69,223 at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday. Middleton was named the MVP with nine tackles and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 98 yards for a touchdown just before halftime.

Dobbs, meantime, completed 6 of 11 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. His 77-yard touchdown pass to sophomore John Howell in the first quarter was the longest pass play in the series' 111 meetings.

Overall, It was the ninth consecutive victory in the series for the Midshipmen (9-3) over the Black Knights (6-6).

Army entered Saturday having clinched its first bowl berth since 1996. Second-year coach Rich Ellerson had brought back the option offense to great effect -- the Black Knights are in the top 10 in rushing. Meantime, the defense included senior linebacker Steve Anderson and senior defensive end Josh McNary, the school's all-time leader in sacks.

A five-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Trent Steelman to classmate Malcolm Brown midway through the second quarter cut the team's deficit to 17-7 and marked the first touchdown for Army against Navy since the fourth quarter of the 2006 meeting, a span of 13 quarters and more than 200 minutes.

Army had a chance for even more a few minutes later. Dobbs fumbled the ball at his own 49 and it was recovered by Anderson with 7 minutes 20 seconds left in the first half.

The Black Knights marched to the Navy 3 with less than two minutes left in the half. Army entered that crucial series knowing it would receive the kick to start the second half, and thus could tie the game without Navy having had a possession.

On first and goal from the 3, Ellerson called a conservative play -- a quarterback follow. Steelman followed a lead blocker into the middle of the field and gained one yard when the ball popped from his hands. It landed right in Middleton's hands, and he raced 98 yards the other way for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead.

Middleton ran into the end zone where the Brigade of Midshipmen was standing. At the 10 yard line, with no Army player nearby, Middleton pointed the ball toward the Brigade, then crossed the goal line.

"I still can't believe I scored," Middleton said. "It kind of hit me just now. As a defense our backs were to the wall down there. I just happened to be the one standing there. The credit really goes to [senior linebacker Tyler Simmons]. He caused the fumble. I had the easy part."

Army threatened again in the fourth quarter. It trailed 24-10 but Navy had the ball first and 10 at its own 13. The Midshipmen then went on a time-consuming, backbreaking march down the field. On third and six, Dobbs completed an eight-yard pass to senior Greg Jones.

On a third and four, Dobbs rushed for five yards. On third and one, Anderson was penalized five yards for being offsides. On third and two from the Army 31, Anderson again gave up a first down after being called for offsides.

The drive ended with a 25-yard touchdown run by sophomore Gee Gee Greene for a 31-10 lead with 5:44 to play. The drive took 13 plays and covered 87 yards. Most important, it last 9:03.

For Army, Steelman finished with 74 yards rushing and completed 11 of 20 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Meantime, Anderson had 12 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Simmons and sophomore Matt Warrick each had 13 tackles for the Midshipmen.

Afterward, the Navy seniors were left to reflect on having gone 4-0 against Army and 3-1 against Air Force and Notre Dame. (The best sign in the crowd on Saturday was in the Brigade of Midshipmen: "Beating Army. So easy, Notre Dame can do it.")

They also reflected on having saved their season following the slow start.

"It came down to us having fun and doing what we can do," Dobbs said. "There were a lot of expectations on us coming into the season by people in the media and others; maybe that got the best of us. We had a team meeting after the Air Force game and then we started having fun. If we have a flow and rhythm going on offense, then the defense will, too. That speaks to us being a team." Top Stories