Navy Dominates Troy, Keeps Bowl Hopes Alive

After six straight losses, Navy returned to the winning column with a convincing 42-14 win over Troy in the first-ever contest between the two teams on Senior Day in Annapolis on Saturday. The Mids now turn their attention to SMU with the hope of a ninth consecutive winning season and bowl game still alive.

For the first six minutes of the game, it looked as if it was going to be a long day for the Navy seniors as well as most of the 33,000 or so Navy fans in attendance. After the first drive by the Mids stalled in Troy territory due to another failed fourth down conversion, the Trojans used their spread offense to march right down the field on the usually porous Navy defense. It was as if Troy was taking a page out of the East Carolina, Notre Dame, and Southern Miss playbooks – three teams who capitalized on early Navy miscues to open insurmountable leads.

However on 2nd and four from the Navy 17-yard line, Troy quarterback Corey Robinson fumbled a handoff and Jared Marks pounced on it. It was the kind of break that, at least during 2011, has rarely gone Navy's way. The momentum shift was considerable as the Mids only needed six plays to go 76 yards for the first touchdown of the game. When Kriss Proctor crossed the goal line with 2:22 to play in the first quarter, it marked the first time Navy had scored a touchdown in the opening period since the South Carolina game.

After the two teams exchanged punts, Troy once again drove the ball into Navy territory…and once again fumbled it away. This time it was Navy's Parrish Gaines with the strip and Collin Sturdivant with the recovery.

Troy's defense, which had stacked 8 defenders in the box for the entire first quarter, paid a heavy price for trying to stop Navy's running game on the first play of the second quarter. Proctor found and hit a wide open Gee Gee Greene for a career long 48-yard touchdown pass to put the Mids up 14-0.

Incidentally at the same time Navy was leading Troy 14-0, there was a considerable amount of buzz in the press box because in Colorado Springs, Army was dominating Air Force by the same score. Although Navy was out of the running for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy as a result of their earlier defeat to the Falcons, for a quarter at least on this Saturday, there was some hope for both Navy and Army fans that the annual meeting between the two rivals could have some added meaning. Navy, who if they beat Troy, SMU, and San Jose State, would have a ton on the line in the December 10th match-up – mainly a winning season and bowl trip. Add to that an Army win over Air Force and the Commander-in Chief's-Trophy could also have been on the line. Of course it was early in both contests in Maryland and Colorado, but it was fun to think about.

Meanwhile, back in Annapolis, Navy's defense had forced a Troy three-and-out, setting up another impressive drive by the Midshipmen – highlighted by a 27-yard run by Aaron Santiago, who was playing in his first game since September 10th when he fractured his wrist. Three plays after Santiago's scamper gave Navy a first down at Troy's 20 yard line, fullback Alexander Teich finished off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run. The rout was officially on for the Mids. Meanwhile, in Colorado Springs, Army was still having its way with Air Force. They were still leading 14-0 and faced a fourth and goal from the Falcons' one-yard line. However, the Cadets were seemingly robbed by the officials on the next play when Max Jenkins was stopped (or was he) at the goal line.

Both Army and Navy would continue to dominate play for the rest of the first half, but it was the Mids who held onto the ball, and executed in the red zone en route to a commanding 35-0 lead. Army, on the other hand, should have been up at least 28-0, but a comedy of errors kept the score relatively close at 14-0.

Had Army been able to put away the Falcons in the first half, like Navy did to Troy, I would have been able to spend the entire second half pondering the possibility of a classic Army-Navy game with a ton at stake. Unfortunately, Army didn't hold up their end of the bargain. I'm sure there will be plenty written about how that second-half went, so I'll refrain to do so here. Instead, I'll concentrate on what was such a beautiful scene in Annapolis – a dominating performance by the Midshipmen.

Even though the second half was filled with a lot of ‘garbage time' since the game was never really in doubt, it was good to see the Navy seniors enjoy their last game at Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium. After six consecutive losses, four of them of the heartbreaking variety, the exuberance on display on the Navy sideline as the final moments ticked away made those missed field goals, and early season red zone blunders more of a blur. Indeed there is still a lot to play for in Annapolis and after the first complete effort by the Mids since early September, there is a lot of reason to believe it could end on a very high note.

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