This was a game that featured seven turnovers, four in a span of six fourth quarter possessions, and two teams that for periods looked like they couldn’t get out of their own way. In the end though it was the Mids who added one final victory to their 2014 total, rounding off an up and down 8-5 season in a way which was more fitting than Ken Niumatalolo would have liked.
1) Win the rushing battle – Win
It took a while for the Mids running game to get going in this one, but as the contest wore on the triple option provided enough offense to carry Navy to a victory. By the end of the first half the Mids had put up just 75 yards on the ground and the team was being stifled by a San Diego State defense which looked every bit the impressive unit it had been all year.
The second half though turned out to be a different story as the Navy run game wore down the Aztecs defensive line and linebackers and running lanes began to appear. The Mids totaled 179 yards on the ground after the break and, as predicted, Chris Swain was a huge part of the offense. Swain picked up countless yards after contact with his bruising rushing style on his way to averaging nine yards per carry on eight crucial totes.
2) The defense cannot break – Win
After allowing a first quarter touchdown to standout running back Donnel Pumphrey the Mids defense played as well in this game as they had all year. For the remaining three quarters the Navy defensive unit kept the Aztecs out of the end zone, while keeping Pumphrey under his rushing average per carry and holding him to just 112 yards on the ground. The result was that instead of piling up touchdowns as the Navy offense almost fumbled the game away, the Aztecs had to settle for three field goals from kicker Donny Hageman.
The bend but don’t break strategy certainly has games where it is ineffective but in this one it did just enough to see the Mids over the line. Sure, there was some luck involved as Hageman missed a shortish late field goal which would have flipped the result. Sometimes though when you play as well, and as assignment soundly as Navy did on Tuesday night you deserve that little bit of luck at the end. All in all this was an outstanding defensive effort.
3) Grab an interception or two – Pass
Navy has not been known this year for its interception ability, but in the bowl game the defensive back seven certainly came to play. Knowing going in that Aztec quarterback Quinn Kaehler is prone to the odd mistake or two through the air it was always going to be important to pick up those extra possessions by taking advantage of wayward throws. This proved to be exactly the case a Kaehler completed less than half his passes, he was 11-for-27 through the air, and also gifted the Mids two interceptions. These extra possessions were even more vital when put into the context of the Mids fumbling the ball away four times on offense.
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