Singleton, Bryant lead Mids over Huskies

It wasn't pretty, but then again ‘pretty' wins have been tough to come by for Navy this year. However, the Midshipmen did just enough to defeat Northern Illinois, 35-24 on Saturday in Annapolis. Zerbin Singleton led the Mids (7-4) with 101 yards rushing and three TDs. Arch-rival Army is up next for Navy, as the Midshipmen will look to capture their fifth consecutive Commander in Chief's Trophy.

Jarod Bryant, starting at quarterback in place of the injured Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, had a career-best 139 yards rushing on 27 carries, and also ran for a touchdown to help clinch Navy's fifth consecutive winning season in front of 34,517 fans at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

 

Navy head coach Paul Johnson was impressed with his back-up quarterback and the fact that the team was able to score 35 points with Bryant under center.

 

"I'm happy for Jarod.  He got a start and he got a win," said Johnson.

 

Navy's victory spoiled a career day on the ground for Northern Illinois' sophomore running back Justin Anderson who rushed for 140 yards on 39 carries.  Anderson also scored a touchdown for the 2-9 Huskies.

 

The 24 points given up by the Navy defense were the fewest allowed by the unit since they gave up 20 to Air Force on September 29.  Leading the way for the unit was sophomore linebacker Ross Pospisil who had a career-high 20 tackles.  Navy also forced the Huskies to punt four times – the most punts this year by a Navy opponent.

 

Overall, Johnson was impressed his defense's effort.

 

"I think guys were pretty much locked on with what they had to do – they played hard."

 

The maligned unit, however, did not get off to a good start as a missed tackle by cornerback Kevin Edwards led to the first score of the game. The play came just over two minutes into the game as Ryan Morris hit Matt Simon for a 46-yard touchdown pass.  Edwards was in position to make the stop, but didn't. 

 

But just has been the case most of the season, the Navy offense responded.  On their first possession, the Midshipmen rattled off a 10-play, 54-yard scoring drive which was capped off by Singleton's first score of the day, a one-yard run.

 

"Zerb's a really good football player.  He plays hard," said Johnson.

 

On the Huskies ensuing possession, Michael Walsh sacked Morris on third down to force the first punt of the day for Northern Illinois.  Navy's offense quickly took advantage of the defensive stop, rumbling 44 yards on only 4 plays.  Once again it was Singleton who found room to run around the corner of the Northern Illinois defense, scoring from 26 yards out to put Navy up 14-7.

 

After the teams exchanged punts, Morris was intercepted by Navy's Greg Thrasher at the Mids' 8 yard line.  That set up Navy for its longest scoring drive of the game.  It took Navy just over three minutes to cover the 92 yards with the big play coming on a 37-yard pass from Bryant to Singleton.  Slot back Shun White capped of the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.

 

After the teams exchanged punts again, Northern Illinois was back on the move.  After a 30-yard punt by Navy's Greg Veteto, the Huskies quickly advanced the ball inside the five yard line.  And on fourth down with only 27 seconds to go in the half, Anderson plowed in for the score – or did he.  Referees on the field said that Anderson came up short and replays seemed to confirm the call.  However, the replay booth overturned the call, awarding Anderson the touchdown to cut Navy's lead to 21-14.

 

"I don't think he got in.  [But] whatever [the referee] calls that's what you have to live with," said Johnson.  "But I didn't worry about it.  I thought we were playing better on defense in the first half.  Even though they got the touchdown there I was still happy with the way we were playing."

 

After halftime, Bryant marched the Midshipmen down the field on an 80-yard drive which he finished off himself with a one-yard plunge to put Navy up 28-14.

 

However, after forcing three Northern Illinois punts in the first half, the Navy defense was unable to stop the Huskies on their first possession of the third quarter.  Led by a steady diet of Anderson runs, Northern Illinois moved the ball methodically down the field and eventually scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Simon.

 

Northern Illinois added a 42-yard field goal to cut the lead to four with just under 12 minutes to play in the game.

 

But once again, Bryant took over, carrying the ball on eight out of the next 9 plays to put the Mids at the Huskies 12-yard line. On the next play, Singleton put the game away, scoring his third touchdown of the day.

 

Up next for Navy is the Black Knights, and Johnson expects that Army will be fired up as always to play the Mids.

 

"I'm sure Army's going to be ready to play.  Their seniors have never beaten Navy.  It will be there bowl game," said Johnson.


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