Things changed in the second half in Navy's 17-3 victory before a sellout crowd of 69,541. After being shutout in the first half, Navy scored a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half to regain momentum. Overall, the Midshipmen (9-4) barely got out of second gear for much of the afternoon on offense. But Navy didn't need much on offense because of another remarkable performance by the defense against the Black Knights (5-7).
Army led 3-0 at halftime -- which was an accomplishment in itself, considering the Black Knights had scored three points combined in the 2007 and 2008 meetings. The field goal was set up by an interception by sophomore linebacker Steven Erzinger. The scoring drive was six yards in four plays.
For the rest of the game, Navy's defense continued its dominance in the series. Army has not scored a touchdown against Navy since the final seconds of the 2006 meeting. Ironically, the quarterback who engineered that drive was on Army's sideline on Saturday. But senior Carson Williams did not play as the Black Knights have moved to an option offense.
For the first half, Army's three points was enough. Army used a 3-3-5 defense on Saturday. Navy's offense is predicated on taking what the defense gives it. The Black Knights were giving Navy the middle of the field and were taking away the outside.
For much of the game, however, Navy struggled to block Army's three linemen -- senior Victor Ugenyi, junior Josh McNary and sophomore Christopher Swain. Meantime, sophomore linebacker Andrew Rodriguez made 15 tackles and forced a fumble and Erzinger added 11 tackles.
"Not much was said at halftime," said Navy junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs. "Coach [Ken Niumatalolo] wanted to make a statement on the first drive [of the second half]."
The drive culminated in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Dobbs to sophomore Marcus Curry to give Navy a 7-3 lead, a lead it did not lose. But the drive had its harrowing moments, including a three-yard gain by Dobbs on fourth-and-one.
Navy's second touchdown was set up after senior Craig Schaefer recovered a fumble and returned it 20 yards to the Army 12. Dobbs scored on a one-yard run -- his NCAA-record 24th rushing touchdown this year -- for a 17-3 lead with 6 minutes 15 seconds to play.
"Both defenses played well," Niumatalolo said. "We came back in the second half and made some plays and bounced back. Our defense gave us a chance."
Dobbs finished with 113 yards on 31 carries; junior fullback Vince Murray added 41 yards on 13 carries. Navy stayed disciplined in its approach -- the slot backs combined for five carries, two of which came in the opening minutes. And it may not have been a beautiful game, but the outcome -- Navy's eight consecutive win in the series -- was a happy one for Navy.
"Any rivalry game is going to be hard-fought," Niumatalolo said. "They're hard to win. Saying that we're going to come and blow out Army, that would be disrespectful to them. We expect to win every game but we keep that inside. We talk with our [shoulder] pads."
Navy beats Army, 17-3
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