NAVY 42, ARMY 23
Navy fullback Adam Ballard celebrated after running for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
Navy keeps Army away
PHILADELPHIA » Methodical and lethal.
Not much else needed to describe execution of Navy's punishing option offense and its 42-23 domination of Army yesterday before 69,322 at Lincoln Financial Field.
In a game billed to be more competitive than recent encounters in this hallowed series, the Mids took control the in last 5 minutes of the second quarter and into the third. Within this time frame, Navy managed touchdowns on four consecutive possessions to break the spirit of the Black Knights.
Navy quarterback Lamar Owens, who gained 101 yards on 15 carries and punched in three touchdowns, helped the team pick up series records with 531 yards of total offense and 490 yards rushing. Aided by senior slotback Marco Nelson, who rushed for 77 yards, and sophomore Adam Ballard, who picked up 192 yards on 18 yards, Navy improved to 7-4 and now awaits Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 22 in San Diego.
Army finished its year at 4-7, the most victories in a season since the 1997 team also went 4-7.
"This was a statement game for us," Owens said afterward. "We wanted to prove that this team is on a different level. Right now, we're improving every week and I only wish we could have played better earlier in the season."
Three elements characterize Navy coach Paul Johnson's offense: a mobile, smart quarterback who can execute his spread option; a bruising, battering back; and fleet running backs who can explode to the outside.
Because of the success of the option game, Navy has been among the nation's best in rushing for the past several years. Coming into the game, the Mids led the country in rushing and added an impressive 490 yards yesterday.
In the past, Johnson used people like Greg Candeto and Aaron Polanco as option quarterbacks and Eric Roberts with his outside speed and Kyle Eckel, who rushed for 182 yards against Army in last year's game, to punish defenses with smashes through the interior line.
As demonstrated in the demolition of Army yesterday, Owens easily picked up the mantle from Candeto and Polanco. And Reggie Campbell, a speedy 5-6 back, gave Navy the lead on a 54-yard TD run early in the second quarter.
"We saw that (Army) was aware of what Kyle did last year, and jammed the inside," Ballard said.
"When we began having success outside, that spread them out and left the inside open. The offensive line took advantage and moved them apart. I just hit the hole and took off."
Army talked of being more competitive than in recent meetings and managed to draw an early lead.
Following a short Navy punt and taking possession on the Mids' 41, the drive eventually stalled on the 15-yard line. From there, the Black Knights' Justin Koenig drilled a 32-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in the opening session.
That 3-0 Army lead was short-lived, as Campbell took a pitch around the left side and galloped 54 yards into the Cadets' end zone on Navy's next possession.
Army duly responded when quarterback Zac Dahman hit Jeremy Tremble, who slid behind the Navy defense, for a 30-yard touchdown strike with 7:52 to go before intermission, and a 10-7 Cadets' lead.
That's when Navy's pinpoint execution took over.
First, Owens scored his initial touchdown on a smart 28-yard touchdown run. Breaking around the left side, the senior from Savannah, Ga., ran through a number of tackles along the sideline as his score gave Navy the lead, at 14-10, for good. From there, the Mids scored on their next three possessions, with Owens adding two more scores and Ballard, on a 28-yard scoring run, picked up his first of two touchdowns.
By the time Owens scored his third on a 1-yard option run to the left side of the Army defense with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter, this one was a done deal.
Because of Army's improved showing late in the season, riding a four-game winning streak into the Navy game, Johnson didn't buy into any of the rhetoric.
"I have an old adage," he said. "Show me.
"We heard all week that Army is catching up, and this and that. You need to show me, and they fell short. I think this year was a bit more special for us because everyone told us we were not as good and that Army had caught us."