Reggie Campbell of Navy returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against Army yesterday.
BALTIMORE » Methodical and unyielding.
Navy simply finds ways to wear down opponents, and Army, like others before, fell victim to a diversity of effort. The Mids' usually prolific offense struggled yesterday, but the defense and special teams stepped up to help secure a 38-3 victory over Army before 71,610 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Each academy's most-recent run holding the Commander-in-Chief's trophy
Air Force: 1997-2002
With one game remaining -- the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20 -- Navy moved to 8-4, while Army closed its season 3-9. This was the sixth time in the last seven seasons the Black Knights closed with nine or more defeats in one year.
Army also finished its second straight season on a six-game losing streak.
With two fumble recoveries, key red-zone stops, productive kick returns and only 217 yards of total offense allowed, the Navy defense and special teams were clearly the catalysts in their record-breaking win. The victory was Navy's sixth in a row over the Black Knights, and no team in this storied history has ever captured that many consecutive wins.
"We had a great week of practice and we played with our hearts on our sleeves," said Navy sophomore linebacker Ross Pospisil, who recovered two fumbles and chipped in with seven tackles. "Because of our preparation, we reacted more with instinct and not much thinking. Plus, we knew no team had won six in a row in this series before, so that really motivated us."
Navy coach Paul Johnson said "the defense played its best game of the season," and the Mids' start helped to support that claim.
Midshipmen celebrated near the end of Navy's 38-3 win over Army yesterday.
Army took the opening kickoff and moved 50 yards to the Navy 10. When the Mids' defense came together and the drive stalled, Owen Tolson missed a 28-yard field goal attempt. In the second period, down 7-0, Army again advanced into the red zone and was stopped on the Navy 9-yard line. Tolson this time made a 28-yard field goal to bring Army to within four at 7-3 with 7:45 remaining in the first half.
That's when the Navy special teams took center stage. Senior Reggie Campbell, on his way to flight school in Pensacola, Fla., took Tolson's kickoff on his 2-yard line, and went the distance for the longest return in Navy history.
On Army's first play after the kickoff, Tony Dace fumbled and Pospisil recovered at the Army 6-yard line. Three plays later, Shun White scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, and Navy was cruising 21-3 with 5:48 before intermission.
"This defense is getting better and better," said Navy senior linebacker Irv Spencer. "We're finding ways to win, and good teams do that. As a leader on the defense, we focused on guys buying into the system, and things we can accomplish."
If teamwork keyed the defensive effort, Campbell took care of the offense. Aside from his game-turning kickoff return, Campbell also returned a punt 46 yards to the Army 34 with one tick left before halftime. That set up a situation that Johnson called "a huge play and created momentum for us."
Johnson was ready to simply run out the first-half clock, but kicker Joey Bullen convinced his coach a potential 51-yard field goal was within his range.
Johnson looked at the clock and figured his team had nothing to lose. Bullen's kick hit the cross bar, popped through and became the second-longest field goal in Navy history. The three points also increased Navy's lead to 24-3 at intermission, and the Mids were on the way to their fourth straight win of the season.
Early in the fourth quarter, Campbell added to his productivity when he took a toss from quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada of Kapolei and side-stepped tacklers down the right sideline and into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown run. That created a 31-3 Navy lead with 10:18 remaining and closed the curtain on this one.
"I thought we came to play, and we played hard," Johnson said. "We had some breaks early in the game and took advantage from there. I'm really proud of this team because they accomplished something that hasn't been done. Six in a row in this series and that's special."
Aside from the tradition and emotion that is part of this rivalry, there appeared to be extra motivation for Navy.
"(Army coach Stan Brock) guaranteed a win, and that didn't sit well with us," said running back Adam Ballard, who led Navy with 56 yards on 13 carries. "Plus I read where Army players had put my number in the black protection under their eyes. Really, don't do that and I don't have much respect for them. That stuff bothers me."
2007-08 Bowl Schedule
Subject to change; all times Hawaii time
Poinsettia Bowl at San Diego, MWC No. 2 vs. Navy (8-4), 4 p.m. (ESPN)
New Orleans Bowl, Sun Belt champion Florida Atlantic (7-5) vs. Memphis (6-5), 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
PapaJohns.com Bowl, Birmingham, Ala., Big East vs. Southern Miss (7-5), 8 a.m. (ESPN2)
New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque, MWC No. 4 vs. WAC, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Las Vegas Bowl, BYU (10-2) vs. Pac-10 No. 4/5, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Hawaii Bowl at Honolulu, East Carolina (7-5) vs. WAC, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Motor City Bowl at Detroit, Central Michigan (8-5) vs. Big Ten No. 7, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Holiday Bowl at San Diego, Pac-10 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Champ Sports Bowl at Orlando, Fla., ACC No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4/5, noon (ESPN)
Emerald Bowl at San Francisco, ACC No. 5/6 vs. Pac-10 No. 4/5, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Texas Bowl at Houston, CUSA vs. Big 12, 3 p.m. (NFL)
Meineke Bowl at Charlotte, N.C., Big East No. 3 vs. ACC No. 5/6, 8 a.m. (ESPN)
Liberty Bowl at Memphis, Tenn., SEC No. 6/7 vs. UCF (10-3), 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Alamo Bowl at San Antonio, Big Ten No. 4/5 vs. Big 12 No. 4/5, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La., Big 12 7/8 vs. SEC No. 8, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas, Pac-10 vs. MWC, 7:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas, Big 12 or Big East vs. Pac-10 No. 3, 9 a.m. (KGMB)
Humanitarian Bowl at Boise, Idaho, WAC vs. ACC No. 8, 9 a.m. (ESPN2)
Music City Bowl at Nashville, Tenn., ACC No. 5 vs. SEC No. 6/7, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Chick-fil-A Bowl at Atlanta, ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3-5, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Insight Bowl at Tempe, Ariz., Big Ten No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 6, 2:30 p.m. (NFL)
Outback Bowl at Tampa, Fla., Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3-5, 6 a.m. (ESPN)
Cotton Bowl at Dallas, SEC No. 3-5 vs. Big 12 No. 2, 6:30 a.m. (KHON)
Capital One Bowl at Orlando, Fla., Big Ten vs. SEC No. 2, 8 a.m. (KITV)
Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, Fla., ACC No. 3 vs. Big 12 or Big East No. 2, 8 a.m. (KGMB)
Rose Bowl at Pasadena, Calif., BCS-x (Pac-10 champion) vs. BCS-x (Big Ten champion), noon (KITV)
Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, BCS vs. BCS-x (SEC Champion), 3:30 p.m. (KHON)
Fiesta Bowl at Glendale, Ariz., BCS vs. BCS-x (Big 12 champion), 3 p.m. (KHON)
Orange Bowl at Miami, BCS vs. BCS-x (ACC Champion), 3 p.m. (KHON)
International Bowl at Toronto, Rutgers (8-4) vs. Ball State (7-5), 7 a.m. (ESPN2)
GMAC Bowl at Mobile, Ala., CUSA2 vs. MAC, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
BCS National Championship at New Orleans, BCS1 vs. BCS2, 3 p.m. (KHON)
x-If conference champion is not participating in the BCS National Championship Game.