Navy came into its Military Bowl matchup with Virginia losers of three in a row and six of its last seven. After 30 minutes of play, the Midshipmen appear to be headed back in the right, potentially winning direction.
Things didn’t start out well for the service academy, however, as the Cavaliers’ Joe Reed returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. That was it for the Hoos the remainder of the half as the Midshipmen hold a commanding 28-7 lead at the half in a bowl game being played in their own home stadium.
Navy scored on its first two offensive possessions in the first quarter, and both of the scores came (surprise!!!) on the ground. Former starting quarterback Zach Abey scored from one yard out to knot the score at 7-all, while current starting quarterback Malcolm Perry found the end zone from 22 yards away with just over four minutes left in the opening stanza to give Navy its first lead of the contest.
After a lull that included just Navy’s 17th three-and-out this season, Perry posted his second rushing touchdown on the afternoon, this one a 19-yarder, to push the lead into double digits. Following a Virginia fumble on the ensuing possession, the Hoos’ second turnover in the half, Abey scored his second rushing touchdown on a one-yard run to push the lead to three scores.
Navy, which came into the game second in the country averaging 343 yards a game on the ground, put up 264 first-half rushing yards on a Cavaliers defense that had almost no answer for that facet of the Midshipmen’s offense. In fact, that was the only facet of the service academy’s offense as Navy once again didn’t even attempt a pass.
Eight different Navy players carried the ball at least once, with Perry leading the way with 109 yards on 14 attempts.
Conversely, the Cavaliers could do next to nothing offensively either on the ground or through the air. UVa. managed just 79 yards of offense — 69 passing and 10 rushing. Quarterback Kurt Benkert struggled throughout, completing just 8-of-20 passes for all 69 of those passing yards and an interception. Benkert came into the game averaging more than 250 yards per game through the air, and had thrown 26 touchdowns and eight picks.
Navy will get the ball back to start the second half.