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Overmatched Virginia has no answers as Navy woodsheds Hoos in Military Bowl rout

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Navy began its 2017 season at a promising 5-0 before stumbling to a 1-6 finish to barely reach bowl eligibility.  The doom and gloom of the last half of the regular season, however, gave way to 2017 being put to bed on a positive note for the service academy.

After jumping out to a 28-7 halftime lead, Navy kept up that momentum throughout the second half in claiming an impressive 49-7 woodshedding of Virginia in the Military Bowl.  With the win, Ken Niumatalolo improved his record in bowl games to 5-4 as the Midshipmen claimed the Military Bowl, played on its home field, for the second time in three years.

Despite the win, Navy, at 7-6, did put the finishing touches on its worst season since going 5-7 in 2011.  That said, a punishing ground game — and their opponent’s benevolence — ensured the service academy would head into the offseason with a record north of the .500 mark.

Coming into the game second in the country averaging 343 yards per game, the Midshipmen passed that average in the third quarter en route to putting up 452 yards on the ground.  Starting quarterback Malcolm Perry led the way with 114 yards rushing while adding a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Perry was injured early in the third quarter, however, and was replaced by the man he replaced as the starter, Zach Abey.  After rushing for a pair of first-half touchdowns, Abey added three more in the second half to give him a Military Bowl-record five and Player of the Game honors.  Abey ran for 88 yards, while Chris High chipped in with 101.  All told, a whopping 10 Navy players were credited with at least one carry.

Navy attempted just one pass in the contest, which fell incomplete.

Not that they needed the help, but the Midshipmen were greatly aided by three turnovers by the Cavaliers.  Those three turnovers, incidentally, were turned into 21 points by Navy.  While not counting as a turnover officially, the Hoos also handed the ball back to the Midshipmen inside UVa.’s 25-yard line when their punter touched his knee to the ground prior to getting off a punt late in the third quarter.  Navy, of course, turned that into more points on Abey’s fifth touchdown.

Even when they maintained possession of the ball, UVa. couldn’t do much with it.  Through three quarters of play, the Cavaliers managed just 138 yards of offense, including a woeful five yards on 14 carries; they would finish with a season-low 163 total yards and averaged 1.7 yards per rush attempt.  In fact, their only score of the game came when the opening kickoff of the first half was returned for a touchdown by Joe Reed.

Virginia finished the 2017 season at 6-7, the sixth straight seasons they’ve finished the year with a sub-.500 record.  Their last winning season came in 2011 when Mike London went 8-5 in his second season in Charlottesville.  London’s successor, Bronco Mendenhall, is now 8-17 as the Hoos head coach.

Navy running through Virginia at halftime of Military Bowl

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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.

Virginia’s big plays give Cavaliers halftime lead on No. 3 Miami, 21-14

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After winning a big game in the national spotlight a week ago, the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes were faced with the challenge of playing a noon game at home against an opponent that doesn’t bring nearly the same spotlight last week’s opponent did. And for that, Virginia took advantage early on. Miami came back to tie the game at 14-14, but a late touchdown pass has given Virgina the lead at halftime, 21-14.

Virginia used a pair of big pass plays to take a surprising 14-0 lead on the Hurricanes in the first quarter. Kurt Benkert has been nearly flawless in the first half, and two long touchdown plays to Joe Reed and Olamide Zaccheaus caught Miami off guard.

Miami quarterback Malik Rosier eventually warmed up though with a pair of touchdowns of his own. On the ensuing drive after falling behind 14-0, Rosier got Miami on the board with a 10-yard pass to Ahmonn Richards. That came after Virginia attempted a surprise onside kick on Miami, only to have ACC officials controversially rule the ball to be Miami’s when it appeared Virginia may have recovered. Miami was forced to punt on their next offensive possession, but a special teams fumble by Virginia punt returner Daniel Hamm gave the Hurricanes the ball at the 36-yard line, and Rosier went for the tie with a pass to Dayall Harris to tie the game up on the first play from scrimmage following the turnover.

In the final minute of the half, Benkert again took to the air for a big strike, this time to Andre Levrone. After officials ruled the 33-yard pass to the end zone incomplete, a quick instant replay review overturned the call and confirmed Levrone had full possession of the football before the ball came loose at the end of the play. And just like that, Virginia took the lead into halftime.

We now have quite an interesting second half coming up in Miami as far as the College Football Playoff may be concerned.