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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.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 28 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 28 bowl menu, with three of the four games on the menu today featuring ranked-vs.-ranked matchups.

WHO: Navy (6-6) vs. Virginia (6-6)
WHAT: The 10th Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
THE LINE: Pick ’em
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 22 Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. No. 19 Oklahoma State (9-3)
WHAT: The 28th annual Camping World Bowl
WHEN: 5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida
THE LINE: Virginia Tech, +6
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 16 Michigan State (9-3) vs. No. 18 Washington State (9-3)
WHAT:
The 40th Holiday Bowl
WHEN:
9 p.m. ET on FS1
WHERE:
SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, California
THE LINE
: Washington State, +1½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 13 Stanford (9-4) vs. No. 15 TCU (10-3)
WHAT: 
The 25th Valero Alamo Bowl
WHEN:
9 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: 
The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas
THE LINE
: Stanford, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

CFT Previews: Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

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WHO: Navy (6-6) vs. Virginia (6-6)
WHAT: The 10th Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
THE SKINNY: Navy will get a chance to play a home game in the bowl season, but this is just about the perfect matchup the Military Bowl would have hoped for. With one team from Maryland and the other from Virginia, the Military Bowl should have quite a lively atmosphere this season as the Midshipmen play at home against the improving Virginia Cavaliers from the ACC.

Virginia became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 in the second season under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. While the Cavs still have a good amount of room to improve on offense, quarterback Kurt Benkert has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Virginia will need to have a good showing from their quarterback against an average Navy pass defense if the Cavaliers are to win their first bowl game since 2005.

The key for Navy will be milking as much of the clock as possible and wearing down Virginia’s defense. Malcolm Perry made a splash in the Army-Navy Game as Navy’s quarterback and looks to continue to grow as Navy’s starting quarterback in the Military Bowl leading the Midshipmen with their signature option offense. Don’t expect Abey to throw a pass too often, but when he does he will have to be careful not to make a mistake. Virginia’s defense has a couple of first-team All-ACC players in linebacker Micah Kiser (this year’s Campbell Trophy winner) and safety Quin Blanding that could pose trouble for Navy.

Virginia has seen an option offense before this season, and that one worked out well for them. Virginia took a 40-36 victory against Georgia Tech in the second half of the season. This one could develop into a similarly high scoring game, but don’t count on that being the case. Navy will work to keep this one a little lower scoring with the hope of being able to sustain some long scoring drives in the second half on their home field. In the end, however, Virgina may have a few more big plays go in their favor.

THE PICK: Virginia 27, Navy 23

AP All-American Team highlighted by Mayfield and Sooners on First Team

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The Oklahoma Sooners will bring three AP First Team All-Americans into the College Football Playoff this year, including Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press on Monday, and he is joined by fellow Sooners offensive tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews.

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, and Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell were also named to the AP’s First Team to combine to match Oklahoma’s First Team total. Other First Team All-Americans included Heisman finalist and Doak Walker Award winner Bryce Love of Stanford, Biletnikoff Award winner James Washington. Lombardi Award winner Saquon Barkley of Penn State was named to the First Team as an all-purpose player, and the nation’s leading rusher, Rashaad Penny of San Diego State joined Love as a First Team running back.

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Baker Mayfield, senior, Oklahoma.

Running backs — Bryce Love, junior, Stanford; Rashaad Penny, senior, San Diego State.

Tackles — Orlando Brown, junior, Oklahoma; Mike McGlinchey, senior, Notre Dame.

Guards — Quenton Nelson, senior, Notre Dame; Braden Smith, senior, Auburn.

Center — Billy Price, senior, Ohio State.

Tight end — Mark Andrews, junior, Oklahoma.

Receivers — James Washington, senior, Oklahoma State; Anthony Miller, senior, Memphis.

All-purpose player — Saquon Barkley, junior, Penn State.

Kicker — Matt Gay, junior, Utah.

DEFENSE

Ends — Bradley Chubb, senior, North Carolina State; Clelin Ferrell, sophomore, Clemson.

Tackles — Hercules Mata’afa, junior, Washington State; Maurice Hurst, senior, Michigan.

Linebackers — Roquan Smith, junior, Georgia; Josey Jewell, senior, Iowa; T.J. Edwards, junior, Wisconsin.

Cornerbacks — Josh Jackson, junior, Iowa; Denzel Ward, junior, Ohio State.

Safeties — Minkah Fitzpatrick, junior, Alabama; DeShon Elliott, junior, Texas.

Punter — Michael Dickson, junior, Texas.

———————-

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Lamar Jackson, junior, Louisville.

Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, freshman, Wisconsin; Kerryon Johnson, junior, Auburn.

Tackles — Mitch Hyatt, junior, Clemson; Isaiah Wynn, senior, Georgia.

Guards — Cody O’Connell, senior, Washington State; Will Hernandez, senior, UTEP.

Center — Bradley Bozeman, senior, Alabama.

Tight end — Troy Fumagalli, senior, Wisconsin.

Receivers — David Sills V, junior, West Virginia; Michael Gallup, senior, Colorado State.

All-purpose player — Dante Pettis, senior, Washington.

Kicker — Daniel Carlson, senior, Auburn.

DEFENSE

Ends — Sutton Smith, sophomore, Northern Illinois; Nick Bosa, sophomore, Ohio State.

Tackles — Ed Oliver, sophomore, Houston; Christian Wilkins, junior, Clemson.

Linebackers — Malik Jefferson, junior, Texas; Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, senior, Oklahoma; Dorian O’Daniel, senior, Clemson.

Cornerbacks — Jalen Davis, senior, Utah State; Carlton Davis, junior, Auburn.

Safeties — Derwin James, junior, Florida State; Justin Reid, junior, Stanford.

Punter — Johnny Townsend, senior, Florida.

———————-

THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Mason Rudolph, senior, Oklahoma State.

Running backs — Ronald Jones II, junior, Southern California; Devin Singletary, sophomore, Florida Atlantic.

Tackles — David Edwards, sophomore, Wisconsin; Jonah Williams, sophomore, Alabama.

Guards — Beau Benzschawel, junior, Wisconsin; Tyrone Crowder, senior, Clemson.

Center — Frank Ragnow, senior, Arkansas.

Tight end — Jaylen Samuels, senior, North Carolina State.

Receivers — Steve Ishmael, senior, Syracuse; A.J. Brown, sophomore, Mississippi.

All-purpose player — D.J. Reed, junior, Kansas State.

Kicker — Eddy Piniero, junior, Florida.

DEFENSE

Ends — Austin Bryant, junior, Clemson; Mat Boesen, senior, TCU.

Tackles — Vita Vea, junior, Washington; Harrison Phillips, senior, Stanford.

Linebackers — Micah Kiser, senior, Virginia; Tremaine Edmunds, junior, Virginia Tech; Devin Bush, sophomore, Michigan.

Cornerbacks — Andraez Williams, redshirt freshman, LSU; Jack Jones, sophomore, Southern California.

Safeties — Armani Watts, senior, Texas A&M; Quin Blanding, senior, Virginia.

Punter — Mitch Wisnowsky, junior, Utah.