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.