Navy Midshipmen

Navy escapes with a victory over SDSU in mistake-filled Poinsettia Bowl

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America’s service academies are prime examples of hard work and perseverance.

Navy’s performance during the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl exemplified those qualities. The Midshipmen held on to claim a 17-16 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs despite an uncharacteristic performance by the team.

The game was filled with mistakes on both sides of the ball. Despite four turnovers, the Midshipmen were still able to overcome their mistakes. Mistakes that were likely a direct result of a lack of proper preparation.

Navy played an emotional and hard-fought contest against their rival, the Army Black Knights, only 10 days ago. Between that time, the academy conducted exams, which prevented the Midshipmen from utilizing their full allotment of bowl practices.

Ken Niumatalolo‘s squad didn’t use it as an excuse and overcame the obstacle despite the obvious advantage San Diego State held.

San Diego State wasn’t without its faults.

The Aztecs turned the ball over three times, which allowed Navy to stay withing striking distance. San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler couldn’t make the Midshipmen pay for their mistakes. The senior was only 11-of-27 passing with a pair of interceptions.

Navy’s Keenan Reynolds wasn’t much better. The 1,000-yard rusher only managed 26 yards of total offense. The junior signal-caller couldn’t get the ground game going or connect with his receivers.

In the end, a missed 34-yard by junior kicker Donny Hageman with 20 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

With the victory, Navy finished the season 8-5 and built some momentum for the academy’s inclusion into the American Athletic Conference next season.

San Diego State grounds Navy in first half of the Poinsettia Bowl

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The Navy Midshipmen claim the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense. The team’s triple option attack averages 345.1 rushing yards per game.

Ken Niumatalolo‘s squad is well behind its average after the San Diego Aztecs built a 13-7 lead in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Through two quarters of play, the Midshipmen only managed 74 rushing yards and 82 total yards of offense. San Diego State has done a good job dictating which ball carrier Navy chooses to run the football.

“I don’t think we’re stopping the run,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long told ESPN as he headed to the locker room for halftime. “I think we’re deciding who is going to get it. They got some good plays off the pitch that we didn’t support very well. We have a long way to go. It’s the type of game we thought it was going to be.”

San Diego State decided to keep the ball out of the hands of Navy’s dynamic quarterback, Keenan Reynolds. Long’s defense held Reynolds, who leads all quarterbacks with 1,182 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, to minus-five rushing yards in the first half.

Over half of Navy’s yardage (42 yards) came on the team’s first drive, which resulted in a touchdown. The Middies only gained 32 yards after that point.

The Aztecs have only been marginally better on offense.

Donnel Pumphrey, the nation’s third-leading rusher, managed 66 yards on 11 carries, while quarterback Quinn Kaehler was terribly inaccurate. San Diego State’s signal-caller was only 5-of-11 passing for 56 yards and an interception.

The difference in the contest was a poor pitch from Reynolds that resulted in a fumble San Diego State recovered. Five plays and 39 yards later, The Aztecs scored their only touchdown of the first half courtesy of five-yard run by Pumphrey.

Long said during his interview that he expects both teams to establish the run in the second half. Neither have been effective dropping back to pass. Navy, in particular, will likely sprinkle in some new wrinkles in the second half, while San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense should continue to move and shift to present problems for the Midshipmen.

Navy extends win streak in 115th meeting with Army

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Thirteen games and counting.

The 115th edition of Army-Navy ended the same way the previous 12 meetings did…with the Midshipmen defeating the Black Knights.

Saturday’s meeting at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, appeared to be a step in the right direction for Army despite a 17-10 loss. It’s the third time in the past four years the game was decided by only one score.

During his first year as Army’s head coach, Jeff Monken put a team on the field that nearly played Navy to a standstill. Army amassed more rushing yards than Navy — the NCAA’s top rushing team — until the final seconds of the game. Navy only had one more first down during the contest. And 50 yards of total offensive separated the two teams.

Army dominated the first quarter and a half. The Black Knights built an early 7-0 lead when wide receiver Xavier Moss returned a block punt seven yards for a touchdown.

In the end, a crucial fourth-down stop with two minutes remaining in the second quarter proved to be the turning point of the game.

After Navy stopped Army quarterback Angel Santiago from gaining one yard, momentum swung in the Midshipmen’s favor and it came courtesy of the right arm of quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

During the ensuing drive, Reynolds was 3-for-3 passing and connected with sophomore wide receiver Jamir Tillman for a nine-yard touchdown with only 18 seconds before halftime.

Reynolds finished the game 6-of-8 passing for 77 yards plus 100 rushing yards. The deciding score came early in the fourth quarter when Reynolds plunged into the end zone for a rushing touchdown.

With the victory, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo became the first Navy coach to start his career 7-0 against Army, and he passed George Welsh (1973-81) as the winningest coach in Navy history.

The gap may have been closed by Monken and his Black Knights, but the Midshipmen will enjoy another year of bragging rights before Army gets another chance to end the current streak.

Former Army fullback walks the country in honor of fallen comrades

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No rivalry in college football contains the history, pageantry or emotion like Army-Navy. The meeting between these bitter rivals united by service to their country is truly special each and every year. When the two teams Dec. 13 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., former Army fullback Mike Viti (pictured right with former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates) will increase the emotion of the game by a thousand fold.

The game will be Viti’s last stop in a 7,100-kilometer hike. Viti is walking a kilometer to honor every U.S. soldier who died in combat since 9/11.

“We’re taking time to pay homage,” Viti told CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel. “It’s not sexy, walking along a road, but these people died protecting our country and we’re honoring that.”

Viti, who gave up a successful job with a major hospital corporation, began his journey on April 26 in DuPont, Wash. One hundred seventy-four days later, the former Black Knights is still walking somewhere in Georgia or South Carolina, according to Doyel.

“This isn’t about us,” Viti said. “These guys paid the ultimate sacrifice, and for me it’s not good enough to say, ‘Hey, I respect what these guys did.’ It’s our job as combat vets, Army football players, to carry the legacies of our brothers and sisters in arms. Our thank you to make sure their legacies aren’t lost.”

Viti played for Army from 2003-07. The fullback never experienced a victory against Navy, but he’ll enter the stadium this year already a winner and a great example for everyone around the country.

Follow Viti’s trek or donate to his cause via MikesHikingforHeroes.com.