Navy Lowers the Broom

keenan little - naval academy
Senior defensive back Keenan Little runs an interception back 40 yards for a touchdown Saturday as Navy's seniors finish their career 8-0 against other service academies. (Toni L. Sandys - The Post)
By Christian Swezey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 3, 2006

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 2 -- More than a few brooms popped up in the section where the Brigade of Midshipmen was standing for the 107th Army-Navy game here Saturday. They were to signify Navy's attempt at a four-year sweep of the Black Knights and Air Force.

Navy's defense made good in a 26-14 victory before 69,943 at Lincoln Financial Field. The defense accounted for nine points in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory, the fifth in a row for Navy (9-3) over Army (3-9).

It also gave the seniors an 8-0 mark against the other service academies. Senior defensive back Keenan Little had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown on Saturday; his other touchdown this season came on a 37-yard fumble return against Air Force. He is believed to be the first Navy player to score a defensive touchdown against both the Falcons and Black Knights in the same season.

"Going 8-0 against the other academies is something no one else has done" at Navy, Little said. "It's something you can always look back to. Anytime we see one another in the future it's something we're always going to remember."

Army had the most turnovers in the nation this season with 35; its penchant was such that, on Oct. 7, it lost three fumbles against Division I-AA Virginia Military Institute (though the Black Knights won, 62-7).

For the first three quarters on Saturday, however, Army did not have a turnover, but it didn't last. Early in the fourth quarter, a pass by freshman quarterback Carson Williams was intercepted by junior safety Jeff Deliz at the Army 28.

The Midshipmen got a 35-yard field goal from sophomore Matt Harmon for a 17-7 lead with 7 minutes 7 seconds to play.

The lead was 24-7 three plays later. Army faced a third and five from its 34 when Navy used a defense called "two jam receiver." On the play, Williams tried to hit senior Walter Hill on a slant pattern. But Hill appeared to slip as he made his cut, and Little intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown.

Navy's final points came after senior Tyler Tidwell recorded back-to-back sacks, the second of which resulted in a safety for a 26-7 lead. Army scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Williams to senior Tim Dunn with two seconds left for the final points.

"I felt until midway in the fourth quarter that we could win," Army Coach Bobby Ross said.

The defense's contributions were helpful, because the offense suffered a setback four plays into the game. Junior fullback Adam Ballard, who rushed for 192 yards against Army last year, broke his right fibula on a run about a minute and a half into the game.

Army's 4-3 defense was predicated on taking away the outside runs, and Navy struggled to run the ball inside without Ballard. Sophomore fullback Eric Kettani finished with a team-high 67 yards on 15 carries for the Midshipmen.

"Anytime you lose a player of Adam's potential, it hurts a little," Navy Coach Paul Johnson said. "The way their defense was playing, we really needed to run the ball inside, maybe more than we did."

The first half ended 7-7, and a sequence that started about three minutes before halftime epitomized the half. Navy faced fourth and six when junior punter Greg Veteto gained 18 yards on a fake punt.

Two plays later, however, freshman defensive end Victor Ugenyi forced a fumble by sophomore quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, and senior captain Cameron Craig recovered at the Navy 43.

Navy had the momentum back one play later. Williams threw away the ball as he was being sacked by senior John Chan; he was called for intentional grounding and a 12-yard penalty that effectively ended the drive.

Yet a 51-yard punt by junior Owen Tolson put the ball at the Navy 7; the Midshipmen ran out the final 24 seconds of the half.

As the teams left the field, the score was tied, but all the noise came from the Corps of Cadets.

Navy took a 14-7 lead when senior wide receiver Jason Tomlinson scored on a reverse that covered 33 yards early in the third quarter.

"Nobody was there," Tomlinson said. "It was flowing real good. There was only one guy I was worried about, and Tyree [Barnes] was there with him. . . . I knew Tyree would get in his way long enough for me to get into the end zone."

Williams completed 16 of 23 passes for 151 yards and two interceptions. Senior linebacker Rob Caldwell finished with 11 tackles for Navy.

As the fourth quarter wore on, the Army half of the stadium emptied quickly; almost all of the Navy fans remained in their seats.

As the game ended, red, white and blue fireworks exploded in the air, Craig slumped to his knees and held his head in his hands, and a midshipman in dress uniform walked off the field with the trophy given to the winning team. He was flanked by four midshipmen, also in full dress uniform.

"All the guys all over the world that are fighting, for us to represent them here in Philadelphia playing a football game is an honor," Caldwell said. "There's no better way that we can do right now, until we get there and join them."

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