This time, there were no questionable spots, late turnovers or crucial defensive collapses.
In a season in which Navy has become adept at blowing leads, the Midshipmen today followed Coach Charlie Weatherbie's edict to "put the nail in the coffin" and came away with a 34-7 victory over winless Rutgers before 20,339 at Rutgers Stadium.
"We weren't just going crazy foaming at the mouth," defensive end Gino Marchetti said. "We relaxed a little today. We knew we needed a win and everyone just went after it."
Navy's largest margin of victory this season was the result of its best overall effort. It also came against a Rutgers team ravaged by injuries.
The offense moved the ball with ease, with quarterback Brian Madden rushing 30 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns as part of a 481-yard effort. The defense, which entered the game allowing an average of 196 rushing yards a game, held the Scarlet Knights to seven yards on 26 carries and 191 yards overall. This despite the fact that the Scarlet Knights (0-9) had a game plan predicated on the run.
Rutgers, which was seeking to break a 10-game losing streak, got its lone score late in the third quarter when Jason Ohene recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
Rutgers, unable to run the ball, was forced to rely on the play of freshman quarterback Chad Schwenk, who was making his first career start.
"We knew they were going to be tough to run the football on," Rutgers Coach Terry Shea said. "For whatever reason, our running game has gone south on us. That hurts, because you know you have a young quarterback that has to shoulder the load of the offense."
It was the fewest points Navy (3-6) has allowed since 1997 against Army, and it marked the first time since 1994 against Lafayette that the defense didn't allow a point. The win also kept the Midshipmen's hopes alive for a .500 season--a goal the team still could achieve with consecutive wins against Tulane, Hawaii and Army.
Navy had little trouble moving the ball in the first half, scoring on its first three drives.
The Midshipmen, led by the running of Madden, drove 85 yards on eight plays after stopping Rutgers without a first down on the game's opening possession. They took a 7-0 lead on a quarterback draw when Madden was hit at the 3 and dragged a would-be tackler into the end zone.
Navy extended its lead to 10-0 on Tim Shubzda's 40-yard field goal with 5 minutes 38 seconds left in the first quarter, and 17-0 with a nine-play, 88-yard drive that was capped by Madden's 29-yard touchdown run with 13:04 left in the half.
The Scarlet Knights, meantime, struggled on offense.
Their best scoring chance of the half came after they took possession at Navy's 41 following a punt and drove to the 23. Steve Barone's 40-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
Navy lost a chance to add to its lead with less than a minute left when Madden was hit as he threw and Shahib White intercepted the fluttering pass at the goal line.
After giving up the score on special teams, which cut their lead to 20-7, the game quickly took on a different tone for the Midshipmen, who two weeks ago blew a 23-0 halftime lead in a 35-29 loss to Akron.
Navy regained command with John Vareen's 53-yard run and Raheem Lambert's 61-yard run, both for touchdowns, to stretch the lead to 34-7 with 10:22 left.
"I felt I had to come in and eliminate the mistakes--run the offense the way it's supposed to be run," Madden said. "We haven't taken advantage of our opportunities. Today we did."
Following last week's 28-24 loss to Notre Dame, Weatherbie said he was concerned about an emotional letdown. In the end, however, he came away more content than at any point this season.
Said Weatherbie: "I think we found the nail [in the coffin] today."