Navy 58, Army 12
Craig Candeto was ready to keep playing against Army with three minutes left in the third quarter today, but after watching Candeto give one of the greatest performances in this storied rivalry's history, Navy Coach Paul Johnson decided that the junior quarterback had done enough.
Candeto rushed for six touchdowns and threw for another in a 58-12 victory before 78,672 at Giants Stadium. The six rushing touchdowns were the most by a player in the schools' 103 meetings and marked one of five records Candeto set or tied today.
The 58 points were the most Navy (2-10) has scored against Army, eclipsing a 51-0 victory in 1973.
It also provided for a lopsided result in a series in which Navy had outscored Army (1-11) by just 92 points over the previous 102 meetings.
"It's pretty special, it humbles me," Candeto said of the records. "Everyone says it's always going to be a close game. But I told the guys halfway through the game that this doesn't have to be close."
Navy was forced to punt on its opening possession after Candeto was sacked for a seven-yard loss on a third down. But Army was called for roughing the kicker and Navy had a first down at Army's 36.
The Midshipmen had a 7-0 lead six plays later, following a one-yard run by Candeto with 8 minutes 32 seconds left in the quarter.
It was the first of seven possessions in which Candeto was in the game. In that span, Navy scored seven touchdowns and faced just seven third downs. Candeto's scoring runs came on rushes of 1, 1, 42, 7, 3 and 1 yards. He also threw a 23-yard scoring pass to junior Tony Lane for a 44-6 lead with 10:43 left in the third quarter.
"Every time they [Army] tried to change things up, we went where we should go," Johnson said. "There's no question Craig played an outstanding game."
Candeto finished with 103 rushing yards and completed 5 of 6 passes for 87 yards. He set a school record for most rushing touchdowns in a game and tied a school record for most touchdowns overall in a game, tied the Army-Navy record for most career touchdowns and tied the Meadowlands record for scoring in a college football game.
The victory was the culmination of two weeks of hard work for the Midshipmen. Navy practiced throughout the Thanksgiving break; Army had those days off.
The Midshipmen also arrived in New Jersey on Thursday night to make sure they were not delayed by the snowy conditions along the East Coast.
Army's day was summed up by its first two possessions of the second half. On its first play from its 9, running back Carlton Jones was stopped for a six-yard loss by senior tackle Andy Zetts. On second down, quarterback Reggie Nevels fell as he backpedaled into the end zone while attempting a pass and was called for a safety, which gave Navy a 37-6 lead.
On its next possession, senior tackle Craig Cunningham inadvertently ran into Nevels, then fell on top of him for a sack and loss of 15 yards.
"I don't think any of us could have dreamed that the game could have gone in that direction," Army Coach Todd Berry said. "You don't ever expect that to happen. I've been around this game for a while. This has to be the toughest one."
Army came closest to making it competitive when it had a third and goal from the Navy 4 midway through the second quarter. Nevels's pass for wide receiver Lamar Mason was incomplete, and Joe Riley kicked a 21-yard field goal to make it 14-6 with 9:26 left in the half.
The Black Knights did not score again until early in the fourth quarter.
The margin of victory was enough that Johnson used five quarterbacks and 14 players carried the ball. Sophomore fullback Michael Brimage, whose father is in the Army, had 84 yards on 10 carries and the team rushed for 437 yards total.
"I think I'm going to remember it all," senior guard Grant Moody said. "I think I'll remember just about every single play. If you have to go out, this may as well be the way to do it."
Navy will hold a team meeting Monday in which it will begin planning for next year. Candeto certainly will be a big part of those plans -- he finished as the team's leading rusher and passer, and spent much of the fourth quarter today shaking the hands of his teammates, Naval officers and team managers.
"When things go that well, it's fun to be out there," Candeto said. "That was the most fun I've had all year."
Midshipmen Note: Secondary coach Keith Jones's wife, Bernadette, died Thursday night following an extended battle with a respiratory illness. Jones returned to Annapolis and was not at the game today.