As Lamar Owens emerged from the locker room at the end of the third quarter after being treated for cramps, he received a loud ovation from the Brigade of Midshipmen.
The senior starting quarterback had missed about 10 minutes. In that time, Navy went from leading by eight points to trailing by one.
Maryland eventually won, 23-20, before 67,809 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday night in the first game between the schools in 40 years.
But for a while, it appeared Owens would lead the Midshipmen to victory. As soon as Owens returned to the game, Navy went on an 80-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Matt Hall for a 20-15 lead with 4 minutes 43 seconds left.
Maryland junior quarterback Sam Hollenbach, however, led his team on an 82-yard drive, culminating in his 11-yard touchdown pass to junior Drew Weatherly for the winning points with 1:01 left.
For the game, Owens had 19 carries for 122 yards and completed 5 of 11 passes for 97 yards.
"He did some things," Navy Coach Paul Johnson said of Owens. "He did about like I thought he would do."
It was the first career start for Owens. He certainly was prepared. He has the discipline running the option demands -- he did not get a disciplinary demerit in four years at his military high school in Savannah, Ga. He became familiar with Johnson's option offense while running a version of it as a junior in high school.
He also attended Johnson's summer camp while the coach was at Georgia Southern.
In directing Navy to a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter on Saturday, Owens completed two of two passes for 54 yards and had eight carries for 58 yards. The Midshipmen were 5 for 5 on third downs.
"I felt great," Owens said. "We have a lot of new guys, and they look to me to set the tone. I wish I had stayed a little calmer in the second quarter."
Owens's first start compared favorably with those of Navy's standout quarterbacks. George Welsh threw touchdown passes of 48, 28 and 10 yards and led the offense to 528 yards in a 65-7 win over Princeton in October 1952. Roger Staubach completed 14 of 20 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-6 win over Boston College in 1962. Chris McCoy ran for 273 yards in a 33-2 win over Southern Methodist in 1996.
And Brian Madden ran for 168 yards in a 28-24 loss to Notre Dame in 1999.
In the end, Owens missed part of the third quarter after getting an IV for hand cramps in the locker room. He left the field in tears after the game.
"It's a loss," he said after the game. "I'm not going to be happy. We'll get better."