Navy 34, Kent State 31
This time, there was no dramatic ending, no frantic finish that Navy endured in each of its first four games. Midway through the fourth quarter yesterday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, it was clear the Midshipmen, despite four turnovers, were still better than Kent State.
On a sun-soaked afternoon in Annapolis, Navy played just well enough to post a 34-31 victory before 30,316. Senior quarterback Lamar Owens scored on a one-yard run with 10 minutes 18 seconds remaining and sophomore Joey Bullen added a 22-yard field goal less than three minutes later after Kent State fumbled away the ensuing kickoff to break open a tie at 24.
"I think it shows we have a pretty good football team because we can play that badly and still win," Navy senior defensive end Jeremy Chase said. "Every win is a good win, but some aren't that good looking."
Navy (3-2) didn't punt the entire game and gained a season-high 532 yards, the 23rd-best output in school history. Owens rushed for a game-high 110 yards on 22 carries to lead an offense that ran for a season-high 336 yards. Owens threw five of his six completions to junior receiver Jason Tomlinson, whose 115 yards made him the first Navy player to amass 100 receiving yards in consecutive games in seven years.
"We wanted to come out here and put it together by playing four quarters of Navy football, and we played 21/2," said Owens, who threw for 169 yards with two interceptions. "We wanted to come out here and make a statement that when we come to play, we play for real, and that didn't happen. But we got the win, and that's all that matters."
Leading 14-10 entering the third quarter, Navy extended its advantage when Bullen converted a 23-yard field goal to cap a 65-yard drive, but the lead would be short-lived. Kent State sophomore quarterback Michael Machen completed 6 of 7 passes during an eight-play, 65-yard drive that ended with his 18-yard touchdown pass to junior Brian Bell (DeMatha), tying the score at 17 with 7 minutes 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
After both teams committed turnovers on their next possession, Navy freshman Karlos Whittaker scored on a one-yard run with 1:17 left in the third quarter for his fourth touchdown of the season, tying the school's plebe record.
But Kent State (1-5), which has wilted in the fourth quarter all season, pulled even on its next possession. The Golden Flashes went 77 yards on 13 plays -- fueled by a fake punt that picked up 16 yards on fourth and seven from around midfield -- to tie the score at 24 after a one-yard run by freshman running back Jerry Flowers with 11:41 remaining.
But Flowers made a critical mistake that cost his team -- he earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting after scoring, which led to Navy getting the ball at the 50-yard line after freshman Reid Macko's kickoff went out of bounds.
Two plays later, Owens sprinted up the middle for a 41-yard gain, and he capped the drive two plays later by diving in from the 1-yard line to push the lead to 31-24. Kent State fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and after Navy called five straight running plays, Bullen converted a 22-yard field goal with 7:34 remaining.
Kent State junior running back Luke Tillman pulled his team to 34-31 with 1:42 remaining with a 10-yard run that ended a 17-play, 78-yard drive, but the Golden Flashes wouldn't get the ball again, as Navy recovered the onside kick.