PHILADELPHIA — The Navy football team had plenty to wash away with Saturday’s renewal of the Army-Navy game: the sting of last year’s loss to Army that ended a 14-year win streak, the bruising slide they’ve been on since Oct. 14, during which they’ve notched just one win.
Instead of a cleansing rain, the Midshipmen got snow, wind and finally, pain. Place kicker Bennett Moehring missed a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give Army a 14-13 victory before a crowd of 68,625 and possession of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996.
It was the Black Knights’ first win in 11 Army-Navy games at Lincoln Financial Field.
Moehring was left apologizing to his coach, his teammates and the senior class.
“Felt good, obviously conditions weren’t great, made good contact with the ball,” the junior said. “That’s really all I was telling myself, was just make good contact and the rest will take care of itself, and unfortunately it didn’t.”
Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry doubled over with the agony at game’s end, his head lolling back in disbelief as he walked off the field supported by another teammate. His second career start at quarterback had been stunning, especially on slippery turf. The sophomore rushed for 250 yards on 30 carries, including a 68-yard touchdown, and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt. He passed 1,000 rushing yards for the year to give the Midshipmen two 1,000-plus yard rushers, alongside junior quarterback Zach Abey, for just the third time in program history
Perry’s performance offered little comfort in the face of loss, Navy’s second in a row to Army.
Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo, who boasted two productive quarterbacks in Perry and Abey, did not publicly reveal who would be his starting quarterback in the days leading up to the game, but told Perry two weeks ago that he had gotten the nod. Abey, who started the first eight games of the season, was hardly needed. Perry, a Clarksville, Tenn. native who wore the unit patch of the USS Tennessee on his jersey in his second 200-plus-yard rushing game this season, carried the Midshipmen all afternoon.
Niumatalolo said after that Perry would likely be Navy’s starting quarterback going forward.
“Kid’s been amazing,” Niumatalolo said. “I think he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do — gave us a chance there at the end. . . . Malcolm got us in position to win that game, and that’s all.”
With the defeat, the Midshipmen (6-6) must win their bowl game to avoid their first losing season since 2011, when they went 5-7. Navy will play Virginia in the Military Bowl in Annapolis on Dec. 28.
Perry pieced together a final drive to get Navy to Army’s 23-yard line with less than a minute remaining, but consecutive false-start penalties by seniors Evan Martin and Tyler Carmona bumped the Midshipmen back to Army’s 31 and took 10 seconds off the clock, leaving them just 22 seconds on third down.
The Black Knights (9-3) stuffed Perry at the line of scrimmage, and Moehring was left with the game in his hands. A field goal from 48 yards would have tied the longest field goal of his career. The kick was long enough but was wide left.
Niumatalolo conceded that losing the game on two late penalties felt like a summation of Navy’s season, which began 5-0 and declined from there.
“In a close game it’s the team that doesn’t make mistakes [that wins], and those penalties hurt us,” Niumatalolo said.
Instead, Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw decided the game for the second year in a row. His lone touchdown, a one-yard score with 5:10 remaining, provided the winning margin.
Bradshaw rushed 21 times for 94 yards in a somewhat haphazard game for the Black Knights. Navy outgained Army, 296-241, and averaged 6.2 yards per play to Army’s 4.8.
Army started strong with an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive through chunky snow and slush, spurred by a 33-yard run from Kell Walker, that looked easy. The defense then forced Navy to settle for a 28-yard field goal on its first series after the Mids had marched to the Army 11. It was the first of two field goals Navy made after driving deep into the Black Knights’ territory. In the third quarter, Perry broke free for a 46-yard run to get the offense to Army’s 6 before Moehring was called in to kick.
“It’s Navy football. When we’re down on the goal line, when we’re close to the end zone, we’ve got to put the ball in the end zone. We just didn’t, and that hurt us,” Perry said.
The snow started to come down harder as the Midshipmen walked to the locker rooms, leaving Army to celebrate with the cadets in the stands until finally, there were only four Army players left on the field. They lingered, scooping snow off the ground and holding it in their hands.
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