They had promised Niumatalolo that, after a 3-10 season in 2018 that ended with a third consecutive loss to Army, they would be the ones to right the ship.
They followed through nearly one year later, bringing the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to Annapolis for the 11th time in the past 17 years and the 16th time in program history. But it wasn’t just that they won. It was the resounding manner in which they did it. Perry rushed for 304 yards, making him the first player in program history to run for 300 yards against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, and the Mids’ defense smothered a banged-up Army team with ease.
Navy (10-2) leads the all-time series 61-52-7 after snapping Army’s longest winning streak since the 1990s.
“This didn’t happen today. This happened back in January with our senior leadership and their commitment to be successful,” said a teary Niumatalolo, who arrived at his postgame news conference wearing a strand of tea leaves for good luck. “I’m just so proud of them and happy for them.”
Niumatalolo, in his 12th full season helming the program in Annapolis, earned his ninth victory in the rivalry game, making him the winningest coach in series history.
Niumatalolo also placed his full confidence behind Perry at quarterback and tailored the offense to the senior’s liking. Perry used every free moment he had during the offseason studying Navy’s playbook to reach a new level of expertise.
The result was the swift turnaround of a program that looked outdated and inert a year ago.
“No one likes what happened last season, and I can speak on behalf of the whole team: There’s no other guy we’d want to be playing for,” senior center Ford Higgins said. “The way [Niumatalolo] approached this offseason was something we could all get behind so easily, the way he came in with high energy bringing in new people. It’s something that was contagious. . . . We are the men of Ken.”
But on the field Saturday, it was Perry who led the way.
The senior quarterback averaged 10.4 yards on his 29 carries and scored two touchdowns. Fullback Jamale Carothers, a sophomore who wasn’t even traveling with the varsity team at the start of the year, accounted for a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. Carothers rushed for 75 cards on 22 carries.
Beginning in the second quarter — a single Army drive ate up nearly all of the first — Perry made Navy look like a boulder that had been given a shove down the side of a mountain. The Black Knights (5-8) outgained the Mids 75-8 in the first quarter. In the other three, Navy outgained Army 388-73.
Injuries had gutted the Black Knights. Christian Anderson was the program’s first quarterback since 1979 to make his first career start in the Army-Navy game. He was playing behind an offensive line that was so beat up it rotated groups of players every series the way hockey teams change lines. Army held the ball for just 15:24 in the final three quarters.
“I couldn’t be happier to see Malcolm Perry graduate,” Army Coach Jeff Monken said. “He is a terrific player. He ran through us today; there wasn’t much we could do about it. … I’m disappointed in today’s loss. I’m disappointed in this season. There are really not many words to say.”
Anderson, a junior who filled in for injured starter Kelvin Hopkins Jr., led Army with 56 rushing yards and one touchdown. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards.
After both teams shook off their jitters with a three-and-out to start, Army marched 78 yards in 18 plays for a scoring drive that ate almost 11 minutes of clock and sealed it with a five-yard rush that capped Army’s longest scoring drive of the season.
Perry made up for lost time in the second quarter.
The senior’s first big run of the half was a 55-yard tear up Army’s sideline for a touchdown after he juked his defender and took advantage of a good block from fullback Carothers to find space on the edge of the field.
Perry’s second big play was an equally tricky run in which he made it look like he has rubber bands in his ankles instead of cartilage. His 44-yard sprint put the Mids on the Army 17-yard line. Two plays later, he initiated Navy’s version of the Philly Special when he pitched the ball to wideout Chance Warren, who threw a one-yard scoring pass that floated high into the air before Carothers corralled it. The trick play, which came six seconds before halftime with the Mids receiving the ball to start the third quarter, gave the Navy a 14-7 lead that felt like more.
“I just wanted to make sure I was in bounds and try to make a play on the ball,” Carothers said. “I knew either way we were going to get points on that possession, so I just tried to give myself the best chance possible.”
After a hiccup in which Army captain Elijah Riley blocked Bijan Nichols’s 29-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter’s opening drive, Navy grabbed hold of momentum by forcing a pair of three-and-outs and held tight for the rest of the game.
Carothers scored again on a five-yard run with 4:53 left in the third quarter after the fullback rattled off a 14-yard sprint and Perry added an 18-yard run to get the Mids to the Army 6. The pair combined again to get Navy into field goal range at the start of the fourth quarter, scoring again on a 37-yard kick from Nichols before the Black Knights even had a first down in the second half.
“It means the world,” Perry said. “… For me personally, this was the biggest game I’ve ever played in my life. We didn’t win the last three games, and that makes this game even more sweet.”
The senior had so many requests for autographs and pictures that he was the last player off the field.
by Jacob Bogage in Washington
December 14, 2019 at 6:15 PM EST
Navy wins, 31-7
Navy will sing second. The 23rd-ranked Midshipmen snapped their three-game losing streak against Army, defeating the Black Knights, 31-7, with a ferocious running game in the teams’ 120th all-time meeting. Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry did not attempt a pass, but ran for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback Jamale Carothers added another 75 yards and a score, and also caught a touchdown pass thrown on a trick play by wideout Chance Warren at the end of the first half. The win gives Navy its fifth 10-win season in program history. It extends its lead in the all-time series with Army to 61-52 with seven ties.
December 14, 2019 at 6:08 PM EST
This Navy touchdown should seal it
Malcolm Perry has run all over Army on Saturday, and just ran for his second touchdown of the game. After Navy scooped up an Army fumble, the Midshipmen went 47 yards in six plays. Perry capped it off with a 15-yard scoring run that gave him 304 rushing yards on the game, a new Army-Navy game record. (Navy 31, Army 7, 1:42 fourth quarter)
December 14, 2019 at 6:00 PM EST
Navy forces a fumble
The Midshipmen are five minutes away from snapping a three-year losing streak to Army. Ahead 17 points, J’arius Warren forced Army running back Connor Slomka to fumble the ball on a carry up the middle, and recovered the ball, too. The Mids will take over at the Army 47-yard line. (Navy 24, Army 7, 5:00 fourth quarter)
December 14, 2019 at 5:40 PM EST
Navy adds a field goal
Bijan Nichols adds three more points for Navy after a nine-play, 40-yard drive. His 37-yard kick barely squeaked inside the right upright. Malcolm Perry is now up to 259 rushing yards, and has yet to attempt a pass. (Navy 24, Army 7, 12:48 fourth quarter)
December 14, 2019 at 5:20 PM EST
After that seven-play, 45-yard drive, Army has a 14-point hole to climb out of. Perry ran for 26 yards on the drive, including an 18-yard scramble on third and 9 from the Army 24-yard line that set the Midshipmen up first and goal. Jamale Carothers carried in from five yards out two plays later. Navy is up to 297 yards of offense — 222 belong to Perry — on the game. Army only has 92. (Navy 21, Army 7, 4:53 third quarter)
December 14, 2019 at 5:10 PM EST
What’s the story with Navy’s jersey patches?
All Navy players on Saturday are wearing a patch honoring a military unit. Midshipmen players have worn unit patches on their Army-Navy game uniforms for at least 29 years, a tradition that has become so deeply embedded that no one in the athletic department knows when it actually started. Each fall, every player dressing for the rivalry game gets to pick a patch to wear. If they don’t have a one in mind — it’s common to wear the unit patch of a loved one who has served — players can choose from the team stockpile. Read more from The Post’s Ava Wallace.
December 14, 2019 at 5:03 PM EST
Army’s defense makes a stand
Navy came out of halftime with a promising drive all the way down to the Army 19-yard line. But the Black Knights defense forced a stop and the Midshipmen tried a 29-yard field goal. Army’s Elijah Riley came off the edge and blocked the try, preserving the one-score game. (Navy 14, Army 7, 11:08 third quarter)
December 14, 2019 at 4:35 PM EST
Navy 14, Army 7 at halftime
Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo dialed up a trick play — call it the “Navy Special” — to end the first half and give the Midshipmen a 14-7 lead at the half of the 120th Army-Navy game. Quarterback Malcolm Perry pitched to Chance Warren, who floated a pass to Jamale Carothers in the corner of the end zone as the second quarter concluded. It capped a half where Navy and Perry was starting to find its footing. Perry has not attempted a pass, but has run for 154 yards on 13 carries, including a 55-yard scoring run to start the second quarter. Army scored on an 18-play, 78-yard drive in the first quarter that took more than 10 minutes off the clock. Army quarterback Christian Anderson, starting his first-ever college game, ran the ball into the end zone from five yards out. Navy will receive the second half kick off.
December 14, 2019 at 4:02 PM EST
Today’s uniforms hold unique significance
Army and Navy’s uniforms for the teams’ 120th meeting each have special meanings. Army’s honor the branch’s 1st Cavalry Division, which implemented the first large-scale use of helicopters during the war in Vietnam, allowing for the mobilization of large contingents of soldiers. Navy’s are inspired by the teams of the 1960s and a pair of Heisman Trophy winners: halfback Joe Bellino and quarterback Roger Staubach. Read more here.
December 14, 2019 at 3:49 PM EST
Navy answers on Malcolm Perry touchdown run
Malcolm Perry, the Midshipmen’s star quarterback responded to Army’s score with a touchdown run of his own. Four plays into Navy’s drive, Perry ran right, skipped outside past a defender and finished 55 yards down the sideline for a score. (Army 7, Navy 7, 13:34 second quarter)
December 14, 2019 at 3:38 PM EST
A picture-perfect drive for the Black Knights has them on the board first. Led by quarterback Christian Anderson, who is making his first college start, Army trekked 78 yards in 18 plays on a drive that lasted more than 10 minutes. Anderson ran off right tackle for a five-yard score. (Army 7, Navy 0, 0:27 first quarter)
December 14, 2019 at 3:14 PM EST
Trump presides over anthem and coin toss
President Trump was greeted with applause as he walked onto the playing surface at Lincoln Financial Field for the national anthem. Before the ceremony, Trump greeted both teams in their respective locker rooms, according to a pool reporter. He visited Army first, where he shook players’ hands and wished each player good luck. He gave almost identical greetings in the Navy locker room. Trump presided over the coin toss at midfield wearing a red hat bearing the worlds “Keep America Great.” Navy called tails and won the toss, electing to kick off to begin the game and receive to start the second half.
December 14, 2019 at 3:05 PM EST
CBS is ready for kickoff
As Army and Navy prepare to take the field, CBS readied for the game with the words of former president John F. Kennedy, who served in the Navy, who was set to toss the coin at the 1963 Army-Navy game, but was killed mere weeks before the game.
December 14, 2019 at 2:30 PM EST
What you need to know
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.
December 14, 2019 at 2:29 PM EST
What’s at stake
Here’s what’s on the line, aside from bragging rights, when Army meets Navy on Saturday. The Black Knights (5-7) can salvage an underwhelming season by knocking off their foes from Annapolis. A win would also give them their fourth straight victory in the Army-Navy game, West Point’s longest winning streak since taking five straight from 1992 to 1996.
For No. 23 Navy (9-2, 7-1 American Athletic Conference), a win would give the Midshipmen their fifth 10-win season in program history and momentum headed into the Liberty Bowl against Kansas State. Plus, the winner earns the right to sing its alma mater second. Post columnist John Feinstein has something to say about that.
Expect more offense in this Army-Navy game than in years past. Navy is 16th in the country in yards per game with 464, an increase of more than 100 yards per game over 2018. That’s largely thanks to more consistency out of the quarterback position this season. Garret Lewis and Zach Abey were effective enough in 2018, but they were no Malcolm Perry, the future Marine, who’s thrown for 1,027 yards and six touchdowns and run for 1,500 yards with 19 touchdowns.
Army, which will also run the triple-option offense, has struggled as quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. was in and out of the lineup with injuries. He’s a full go on Saturday, but hasn’t had the best year, with five interceptions to four passing touchdowns, 706 rushing yards and seven rushing scores. Running backs Connor Slomka and Sandon McCoy have been the most active ball carriers, each averaging 4.5 yards per carry with 1,192 yards and 18 touchdowns between them.