For the first time in nearly two months, the Navy football team won a game. Senior quarterback Kriss Proctor helped ensure the breakthrough despite a dislocated elbow that kept his status in doubt until kickoff, and the defense did the rest in an inspired showing en route to a 42-14 victory over Troy.
Before 33,359 on senior day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the Midshipmen ended a six-game slide and kept a winning season in play following their longest losing streak since 2002. Navy first must win its final three regular season games, then triumph in the Military Bowl to complete that improbable turnaround and avoid its first losing season since the team installed the triple option nine years ago.
That process began with a flourish on a chilly Saturday afternoon in which Navy’s 33 seniors were introduced on the field shortly before kickoff. Moments after the ceremony, Proctor went to work in his first game since hurting his elbow in the second quarter against East Carolina on Oct. 22, and the results were as immediate as they were overpowering.
Proctor directed touchdown drives on five of six possessions, including four in a row, in the first half, twice scoring on runs himself and passing for another. That onslaught staked Navy to a 35-0 lead, and the Midshipmen (3-6) were well on their way to 517 yards from scrimmage and a third game this year with at least 40 points.
The first-half margin was Navy’s largest since Nov. 18, 2006, against Temple in a game the Midshipmen won, 42-6, in Annapolis. Navy’s point total was its most at home since 2007 and the most overall under Coach Ken Niumatalolo.
“Sometimes you forget what it feels like after a little while,” said senior fullback and co-captain Alexander Teich, who had 71 rushing yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. “Just having that feeling back, I’m just so proud of all the guys who came out, showed up, played big, and we knew how big that game was.”
Navy’s first touchdown came following a fumble recovery by nose guard Jared Marks, who pounced on the loose ball at his 24 when Trojans quarterback Corey Robinson botched a handoff. The drive appeared doomed when Proctor lost five yards on first down and faced third and 12, but Proctor completed a 25-yard pass to junior wide receiver Brandon Turner to the Navy 47.
On the next snap, Proctor delivered a 42-yard strike over the middle to junior slotback John Howell, who was able to get wide open because Troy brought extra bodies to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Senior slotback Mike Stukel took a pitch around the left side for 10 yards to the 1, and one play later, Proctor kept it for a touchdown with 6 minutes 4 seconds to play in the first quarter.
“I knew after Notre Dame, I didn’t care how it felt,” Proctor said about his elbow. “I was coming back just to give these guys a spark. That’s what I tried to give them, and that’s what we did today.”
On Troy’s third possession, freshman safety Parrish Gaines jarred the ball from running back Shawn Southward, and junior defensive end Collin Sturdivant fell on it at the Navy 35 for the first fumble recovery of his career. Senior fullback then Alexander Teich gained 17 yards on first down before Proctor threw to junior slotback Gee Gee Greene for a 48-yard touchdown with 14:25 left until intermission.
Teich’s five-yard run finished off Navy’s next series that began on its 13 and included a pass interference call against linebacker Kanorris Davis and a 26-yard run by senior slotback Aaron Santiago, who played and started his first game since breaking his left forearm in the second quarter on Sept. 10 during a 40-14 victory over Western Kentucky.
Santiago, who was cleared to play at the beginning of this week, finished with 80 yards on six carries all in the first half before joining Proctor on the bench to watch backup quarterback Trey Miller, a sophomore, get valuable experience over the final quarters.
The Midshipmen’s final two touchdowns of the first half came in the final six minutes, including Proctor’s five-yard run with 13 seconds remaining until the break, and about the only suspense remaining was if Navy could log its first shutout since 2008. Troy (2-6), though, managed to avoid that ignominy with a touchdown on its first series of the second half.
“This is about our seniors, our program,” said Niumatalolo, who received a Gatorade dousing for the win. “These guys have continued to battle. We’ve had some tough losses, but these guys have stayed the course. Just very proud of the way they fought today.”