The improbable ascension of Navy quarterback Will Worth continued Saturday afternoon in a 42-40 win against Tulsa that gave the Midshipmen the inside track for the American Athletic Conference West Division title.
The former third-stringer accounted for four touchdowns and 233 yards of total offense in the final regular season game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The senior’s 44-yard run in the fourth quarter produced the decisive points on the way to a 15th straight home victory, the longest active streak in major college football.
The triumph in front of an announced crowd of 36,397 left the Midshipmen (7-2, 5-1) alone in first place in the AAC West with two conference games to play. They also remain in the hunt to host the conference championship game should they win the West Division.
“It’s just awesome to be able to pull this off on senior day,” said Worth, whose streak of nine consecutive games with a touchdown matches former quarterback Chris McCoy for second longest in school history. “Huge conference win, too. Coming in, all the underclassmen just really wanted to help us get a victory, too, so it just felt great to come out here and get a ‘W.’ ”
Worth’s third and final rushing touchdown yielded a 42-33 lead with 7:58 left in the game. Tulsa (7-3, 4-2) came right back, however, with quarterback Dane Evans’s 22-yard strike to wide receiver Chris Minter . It was the fourth touchdown pass for Evans, who earlier in the game became the school’s all-time passing yardage leader.
Navy then ran out the final 5:30 during a drive that included Worth sneaking for a yard on fourth and one from the Navy 49. Worth finished with 122 rushing yards on 26 carries in leading Navy to 390 rushing yards overall.
Once an understudy to Keenan Reynolds and Tago Smith — who began this year as the starter before a season-ending knee injury in the opener — Worth has rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games. It’s the longest Navy streak since quarterback Ricky Dobbs did the same in 2009.
Running back Napoleon McCallum set the school record in 1983 with six straight 100-yard games.
Worth has 18 rushing touchdowns this season; he entered the weekend fourth in major college football in the category. A year ago, his primary responsibility was as the holder for field goals and extra-point attempts.
“Every week he keeps coming in and doing great things,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said of Worth. “Tough, physical kid. Great leader. The things that he says to our players in the locker room, the things he says on the sidelines, it’s easy to follow him because even when he wasn’t starting, he always worked hard.”
Navy extended its lead to 35-27 on Worth’s 15-yard run at 13:41 in the fourth quarter, which capped a nine-play drive that covered 73 yards. Included in the possession was slotback Darryl Bonner’s diving reception for 28 yards on third and 16. The juggling catch came after consecutive Navy penalties for holding and an ineligible player downfield.
The Golden Hurricane answered with Evans’s one-yard run with 10:34 left to complete a 10-play, 73-yard possession. Tulsa went for the two-point conversion, but linebacker Micah Thomas stopped Evans inches short of the goal line to preserve Navy’s 35-33 lead.
“I was just out there playing for my brothers,” Thomas said. “It’s the mentality I had all game.”
The only points in the third quarter belonged to Tulsa, which got a 31-yard pass from Evans to wide receiver Keenan Johnson in the back of the end zone to draw within 28-27. Johnson secured the throw with 3:28 to play after linebacker Mike Kelly stumbled trying to turn around and was unable to make a play on the ball.
The only turnover of the game went to Navy, when cornerback Tyris Wooten intercepted a pass in the end zone intended for wide receiver Justin Hobbs. The ball caromed off Wooten’s shoulder pad and settled into his outstretched arms, stalling Tulsa’s drive that had reached the Navy 26.
Navy marched into Golden Hurricane territory on its ensuing possession but turned it over on downs after Worth lost two yards on fourth and one.
The Midshipmen took a 28-20 lead into intermission. Their final points of the half came on Worth’s 11-yard throw on a slant to wide receiver Tyler Carmona. The scoring play leading to Worth’s seventh touchdown pass of the season unfolded on third and goal from the 11 after sophomore tackle Andrew Wood jumped before the snap.
The defense then limited Tulsa to Redford Jones’s 26-yard field goal with 42 seconds to go until halftime, forcing Evans to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone with no receivers open on third and eight.
“Everyone plays hard, and everyone plays for each other,” said senior slotback Dishan Romine, who had 97 yards and the first rushing touchdown of his career. “I’m happy I scored, but I’m even more happy with the win.”