Offensively challenged for all but its opening drive, the Navy football team failed to score any points for the first time in six years in a 12-0 home loss to San Jose State on Saturday.
After Spartans place kicker Austin Lopez booted a career-long 43-yard field goal — his fourth of the game — for the final points with 7 minutes 46 seconds left, Midshipmen Coach Ken Niumatalolo replaced ineffective junior quarterback Trey Miller with freshman Keenan Reynolds. Navy finished with just 144 yards, the second-fewest yards for Navy since it installed the triple-option offense in 2002.
Navy (1-3) remained winless against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents this season and has scored a combined 17 points in those games. The Midshipmen’s lone victory came last weekend against Virginia Military Institute, a Football Championship Subdivision program.
“Right now we’re as low as you can be,” said Niumatalolo, adding he would consider a change at starting quarterback for next Saturday’s game at Air Force.
Some of the lopsided statistics favoring the Spartans (4-1) included 244 more yards, 13 more first downs and a time-of-possession advantage of nearly 13 minutes. Navy, meantime, was 3 of 13 on third downs, averaged 1.8 yards per carry and committed two turnovers, including Miller’s fumble on the first possession, to run its total to 12 this season. Miller also threw an interception late in the third quarter.
The fumble was Miller’s ninth turnover this year and ended a promising drive in which the Midshipmen had first and 10 at the Spartans 13. Facing third and five at the 12, Miller was running left when defensive end Travis Johnson stripped the ball. Linebacker Josh Fasavalu dived for the recovery, and San Jose State took over at its 9-yard line with 10:16 to play.
Navy thereafter drove no further than the Spartans 33-yard line.
“That first turnover, we thought we felt like we were rolling,” Navy senior slotback Bo Snelson said. “We had some momentum going. We were pushing the ball down the field and then to kind of have all that just stop, it definitely is tough.”
Compounding the disappointment of Navy’s 11th turnover in 13 quarters was an injury to starting slotback John Howell during the drive. The senior had come open around the 5-yard line and was about to secure Miller’s throw when freshman linebacker Brad Kuh collided with Howell helmet-to-helmet.
As officials threw a penalty flag for unnecessary roughness, Howell remained on the ground holding his right knee. Howell was unable to put weight on his right leg while Navy trainers helped him to the sideline, and he did not re-enter. Howell shortly thereafter wore a black brace covering almost his entire leg and watched the rest of the game from the bench.
On the Spartans’ ensuing possession, Navy safety Tra’ves Bush led with the crown of his helmet while trying for a tackle. The senior stayed on the ground after contact before walking slowly to the Navy bench, where he remained for the rest of the game with a concussion.
The only points of the first half came courtesy of Lopez’s 29-yard field goal that gave San Jose State a 3-0 lead with 10:48 left until intermission. Lopez added field goals of 19 and 32 yards to complete the scoring for San Jose State, which won for the first time in seven games in the Eastern time zone and had been averaging 40 points per game over its last three entering Saturday.
“Too many mental mistakes,” Navy linebacker Brye French said. “We held them to 12, which is the best we’ve done this season [against FBS opponents], but we could have played better. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror, kind of like Bo said with the offense, and figure out what we need to do better.”