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10/12/14

Navy football team rights itself with blowout of VMI




For a while, it appeared the penalties, turnovers and mistakes that have plagued Navy all season would make it difficult to beat a struggling Football Championship Subdivision school.
An apparent 71-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tago Smith was nullified by a holding penalty on Jamir Tillman, short-circuiting that possession and leading to a punt.
Then a blown blocking assignment allowed Virginia Military Institute nose guard Joe Nelson to break into the backfield unimpeded to blindside Smith and cause a fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown at the 10:03 mark of the second quarter.
Suddenly, Navy found itself clinging to a seven-point lead over an inferior opponent it should have been beating easily at that point. The Midshipmen went three-and-out on their next possession and one could almost sense the nervousness among the announced crowd of 33,812 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"We shot ourselves in the foot early in the game with the penalty and the turnover, but our kids continued to battle," Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said.
By halftime, the home fans could breathe easier, thanks to a lightning-quick, 23-point blitz that essentially decided the outcome.
Safety Parrish Gaines intercepted a pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to jump-start the onslaught and Navy blew out VMI, 51-14, on a dark, wet and overcast afternoon in Annapolis.
"It feels really good to win. A lot of good things happened out there in a lot of different phases. Parrish's pick was huge as far as getting the momentum going our way," Niumatalolo said. "That was a great win four our team and we needed it badly going into the off week. I'm happy for our guys to get a W."
Starting fullback Noah Copeland led the way on offense with 107 yards rushing for Navy (3-4), which snapped a three-game losing streak. Copeland scored the game's first touchdown on a career-long 64-yard run.
Backup fullback Chris Swain contributed 58 yards for the Mids, who took a commanding 37-7 lead at intermission. Smith, starting in place of the injured Keenan Reynolds, directed an offense that rolled up 433 yards, even though the starters played less than three quarters.
"One thing I saw out there today was that we were having fun. I think that's something that's been lacking a little bit," said Gaines, a team captain along with Copeland. "I think we were dialed in today and really came to play. We'll take this win and run with it. I think this can catapult us for the rest of the season."
Inside linebacker Daniel Gonzeles made eight tackles to anchor a Navy defense that held VMI to just one offensive touchdown. It was the fourth lopsided loss this season for the Keydets (1-6), who have been outscored by an average of 43.2 points to 23.2.
"Congratulations to Navy, which played really well and executed on both sides of the ball," VMI head coach Sparky Woods said. "We were just having a hard time finding those ten yards. We would find nine, but couldn't get the 10th. Credit their defense for that."
Things took a permanent turn for the worse for visiting VMI when long snapper Bradley Hann sent the ball soaring over the head of punter Hayden Alford and into the end zone for a safety that made it 16-7 with 5:19 left in the second quarter. Navy went on to score three touchdowns in the final 3:01 of the first half to blow the game open.
Demond Brown returned the subsequent free kick 29 yards to give Navy great field position and fellow slotback DeBrandon Sanders opened the possession with a 25-yard run. Third string fullback Quinton Singleton then scored his first touchdown of the season a 14-yard run to make it 23-7.
Gaines followed with his touchdown return less than a minute later to increase the Navy lead to 30-7. VMI went three-and-out on its next possession and that enabled Navy to go 50 yard in just two plays and 26 seconds for another score. Smith completed a 34-yard pass down the middle to Tillman then tossed a swing pass that Copeland took 14 yards into the end zone to end all suspense.
Following a blocked field goal, Smith marched the Midshipmen 56 yards in just five plays for another touchdown late in the third quarter to make the score 44-7 and Niumatalolo cleared the bench after that.
Smith, who has led Navy to convincing victories in both of his starts this season, rushed for a touchdown and passed for another score. The 5-foot-10, 201-pound sophomore, who previously started in place of Reynolds against Texas State, completed 3 of 5 passes for 82 yards.
"I thought (Smith) played really well, did a lot of good things. I thought he made some good throws," Niumatalolo said. "He's played in two football games and really played well. It's nice when your starter is down and your backup comes in and does a good job."
Niumatalolo made sure to note that Reynolds was still the starter and would be back in the lineup on Oct. 25 after getting two weeks of rest to heal his knee and shoulder injuries.
"It was good for Keenan to get some rest and get healthy," Niumatalolo said.




                           Team Statistics (Final)
                               2014 Navy Football
                  VMI vs Navy (Oct 11, 2014 at Annapolis, Md.)

                                    VMI     NAVY

FIRST DOWNS...................       15       20
  Rushing.....................        4       17
  Passing.....................       11        3
  Penalty.....................        0        0
NET YARDS RUSHING.............       60      352
  Rushing Attempts............       30       49
  Average Per Rush............      2.0      7.2
  Rushing Touchdowns..........        0        5
  Yards Gained Rushing........      104      381
  Yards Lost Rushing..........       44       29
NET YARDS PASSING.............      202       82
  Completions-Attempts-Int....  26-40-1    3-6-1
  Average Per Attempt.........      5.1     13.7
  Average Per Completion......      7.8     27.3
  Passing Touchdowns..........        1        1
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS...........      262      434
  Total offense plays.........       70       55
  Average Gain Per Play.......      3.7      7.9
Fumbles: Number-Lost..........      1-0      1-1
Penalties: Number-Yards.......      1-0     3-20
PUNTS-YARDS...................    5-152    3-130
  Average Yards Per Punt......     30.4     43.3
  Net Yards Per Punt..........     30.4     43.3
  Inside 20...................        2        1
  50+ Yards...................        0        0
  Touchbacks..................        0        0
  Fair catch..................        2        2
KICKOFFS-YARDS................    4-246    8-487
  Average Yards Per Kickoff...     61.5     60.9
  Net Yards Per Kickoff.......     37.0     42.2
  Touchbacks..................        2        2
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD.    1-0-0    0-0-0
  Average Per Return..........      0.0      0.0
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD   5-99-0   2-48-0
  Average Per Return..........     19.8     24.0
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD..    1-9-0   1-39-1
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD.    0-0-1    0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards...........        0       25
Possession Time...............    34:38    25:22
  1st Quarter.................     6:31     8:29
  2nd Quarter.................     9:06     5:54
  3rd Quarter.................    10:51     4:09
  4th Quarter.................     8:10     6:50
Third-Down Conversions........  4 of 15   6 of 9
Fourth-Down Conversions.......   1 of 4   0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......      1-2      5-5
  Touchdowns..................      1-2      5-5
  Field goals.................      0-2      0-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards........      0-0     2-11
PAT Kicks.....................      2-2      7-7
Field Goals...................      0-1      0-0
Points off turnovers..........        7        7



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