Article From Capital Gazette - Five games that defined Navy football's current era

Five games that defined Navy football's current era

Navy is facing one of its most-anticipated football games that doesn't involve archrival Army in recent memory as it prepares for an American Athletic Conference West Division showdown at Houston on Friday. Capital Gazette's Bill Wagner takes a look at five of the biggest matchups that helped reestablish the Midshipmen as a presence on the national college football map during the current triple-option era.
Navy had not qualified for a bowl game since 1996 and the fan base was excited about the turnaround season of 2003. Second-year head coach Paul Johnson led the Midshipmen to an 8-4 regular season record after suffering through a 2-10 campaign in 2002. Athletic director Chet Gladchuk used his connections to land the bid for Navy, which had no bowl affiliations at the time. There was concern the Mids might be left out of the postseason, but Gladchuk's previous stint as athletic director at the University of Houston paid off as he had a close relationship with Jerry Ippoliti, president and CEO of the EV1.net Houston Bowl. It was only the second bowl appearance since 1981 for Navy, which sold 20,000 tickets for the game. Things didn't go so well on the field as quarterback B.J. Symons passed for 495 yards and four touchdowns to lead Texas Tech to a 38-14 victory at Reliant Stadium.
State comptroller Louis L. Goldstein had been stumping for years for Navy andMaryland to renew their gridiron rivalry. Sadly, Goldstein died before he could see the Midshipmen and Terrapins meet for the first time since 1965. Academy officials put a halt to the series due to incidents that occurred during the 1964 contest when Maryland linebacker Jerry Fishman roughed up several Navy players and made an obscene gesture to the Brigade of Midshipmen. Head coaches Paul Johnson and Ralph Friedgen were responsible for putting an end to the frost, agreeing to play the game while having dinner together at an Annapolis restaurant. So it was that after a 40-year hiatus, Maryland and Navy renewed the Crab Bowl Classic with a crowd of 67,809 filling M&T Bank Stadium for the Sept. 3, 2005 season opener. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach hit wide receiver Drew Weatherly with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:01 remaining as Maryland rallied for a 23-20 victory over Navy. The Mids had jumped out to an early 14-3 lead as quarterback Lamar Owens led scoring drives of 80 and 50 yards.
College football fans were beginning to wonder whether Navy would ever beatNotre Dame again. The Fighting Irish had dominated the longest, continuous intersectional rivalry in the country, winning an NCAA-record 43 straight games against the Midshipmen. That came to an end on a gray afternoon in South Bend as fullback Eric Kettani and safety Wyatt Middleton led Navy to a 46-44 upset in triple overtime. Kettani rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns while Middleton made a career-high 14 tackles as the Mids beat the Irish for the first time since 1963. Defensive end Chris Kuhar-Pitters made a game-changing play when he recovered a fumble and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown to give Navy a 28-21 lead. It ultimately came down to a big defensive stand by the Mids with linebacker Irv Spencer and defensive end Michael Walsh hit tailback Travis Thomas behind the line of scrimmage on a two-point conversion attempt in the third overtime. The loss dropped Notre Dame to 1-8 under head coach Charlie Weis.
Athletic director Chet Gladchuk pulled off somewhat of a coup by getting Ohio State counterpart Gene Smith to agree to a two-year, home-and-home series. Getting to play at fabled Ohio Stadium, also known as The Horseshoe, in the 2009 season opener was a great experience for the Midshipmen and quarterbackRicky Dobbs almost led a stunning upset. Ohio State returned that game in the 2014 opener at M&T Bank Stadium and once again got all it could handle from the underdogs. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds directed two long scoring drives as the Midshipmen took a 14-13 lead at the 11:15 mark of the third quarter. However, the Buckeyes took control from there – outscoring the Mids 28-3 the rest of the way to escape with a 34-17 win before an announced crowd of 57,579.
Navy was a 9-point underdog and hadn't defeated a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 15 since Nov. 17, 1984 when it shocked No. 2 South Carolina, 38-21. The Midshipmen also had not accomplished that feat on the road since a 7-6 upset of No. 8 Penn State in 1974. That all changed this season when the Mids' stunned the 13th-ranked Tigers before an announced crowd of 55,212 at the Liberty Bowl. Fullback Chris Swain rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries as Navy executed its ball-control strategy to perfection in stunning Memphis in one of its more dominant offensive performances for a 45-21 victory.

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