Navy stop at one-yard line with six seconds tops UConn, 28-24
Annapolis – UConn used its final time-out after Bryce Sherriffs completed a pass to Hergy Mayala who caught the pass and landed on his butt out of bounds at the Navy one with 17 seconds remaining. Then, Bob Diaco’s UConn staff sent RB Ron Johnson up the middle where he was met by a Navy stop by the heart of the defensive interior who turned him away for no gain before the final six seconds ran down, and Navy (2-0) defeated the UConn Huskies, 28-24, in an exciting American Athletic Conference finish.
The Midshipman were in total command of the Huskies late in the second period 21-0 before UConn blocked a low 32-yard FG attempt by Bennett Moehring. Prior to that miss, Navy chewed up yardage and the clock throughout the first two periods and looked like they would sail on to an easy victory. The Mids scored on their first two possessions driving 96 yards with FB Chris High scoring from the six in the first, and they followed with an 80-yard drive finished off by QB Will Worth plunging over from the one with 10:55 left in the second. Navy’s next possession covered 55 yards to the UConn one where the Huskies halted their drive and took over on downs. However, on the very next play, UConn’s Shirreffs fumbled the ball on a tackle by strong safety Alohi Gilman who also recovered the ball in the end zone for the third Navy score to build the lead, 21-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Navy caused another fumble and Gilman recovered the ball once again to put USNA at the Huskies’ 22 before Moehring’s attempt was blocked. With ten tackles, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries and his touchdown, Gilman was named AAC Defensive Player of the Week. After the block, however, the complexion of the game changed drastically.
UConn opted away from its preferred running game and took to the air waves. Each time Sherriffs dropped back to pass, Navy blitzed from deep in their secondary, but to no avail. Instead, Sherriffs (23 of 26 for 239 yards, no INTs) hit receivers wide open before much pressure could be applied. With 1:10 left in the half, Shirreffs connected with WR Noel Thomas for a touchdown on a 34-yard slant pass before the Navy Drum and Bugle Corps presented its halftime presentation to the Navy crowd for the second Saturday in a row. St. Laurie and I went for some shade under the upper deck of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial and some cold drinks heavy with ice to get out of the sweltering 90 degree temps and bright sunshine.
UConn’s defense adjusted and seemed to have some answers for Navy’s triple option when the second half began. Not surprising since UConn HC Bob Diaco had faced Navy over the years as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. They forced the Mids to a three and out on their next possession. A completion on a fourth and five to TE Tyler Davis set up a three-yard score by RB Ron Johnson to put the Huskies within reach, 21-14. Navy started to churn out the yardage once again starting from their 25 and seemingly ready to score again at the Husky seven when DT Mikal Myers knocked the ball loose from Chis High and CB Jamar Summers (East Orange HS, NJ) scooped up the ball and raced 93 yards the other way to tie the game at 21-all.
In the final period, Navy punted away and Sherriffs continued to make progress through the air. Navy held their formidable running attack to only 90 yards in this game. Navy held UConn to a 38-yard FG by Bobby Puyols that gave UConn its sudden first lead of the game, 24-21. Both teams punted after their subsequent series. UConn’s punt from its nine was returned by Calvin Cass for 26 yards to the UConn 17. The Brigade of Midshipman directly across the field from us waved a flag and chanted its famous last words of US Navy officer James Lawrence in a battle during The War of 1812, “Don’t give up the ship! Don’t give up the ship!” With 3:08 remaining, Worth (19 carries for 44 yards and two TDs, and 6 of 8 passing for 130 yards) righted his team’s ship with another one-yard plunge to put Navy back in the lead, 28-24. Even St. Laurie noted, “They may have left too much time for UConn to score again.” Her words seemed prophetic and UConn moved the ball at will. The Huskies moved down field from the 20 to Navy’s 23 with :45 left. It didn’t look good for the Navy. Mayala caught the ball on the seat of his pants literally to stop the clock before Diaco called a play during his last time-out. The Navy stop of Johnson’s run seemed to bewilder UConn, and the Husky offense slowly unraveled with no clue as to what they should do next. Navy watched the clock run down to “00:00” and the celebration at 2-0 began.
The Mids in the stands got Liberty call for their spirit in the last second win. It was a nail-biter for Navy as it won its twelfth consecutive game at Navy-Marine Corp. Its next game will probably be one of the greatest home challenges ever there when Houston, currently ranked No. 6 in the nation, comes calling. We’re not sure when the last time a team ranked that high came to play Navy in Annapolis. With a potent passing attack led by Heisman candidate Greg Ward, Jr, the Mids’ pass defense will need to improve a lot to stop the Cougars based on how they struggled to stop a run-oriented UConn passing attack. We’ll be there for that one, and the Brigade will be fired up if they can get by Tulane in New Orleans, another run-oriented team next week and against archrival and option-oriented Air Force on October 1 out in Colorado Springs.
The Huskies (1-1) host Virginia next week at “The Rent” in East Hartford. We will see them play there later this season when they host Temple. Collegefootballfan.com has three games in our plans for next weekend starting with a confrontation between two other sea-faring programs on Friday night. The Mariners of the US Merchant Marine Academy (1-0) of Kings Point, NY will travel a few miles east to Throggs Neck to do “battle under the bridge” against the Mariners of SUNY Maritime (1-1) in a local, D3 rivalry that we look forward to. The USMMA defeated The Coast Guard Academy last week. SUNY Maritime defeated Maine Maritime in their opener and fell 28-24 to Mass Maritime last week. It seems like a D3 round robin for all the maritime schools. Maybe they can get Christopher Newport U in Virginia into some of this action or possibly the guys from “Wicked Tuna!” On Saturday, we will be at the noon kickoff between Rutgers (1-1) and New Mexico (1-1) at the Birthplace of College Football. Rutgers thinks they already have this game won (“RU-tude”), so we know that they will struggle at the very least. It will be our second time seeing the Lobos play. We saw then defeat Missouri in 2005. At least we’ll have Bloody Mary’s and Crumb cake in our fabulous Jersey breakfast tradition, but I’ll probably miss out on Frank’s award-winning BBQ after the game. I’m planning to head down the road to Princeton for the 5 pm Tiger opener against Lafayette College (1-1). If this works out as planned, we’ll have already attended eight games over the first three weeks of the college football season. We hope to see a few more like last week’s game in Annapolis.
Extra points: Great tailgate with Brian, Navy Al, his buddy Dave even though he’s an Alabama and Army fan, and Air Force Jay. Between a platter St. Laurie and I brought, pizzas that Jay brought, and BBQ Al brought prepared by his son who’s a professional chef, we had a lot to eat. We were joined by a work colleague of mine, Dave and his son Nathaniel who’s five and attended his first football game. Later, we tailgated after the game with Dennis and Tracy who are planning to retire in Delaware next year. St. Laurie and I had a good time with them closing down the Navy parking lot.
Navy CB Tyris Wooten, like Gilman, also had 10 tackles for the Mids. Husky LB Matt Walsh led his team with 12 tackles followed by FS Obi Melifonwu who had 10.
Navy WR Jamir Tillman had four catches for 75 yards. For the few times you get to see him make a play, you can tell he’s an outstanding receiver and would be a cog in anybody’s passing offense. We look for him to come up with some big catches when Navy needs them later this season. Noel Thomas had 11 caches for 116 yards for UConn including his 34-yard TD.