Navy Midshipmen running game outduels Tulsa passing game, 42-40
Annapolis, MD- The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes outgained the Navy Midshipmen in total yards 576 to 501, but the efficient USNA triple-option rushing attack garnered 390 yards on the ground to outscore the Hurricanes, 42-40. For the fifth consecutive game, Navy QB Will Worth rushed for over 100 yards. He accounted for three rushing TDs and threw for another. The win for the Navy Midshipmen (7-2,5-1) put them in control of their championship destiny. With two American Athletic games remaining against East Carolina and SMU the next two weeks, wins over both will give the Mids the AAC West title and a berth in the championship game on December 3 at noon. The host site has yet to be determined. Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day for the game and for tailgating with great friends. We all hope that we’ll have a chance to do this again in Annapolis on December 3.
Tulsa deferred the ball to the potent Navy offense to start the game. Dishan Romine returned the kick to the TU 43. Slot back Darryl Bonner took it over from the four for the Navy lead after the opening series. Tulsa answered on its very first play from scrimmage as WR Keevan Lucas hauled in a 76-yard pass beating the Mid secondary to tie it up before a suddenly disappointed Navy crowd of 36,397. Next time the Hurricanes started a drive from their 27, they took it to the Navy 12 where PK Redford Jones gave them the lead, 10-7, with a 29-yard FG. Navy’s running game was on the attack again as Romine took the option pitch and raced 41 yards to regain the lead, 14-10. The ensuing kickoff was bobbled by Tulsa and Navy kick coverage cut down Tulsa at their one. A punt put Navy back in possession from their 31, and they drove from there into the second period.
The Navy Midshipman hit pay dirt as Worth plunged over the goal from the one for a 21-10 lead. A minute and a half later, Tulsa cut the lead once again. WR Josh Atkinson (5 catches for 102 yards, 1 TD) caught the ball wide open on the right sideline and ran it in for a 56-yard catch and run to trail, 21-17. Navy’s ensuing possession was kept alive buy Worth who converted a first down on a fourth and one at the Tulsa nine. He connected with TE Tyler Carmona who made a twisting, diving catch as he fell in the end zone for an 11-yard TD pass to go up, 28-17. The Golden Hurricanes were not backing down. From their 25, they got into FG range where Jones converted three more points with 42 seconds remaining in the first half. It was a good, offensive battle combining Navy patience and Tulsa explosiveness. The Navy Midshipman led at intermission, 28-20. Which offense would stumble, or better yet, which defense would step up?
The day was perfect for tailgating – the weather, the company, and the cuisine. A cloud did not appear in the sky all day. The noon kickoff got us all started early in the chilly morning. Brian Donnelly brought his now famous Old Bay Chicken wings. “Navy Al” brought ribs prepared by his son, a chef at a restaurant in Pennsylvania. Dennis and Tracy brought chili for a “local” Gate 1 tailgate Chili Cook-off. For the second year in a row, their recipe earned them the trophy! With all these great tailgate traditions, I added the cannolis brought down from New Jersey. Everybody enjoyed these along with all the snacks and beverages. Great time! It makes us sorry that the college football season is always so short. Tailgating is one of the all-time great American traditions to bring people together and make great, new friendships! And it’s greatest with a great bunch of people at a great football venue with great traditions, especially when our football team keeps winning.
The Golden Hurricanes were on the move to start the second half. On a fourth and five at the Navy 44, QB Dane Evans (16 for 27, 369 yards, 4 TDs, 1INT) completed a 17-yard pass to Justin Hobbs to keep their opening drive alive. However, CB Tyris Wooten stopped the drive as he deflected Evans’ pass in the end zone into the air and hauled it in for a Navy Midshipman interception. It was a critical defensive stop as the ball was picked from a possible TD. The ensuing Navy drive was turned over on downs at the TU 38. Evans didn’t come up empty this time as he connected with WR Keenan Johnson for a 31-yard TD pass to cut the score down to 28-27. Navy was under the gun to extend the lead, and they did not disappoint. Following two offensive penalties, on third and 16, Worth (6 for 8, 111 yards, 1 TD) passed to Bonner for 28 yards down to the TU 21.
Into the fourth, the drive continued until Worth faked the handoff and ran the option left for a 15-yard touchdown run and a 35-27 Navy lead. Tulsa had to keep firing passes to keep pace with the Navy Midshipmen. Desperately facing a forth and eight at USNA’s 45, Hobbs (5 catches for 123 yards) made a diving catch at the Navy one just short of the goal line, and one play later, Evans scored on a dive option to the left. Trailing 35-33, the Hurricanes went for two. Evans came up short on his run by inches. Neither team was quitting. Five plays and 69 yards later, Worth kept the ball around left end on the option and raced down field for a 44-yard scoring play for his third of the day on the ground. Though Tulsa trailed by nine needing two scores, the way these offenses could both score, a comeback still didn’t seem insurmountable. With 5:30 remaining, Evans hit TE Chris Minter on a 22-yard slant pass over the middle to put the Hurricanes within two, 42-40.
An onside recovery could put Tulsa into the possibility of taking the lead back for good with a last second FG. Like last week in the 28-27 win over Notre Dame, the Mids would have to look to run out the clock. They did it with seven minutes the week before. Tulsa kicked off hoping to stop the Midshipmen on downs. They only had one time-out remaining. The possession started from the 25. The Mids did what they do very well. The controlled the clock. They ran three downs to convert a first down. They let the clock run down to within ten seconds before the started calling the signals. On third and nine, WR Jamar Tillman came up short by a yard on a sweep. Tulsa used its last time-out. Worth narrowly carried it for one yard for the first down by inches. The Mids retained possession, and Tulsa was out of time-outs. An unsportsmanlike penalty was walked off against the Hurricanes, and Navy went into the victory formation. For the 15th consecutive time, the Navy Midshipmen prevailed in a home game. It was the second longest live streak of its kind only to Clemson who had won 20 straight until it was beaten at home this Saturday by Pitt, 43-42.
Tulsa (7-3,4-2 AAC West) visits Central Florida (6-4,4-2) next. Navy makes up a postponed game when they travel to visit the East Carolina Pirates (3-7,1-5). Collegefootballfan.com travels out west for an unexpected double feature now that the game times have been finalized. As planned, we will see Stanford (7-3, 5-3) visit the Cal Bears (4-6,2-5) in their traditional rivalry, The Big Game. We look forward to seeing the RB Christian McCaffery of the Cardinal play since he was out injured when we saw Stanford beat Notre Dame earlier in the year, 17-10. We also look forward to seeing Cal QB Davis Webb with his 3,601 passing yard and 33 TDs challenge the Cardinal defense. It could be similar in scoring to this week’s Navy-Tulsa game. The kickoff is slated at 2:30 pm PST. We figure that since we don’t have a tailgate planned after (other possibilities for pre-game, however), we will head down to the Air Force (7-3, 3-3) at San Jose State (4-6,2-5) Mountain West Conference game starting at 7:30 pm PST – two new venues to add this weekend!