Game 541: Navy derails Cincinnati late comeback attempt to triumph, 42-32
Annapolis – The Midshipman of Navy took what looked to be commanding lead after two series of play in Game 541 of Collegefootballfan.com’s continuing journey to see ‘em all. In the end though, they had to stop a Cincinnati Bearcat comeback attempt late in the final period to defeat U of C, 42-32. The Bearcats countered Navy’s strong, deceptive running game with a formidable attack through the air lanes to cut into the Mids lead several times in this exciting American Athletic Conference contest. USNA rambled for 569 yards rushing, only three short of the current record. Junior QB Zach Abey rushed 20 times for 128 yards and two TDs. He threw the football only three times, but made one completion count for a score as they only totaled 53 yards passing.
For CFF.com, it was glorious day for our Game 541 where we introduced our new tailgate flag with both steady tailgate friends from the past along and with several new ones in the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot. The “glorious” day pelted the east stands with intense sunshine sending several of our group going back for shade at the friendly confines of our tailgating area. At halftime, several other fans required first aid from the Navy medical staff in the stadium as people suffered from the intense heat and sunshine primarily during the first half.
Feeling the heat – off and on the field
Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1) cut Navy’s fast start of the first period down to 21-17 going into halftime sending many in the upper deck retreating back under the stands for shade and cold liquids. With Navy’s Josh Burns finishing off the first drive in the early in the second minute of the second half with a 39-yard TD jaunt, his second of the day, Navy opened up a 28-17 lead. Bearcat QB Hayden Moore (28 of 46, 381 yards, three TDs) led the Cats on a long 75-yard scoring drive of their own finishing with a five-yard pass to Khalil Lewis.
Navy polished off its third period with a 74-yard scoring drive with Abey heading in from the one. In the fourth, Navy repeated the feat with a 74-yard drive with Abey touching down from the one to lead 42-24 with 10:07 remaining on the clock in our Game 541. Cincy refused to give up and continued to fight down to the bitter end. The Bearcats scored on Moore’s third TD pass of the day with TE Tyler Cogswell taking it in over near the left pylon from the three. Moore ran it in for a two-point conversion to put the ‘cats within 10.
Bearcats threaten late
The Bearcat defense tightened up finally and held the Mids for the first time to a three-and -out series. Taking the punt at their 37, Moore first hit WR Thomas Geddis with a 27-yard pass play. On third and 10 at the Navy 11, the Bearcats threatened to make the game interesting with another score and over two minutes left to play. GGA Steve Ciesla and I had debated on Cincy going for an onsides on their last kickoff, but it would be for sure if they scored here. Steve wondered aloud if the Bearcats should attempt a FG now and go for the TD if they could get the ball back. The point became moot though as the Navy defense stepped it up this time. CB Tyris Wooten came from the backside and sacked Moore behind the line stripping the ball out. LB and co-captain DJ Palmore recovered it for the Mids at the 21. The threat was put to rest and the Brigade of Midshipman started to anticipate a Commandant’s order to enjoy a night of “liberty” for those who qualified. With the score final at 42-32, the celebration after our Game 541 began. Many Bearcats stood with respect to watch and listen to “Navy Blue and Gold.” Though defeated, it’s probably an honor and a great memory for many Navy opponents to be part of that inspiring tradition win or lose. For the Mids, this was their 15th straight regular season win at home.
The Mids travel to play Tulsa (1-3) at Skeller Stadium next week. The Golden Hurricanes scored 66 and 51 points in consecutive weeks before New Mexico held them to 13 in a 16-13 loss. They also rely mostly on their ground game, but not as much as the Mids. They’ve rushed for 17 TDs and passed for only one. The Bearcats return to the Queen City to host Marshall (2-1) who’s beaten two MAC teams and lost to NC State. Collegefootballfan.com takes its new flag to plant in Newark, Delaware where we’ll see Delaware’s top RB Thomas Jefferson go up against FCS No. 1 James Madison. We expect to see the Fighting Blue Hens (2-1) improved under their first-year HC Danny Rocco. Their lone loss came at the hands of No. 12 Virginia Tech. We also expect to see JMU as a very difficult opponent for UD. They average scores of 47-12 versus their first four opponents including FBS East Carolina.
Points after Tailgating
Navy displayed an awesome amount of fire power in its running game though two starters including co-captain DJ Bonner sat out with an injury. Soph SB Malcolm Perry ran for 100 yards on 10 carries. Last season, we remember him primarily as the plebe QB who was called down from the stands in the opener against Fordham when starter Tago Smith went down for the season with a foot injury. He came in to play after second team QB Bill Worth came in to replace Smith.
Our new neighbor in section 127, Bob, a local fan, told us that the Naval Academy performed a study on the excessive amount of foot injuries that the team had incurred during recent seasons. They had done analysis on the stadium turf, football shoes, equipment, weather conditions, etc. The Mids incurred many foot injuries, but opponents playing on the same turf had not. Bob said the primary variable that they had started to identify was possibly the shoes worn by all Midshipman as part of their working class uniform during the course of their days attending classes, marching, and just about doing anything but playing sports. Players from other schools primarily wear sneakers, casual shoes, or even flip-flops during the entire course of their days. We will have to look into this to find out more.
This game demonstrated how any opponent not familiar with the Mids’ deceiving offense can be in for a very long day. First-year HC Luke Fickell reported after the game that he just didn’t have his team prepared well enough for that offense. However, Cincinnati showed how Navy’s secondary is susceptible to any opponent with a formidable passing attack. Memphis will be a challenge to them in three weeks. Against Air Force in two weeks, whichever team throws the best will win.
Several first time Guest Game analysts to Game 541, Mike Pitch and Bob Brauer, along with some of our experienced GGAs Frank Lorito and Vince Gallo called it quits at halftime surrendering to the blistering heat from the sun in our upper deck seats. They went back to the comforts of tailgating where they could get a little shade and some cold drinks to keep cool. Veteran GGAs Steve Ciesla and George Lazarides along with his brother Nick and nephew Nick stuck it out as the descending sun didn’t feel as treacherous in the second half. We met back up with our friend Brian Donnelly and his girlfriend Laurie under the shade of the upper deck at the half. Laurie saw three people attended to who were overcome by the heat of the day. It was tough one.
George’s niece, a plebe who plays on Navy’s lacrosse team, scored a goal in the game we attended a short while in the morning against Towson at Rip Miller Field. Also, Frank Lorito’s Cousin Nora and her husband Mike were on hand as their daughter who is also a plebe, will be member of the women’s tennis team. We’ll have to watch the spring schedules for a spring road trip to see both teams play. We hope to see them all at future tailgates in Annapolis. They all enjoyed themselves at Game 541!