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Navy Midshipmen snap 7-game losing streak with 37-29 win over Tulsa

November 17, 2018 - 9:15 pm

By Jake McDonnell 

On Saturday, the Navy Midshipman snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 37-29 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in front of 31,517 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

For Navy, the seven-game losing streak marked the longest winning drought since the 2002 season, when the Midshipmen lost 10 straight games. Additionally, Navy's 37 points was the  team's highest point total since Sept. 15 when the Midshipmen steamrolled Lehigh 51-21.

Following Saturday's action, Navy advnaces to a 2-5 conference record and a 3-8 overall record, good for fifth place in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Western Division. Tulsa falls to a 1-6 conference record and a 2-9 overall mark, which has them sitting in last place in the AAC West. 

Before kickoff, 34 Midshipmen were honored for Senior Day. Each senior, holding an American flag, came onto the field with their families before what would be the last home game of their collegiate careers. The festivities seem to have a positive impact on Navy every year, as the Midshipmen have won 16 consecutive contests held on Senior Day.

“Our team is a really close team,” head coach Ken Niumatalolo said after the game. “To be able to send our seniors out that way is always a goal on Senior Day. A lot of our seniors did some good things. I’m proud of them to be able to win but to also play well too.”

Perhaps the senior who stood out the most was quarterback/wide receiver Zach Abey of Pasadena, Maryland.. Abey has been a huge part of Navy’s triple spread offense for much of his career. That proved to be the case again on Saturday when Abey led the Midshipmen on the ground with 128 rushing yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. Both of his scores occurred in the second quarter, and both were from two yards out.

As a unit, the Midshipmen reached their second-highest running total of the season with 389 yards on 63 attempts. Against Lehigh on Sept. 15, Navy finished with 484 yards. The Midshipmen went 4-for-4 in the red zone and converted 11-of-15 third-down attempts.

“We ran the Navy offense,” Abey said following the game. “We executed in every way. It’s a good day when all three categories [quarterback, fullback, and slots] are hitting like that.”

Tulsa won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Navy the ball first. After the Midshipmen went three-and-out, Tulsa manufactured a 14-play, 51-yard drive capped off with a one-yard run by Corey Taylor II, who finished the day with three rushing touchdowns. All of Taylor’s rushing scores were three yards or under. On Navy’s ensuing possession, Abey led the offense down the field, running for gains of 14 and 13 yards. His second run got Navy in the red zone, and then Nelson Smith stormed to the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run. He added a second rushing touchdown of 26 yards less than five minutes later, giving Navy a 13-7 lead at the 12:45 mark in the second quarter.

The second quarter ended up being Navy’s best, as they outscored Tulsa 20-9. The extra point on Smith’s second rushing touchdown was blocked by Tulsa’s Reggie Nelson II and taken all the way back for two Golden Hurricane points. Tulsa wideout Keylon Stokes ran for a 19-yard score with 7:20 left in the first half, but it occurred in-between Abey’s two rushing scores and the Midshipmen led 27-16 at halftime.

The only score of the third quarter came through the foot of Bennett Moehring, as the senior kicker booted a 21-yard field goal with 4:40 left. Two of Tulsa’s third quarter drives ended abruptly with turnovers - a Taylor fumble on the Navy 3-yard line and a Seth Boomer interception, which landed in the hands of cornerback Micah Farrar. Farrar returned it 54 yards before wideout Keenan Johnson tackled him on Tulsa’s 23-yard line.

Taylor rebounded with a three-yard score just over three minutes into the fourth quarter, cutting Navy’s lead to eight points. On Navy’s ensuing possession, the Midshipmen were aided by a targeting penalty on Tulsa safety McKinley Whitfield, who was ejected from the game. Whitfield was the second player ejected during the contest, joining Navy outside linebacker Austin Talbert-Loving. Talbert-loving’s ejection, also stemming from a targeting call, occurred in the second quarter. After Whitfield came out of the game, the Midshipmen marched down to the Tulsa 33-yard line, where Tre Walker took it to the house to give Navy a 37-22 lead with 7:36 to play.

The Golden Hurricane offense responded with a quick seven-play drive that ended with a one-yard score by Taylor, who crossed the byline with 4:46 left on the clock. The Midshipmen converted two first downs on their final drive as Tulsa burned their final two timeouts. After the second first down, all the Midshipmen needed to do was run the clock down to zero and celebrate their first win in over two months.

“Everyone played with a lot of passion today,” senior linebacker Hudson Sullivan said after the game. “All of the seniors talked last night. I think the message was sent down to the younger guys. Everyone actually played for each other and it definitely feels good to win again.”

In addition to Abey’s 128 yards on the ground, Malcolm Perry followed with 76 yards on six carries, including a 52-yard dash in the third quarter. His long run put Perry over 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season. He’s the first Midshipmen to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since Keenan Reynolds did it three seasons in a row from 2013-15.  Behind Perry, Walker racked up 67 yards, and Smith finished with 48 total yards with his two touchdowns.

On defense, Nizaire Cromartie led the team with a career-high nine tackles. He also contributed 1.5 tackles-for-loss, which is his highest total of the season. Defensive tackle Jackson Pittman forced the third-quarter fumble on the goal-line that defensive end Marcus Edwards recovered. Senior linebacker Taylor Heflin followed Cromartie with eight tackles. No sacks were recorded, but as a unit the Navy defense broke up four passes and posted three quarterback hits.

“It seemed like this win [was needed],” fullback Anthony Gargiulo said following the game. “Just to come into the locker room after that and see everyone’s excitement, everyone’s joy, it definitely was needed.”

Up next, the Midshipmen play Tulane (4-3, 5-6) in New Orleans on Saturday, Nov. 24. The start time is to-be-announced. The Midshipmen then have a week off before the Annual Army Navy Game takes place on Dec. 8 at 3:00 pm from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Follow Jake on Twitter @JMcDonnell95