ANNAPOLIS -- On a day when its defense was riddled by injuries and its main receiver led cheers from the sideline, Navy won yesterday with its best half of football this season.
With an inexperienced defense limiting Akron to 67 yards in thsecond half, and a pass-oriented offense abandoned for a running attack, the Midshipmen came from behind to beat the mistake-prone Zips, 17-13, before 18,977 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Fullback Kwame Moultrie gained 103 yards, as Navy picked u233 rushing yards -- second only to its 258 yards in the 23-21 win over Villanova. Navy gave up 294 yards in total offense -- the third straight time it held a team to under 300 yards.
The win was Navy's first at home over a Division I-A opponent since 1986, when the Midshipmen beat Virginia, 20-10, in the season opener. And with the season just past the midway point, Navy (3-3) also equaled its 1989 victory total. Akron (3-3-1) committed six turnovers -- four fumbles and two interceptions -- in losing its third straight.
"They did what they had to do to win," said Navy coach GeorgChaump after the Midshipmen ended a two-game losing streak. "We are a team that has a lot of heart and has had to overcome a lot of adversity."
Already without three defensive starters before the gambecause of injuries, Navy lost a fourth when middle guard Andy Kirkland went down with a knee injury in the first quarter. But the replacements recovered from a first half where Akron seemed to run at will, holding the visitors to three first downs in the second half -- none in the Zips' final five possessions.
"The defense got caught on the inside against the option, anwe came out in the second half saying we weren't going to let them get on the outside," said Brad Brown, a replacement at linebacker who had a fumble recovery and a pass interception. "We always talk about creating turnovers and making the big play. It's always part of the game plan."
Some of those big plays were practically handed to Navy by aAkron team that had trouble holding on to the ball on the slick field. Akron led, 13-7, at the half, despite losing three fumbles. Navy also lost three and was intercepted once in the first half.
The Midshipmen managed to hold on to the ball better in thsecond half, when Akron fullback Tyrone Nelson fumbled on the team's first possession of the half, and quarterback Jeff Sweitzer was picked off by Chris Cordero on the next possession.
Momentum gone, Akron failed to get into Navy territory the resof the game. Meanwhile, the Midshipmen, forced to abandon their passing game after wide receiver Jerry Dawson sprained his left knee in the second quarter, went to a running game and picked up 163 yards in the second half. Alton Grizzard entered the game at quarterback midway through the third quarter, replacing starter Gary McIntosh (12-for-26, 130 yards).
"We were utilizing Dawson well [career-high seven catches, 9yards in the first half] until he got hurt, and we had to go away from our game plan," Chaump said. "[McIntosh] did a good job, and it wasn't a matter of taking him out because he wasn't doing well. We had to balance our run with the pass."
Navy cut the lead to 13-10 on a 34-yard field goal by FranSchenk at the start of the fourth quarter. And, after the defense stopped Akron's next drive, the Midshipmen put together a 72-yard drive that culminated with a 17-yard touchdown run by Dominic Flis with 9 minutes, 22 seconds left.
"The offensive line did well all day and deserves as much credifor the touchdown as I did," said Flis, who scored the first touchdown of his career. "When I hit the hole, it was just wide-open."
Grizzard, who has been the victim of previous breakdowns by the offensive line, agreed.
"They hadn't been doing well, but in the first half I saw whe[McIntosh] went back, he had time to throw," said Grizzard, who led both second-half scoring drives after missing the previous game with a bruised lung. "We ran basically three plays in the second half, and they could not stop us. I think their defense was just tired. They didn't play like they did in the first half."
Navy played poorly a week ago in a 24-7 loss at Air Force. Navis now off until it plays James Madison at home Oct. 27.
"We need a week off because we have a couple of injuries anneed to get a lot of things done," Chaump said. "We've had to work hard and struggle for everything we get. But our kids have heart. To run like we did with a pass-oriented team, we did well."
NOTES: Akron's loss was the first against Navy for Zips coacGerry Faust. While at Notre Dame, Faust beat Navy five times. . . . McIntosh's touchdown pass to tight end Dave Berghult was his first since a 41-7 win over Yale in 1988. . . . McIntosh had six starts before yesterday, none of which resulted in a win.