CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- They filled the stands of Scott Stadium, 42,000 strong, expecting a replay of the 42-point whipping they had doled out against Navy a year ago today. The Cavaliers fans got what they wanted -- a Virginia win -- but the fans and the team had to sweat it out until the final minutes.
With starting quarterback Matt Blundin on the sideline with a bruised right elbow, the Cavaliers got just enough production from backup Bobby Goodman to defeat a fired-up Navy team, 17-10.
"I don't worry about point spreads or any of that crap," said Navy coach George Chaump. "I'm just glad our kids played their tails off and played hard."
Navy (0-2) played the Cavaliers to a 10-10 tie at the half. But a combination of Navy's defense tiring in the second half and Virginia's ability to convert more than 50 percent of its third-down plays gave the Cavaliers (1-1) enough of a lift to break a five-game losing streak dating back to last season.
"The big difference was our inability to stop them on third down," Chaump said. "[Running backs Nikki Fisher and Terry Kirby] are two good backs, and both were hard to bring down on third down."
After an ineffective drive on its first drive of the second half, Virginia broke the tie on the strength of a big third-down conversion. This time it was tailback Fisher who broke through the middle on third-and-21 for a 27-yard gain to the Navy 8. Two plays later, Goodman scored on a keeper from the 1 -- his first collegiate touchdown -- and Michael Husted added the extra point for a 17-10 lead with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left in the third quarter.
Navy's inability to score in the second half fell mainly on the team's inability to mix up the offense. Quarterback Jason Van Matre, and running backs Brad Stramanak and Duke Ingraham all had success running against Virginia, but Van Matre was able to complete just three passes before backup Brian Ellis replaced him for the final drive with 52 seconds remaining.
Ellis came in and immediately completed a 20-yard pass to B.J. Mason on his first play. But he was sacked on his second attempt, and Navy failed to get the ball into Virginia territory.
"We're doing what we do best," Chaump said of his run-oriented attack. "I like to throw the ball as well as anybody. You just have to do what your talent enables you to do."
As it did against Ball State a week ago, Navy got off to a good start. Using its running game for all but two plays, the Midshipmen put together a time-consuming 13-play, 68-yard drive capped by a 35-yard field goal by Tim Rogers to take a 3-0 lead with 8:32 left in the first quarter.
But Virginia immediately gave its fans something to cheer as it converted three third-and-long situations on its next drive. The 12-play, 87-yard drive ended when tailback Kirby ran through the middle for a 9-yard score to give the Cavaliers a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.
The Navy offense eventually stalled while relying on its rushing game (Van Matre completed just one of six first-half passes), and failed to get out of its own territory on its next two drives.
But still, the Middies were not overmatched, as in the game a year ago, when Virginia jumped out to a 35-0 lead before halftime.
After stopping the next two Virginia drives, the Midshipmen got the key play of the half when, after calling timeout on a Virginia fourth-and-12 deep in Cavaliers territory, Navy sophomore defensive back Kevin Mattix blocked a punt by Ed Garno. The ball rolled out of bounds on the Virginia 11.
"We work on that every day in practice," said Mattix. "We just go through the center-guard gap. I got free and got my hand on it. To get a touchdown is very fortunate."
Three plays later, Stramanak barreled in from 4 yards out to give Navy a 10-7 lead with 4:44 left in the half.
Virginia got a 32-yard field goal from Husted with 52 seconds left to tie the game at 10, and that's how the half ended.
Kirby led Virginia with 60 yards rushing on nine carries in the first half, but the Cavaliers were hurt by a lack of a passing game. Goodman completed six passes for only 67 yards and five penalties that cost them 43 yards.
Stramanak, who has scored in all three Navy games he has started, gained 52 yards and Van Matre 45 to lead Navy.