Navy's offense pours it on Colgate, 52-24 McCoy accounts for 5 TDs

McGrew, Nelson team for 90-yard kickoff return TD

November 16, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Navy jumped to a 31-point lead in the first half before allowing Colgate a first down, got a brief scare in the fourth quarter, and then rebounded to a 52-24 victory yesterday before 21,038 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The Midshipmen, who boosted their record to 5-4, seemed to relax on defense after dominating the Division I-AA Red Raiders in the first half, 335-92 in total yardage.

Colgate sophomore quarterback Ryan Vena led a spirited comeback, passing for three touchdowns and running for a two-point conversion to narrow the deficit to 38-24 with 12: 52 remaining.

But Navy capitalized on a 90-yard kickoff collaboration between senior Pat McGrew and sophomore Matt Nelson to change the momentum. McGrew returned the ball to the 42 and kept his legs churning amid a crowd of would-be tacklers before lateraling to Nelson, who found clear sailing down the right sideline.

According to the rule book, Nelson was credited with a 58-yard touchdown return.

"That play was the back-breaker," said Colgate coach Richard Biddle. "We had him [McGrew] stopped but let him get away. Up until then, I thought we still had a chance to win. I know we had their defense reeling in the second half."

Recalling the game-breaking play, McGrew said, "A couple of their guys were trying to strip the ball from me when I heard Nelson yelling, 'Pat! Pat!' and I tossed it to him."

Added Nelson: "Once I got the ball, all I saw ahead of me was the end zone."

It was Navy's first kickoff return for a touchdown since Eric Wallace raced 97 yards against Air Force in 1984.

Record-setting senior quarterback Chris McCoy enjoyed another fine day. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns -- all to McGrew, who tied an academy record held by many.

McCoy also rushed for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns, matching his five-touchdown day against Temple last week.

He also has passed for three touchdowns in each of the past three games and has thrown for 1,057 yards on 224 completions.

Senior fullback Tim Cannada kept the offense in full gear until the third-quarter stall, rushing for a career-high 129 yards on 19 carries.

All told, Navy rolled up a season-high 537 yards on offense, and yet head coach Charlie Weatherbie admitted to a case of the jitters after Colgate trimmed the lead to 38-24.

"Sure, I got worried," he said. "When you build a big lead like we did, you have to stay focused, keep the edge. We didn't keep the killer instinct and go for the knockout punch.

"But I'm still proud at the way we answered the call after they made it close. We came right back with two touchdowns [the long kick return and a finishing 2-yard dash by McCoy] to take the wind out of their sails."

Navy, behind McCoy's adroit execution of the option offense, scored on four of its first five possessions.

After settling for a 21-yard field goal by Tom Vanderhorst on their first offensive series, the Midshipmen added four touchdowns, including a pair of touchdown passes from McCoy to McGrew, who had entered the game without a touchdown this season.

"We've been coming close all season, but today, Chris and I were on the same page," said McGrew.

Despite the early blitz, Colgate (6-4), which plays Bucknell for the Patriot League title next week, refused to quit.

Vena, who struggled early, ended the first half with a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver R. J. Gregory. That seemed to renew his confidence, and he hooked up with junior receiver Corey Hill twice for touchdowns in the second half to keep the crowd from leaving early.

"Colgate did a good job adjusting at halftime," said Weatherbie. "They started running a lot of bootlegs and moving the pocket for Vena to give him more time. They kept adding new wrinkles to their offense."

As good as Vena was in the second half, he could not match McCoy's overall excellence.

"It's coming down to the last few games of my college career," said McCoy, who has only Kent and rival Army left to play. "You want to get better each week. You want to be as good as you can possibly be."

Colgate's Biddle, whose Red Raiders gave Army a big scare before losing, 35-27, had no trouble comparing the two service academies.

"The difference is Navy has McCoy," he said.

Next for Navy

Opponent: Kent

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Record: 3-7

Yesterday: Idle

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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