Navy keeps rolling along, 37-27

Mids score 20 in fourth to top Vandy, improve on best start since 1996

College Football

October 12, 2003|By Bryan Mullen | Bryan Mullen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Navy football team didn't have many options to go to late in yesterday's game against Vanderbilt.

Fortunately for the Midshipmen, they did have the option.

Navy defeated the Commodores, 37-27, using its unique triple option to take control not only offensively, but also keeping the Vanderbilt offense on the sideline and averting any chance for a late comeback.

Navy improved to 4-2, its best start since 1996, when it went 9-3 and defeated California in the Aloha Bowl.

"Offensively right now we have a little swagger," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "We think we're supposed to score when we get it. And that's good. We played the way we needed to play. I know we scored every time we had it in the second half. So that's a pretty good way to play."

Trailing 20-17 to open the fourth quarter, Navy stuck to the ground, grinding out multiple short-yardage runs but gaining enough yardage each time to keep the chains moving.

The Mids took a 24-20 lead with 13:43 remaining when quarterback Craig Candeto scored on a 3-yard run. The drive went 80 yards on 13 plays, but the time (5:42) taken off the clock would be something Navy would constantly do in the quarter, keeping the offensive players for Vanderbilt (1-6) on the sideline holding their helmets.

The Mids' next scoring series was the backbreaker for Vanderbilt. Navy went 63 yards in 14 plays, setting up a 36-yard field goal by Eric Rolfs to give the Mids a 27-20 lead. But Navy had again taken valuable time off the clock, this time exactly seven minutes.

The time of possession, which was almost identical in the first half, was controlled by Navy in the second half. The Mids wound up with a time-of-possession advantage of 36:53 to Vanderbilt's 23:07.

"The neat thing about the option is that you just keep pounding it up in there and you keep pounding, and it doesn't take but one time for [the defender] not to take the right guy," Johnson said. "On offense, if you can execute and convert some first downs, then it gives you a chance to hammer and hammer and find a little weakness."

Candeto was again efficient through the air, and just as frustrating for his opponents when he decided to keep the ball on option plays. He finished 9-for-15 passing for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed 22 times for 69 yards and two TDs.

"We got things rolling in the second half," said Candeto, who finished only behind teammate Kyle Eckel (20 carries, 115 yards) in rushing yardage. "It's really encouraging to see this team have a few bad series but come right back and stay positive."

The Vanderbilt offense did make the most of its limited opportunities late in the fourth, and cut the Navy lead to 34-27 with 1:30 remaining when quarterback Jay Cutler found Erik Davis for a 10-yard touchdown pass. But the Commodores' on-side kick attempt failed when Candeto fielded the ball cleanly and took to the turf.

The Commodores seemed to have the triple option figured out for most of the first half, frustrating Navy and converting three-and-outs into points. The usually solid Navy pass defense played suspect for the first two quarters as Cutler went 7-for-11 for 99 yards.

"Their quarterback and receivers are really good," said Navy cornerback Shalimar Brazier. "Their receivers ran some good, crisp routes."

Rolfs had a career day, converting three field goals (24, 36 and 33 yards).

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (4-2) vs. Rice (1-4)

Site: Rice Stadium, Houston

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Yesterday: Rice did not play.

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