Navy seniors have field day in 63-34 rout of C. Michigan

Mids become bowl eligible, give seniors grand send-off

November 23, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Twenty-two Naval Academy seniors carried a lifetime memory away from their home field yesterday.

For the first time in their careers, the Midshipmen scored a resounding victory on Senior Day, bashing defenseless Central Michigan, 63-34, to guarantee their first winning season since 1997.

A Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium crowd of 29,527 watched Navy make itself eligible for bowl-game participation with its seventh win in 11 games.

Central Michigan (3-9), the last-place team in the Mid-American Conference's Western Division, had no answers for Navy's relentless option offense, which produced three touchdowns on its first five snaps and totaled 530 rushing yards. The starting Navy quarterback, Craig Candeto, steered eight drives and every one concluded with a touchdown.

In its first encounter with the option this season, Central Michigan chose to stack the front line and play man-on-man deep. When Navy went to an unbalanced set, the Chippewa defense was left vulnerable to all sorts of problems.

"They were short one man [when the Midshipmen shifted]," said Navy coach Paul Johnson. "And we did a good job of executing and taking care of the ball."

The 63 points were the second highest the Midshipmen have scored at the stadium (64 vs. Duke in 1996), and the 97 combined points were the highest in a Navy game since a 121-0 drubbing of Colby in 1919.

"I don't ever remember scoring that much that quick," said Candeto, who rushed for 150 yards on 13 carries and went 2-for-2 in the air for 105 yards and a touchdown. "It was kind of nice to sit down after one play."

Central Michigan, which had a decent offensive game of its own, struck first with an eight-play, 64-yard scoring drive culminated by a 9-yard throw from Derrick Vickers to Steve Messam, but that was to be the end of any thoughts of an upset.

On Navy's first series, Eric Roberts took a pitch and found a gaping hole, received a nice block from Amir Jenkins and sprinted home from 45 yards out.

The defense - which was distraught about allowing the Chippewas 516 total yards - forced a fumble that Pierre Moss recovered at the Navy 14.

In one lightning strike, Candeto fired an 86-yard touchdown pass to an open Roberts, who was 5 yards behind the secondary. Roberts out-raced two defenders to the end zone, and Eric Rolfs' kick gave the Midshipmen a 14-7 lead they would only enlarge. The completion was the second longest in academy history, missing tying the record by a yard.

Freshman David Mahoney's interception set up the next touchdown by the Midshipmen at the Chippewa 47. Candeto wasted no time taking this one to the end zone, going 47 yards on a cutback.

From there, the steamroller gathered more momentum. Even a great punt by Central Michigan's Brian Brandt, which skittered out of bounds inside the Navy 1, couldn't help the feeble Chippewa defense. Navy needed only slightly more than four minutes to drive the length of the field, with Tony Lane scoring from 32 yards away.

The Chippewas did rally to within 14 with a 78-yard touchdown march and a blocked punt returned for a 28-yard touchdown by Scott Gibson following a Navy possession quarterbacked by Aaron Polanco. But there weren't enough points available to cover all the defensive misery Central Michigan was undergoing.

Navy finished the game with four 1,000-yard career rushers (Candeto, Kyle Eckel, Lane and Roberts). Eckel bulled for 167 yards to lead a running attack with a net total that was just yards short of the school record.

Johnson pointed to the disappointment shown by his defenders as a sign of progress in the program. "I saw some long faces on the defense, which tells you how far this program has come," he said. "We played good enough [on defense] to win, stopped them enough times. That's all that's important."

"It helped to have a week off after Notre Dame. Everybody got their focus back," Candeto said after Navy heeded Johnson's warning not to let the Notre Dame loss affect the next one (as it did last season in a 38-0 trouncing by Connecticut).

"I couldn't have asked for anything more of my last game here. We seniors are going to try not to remember those years before this one."

Summary

Navy 63, Central Michigan 34

Central Michigan 7 14 7 6 - 34

Navy 28 14 7 14 - 63

First quarter CM-Messam 9 pass from Vickers (Gruzwalski kick), 12:23. N-Roberts 45 run (Rolfs kick), 10:45. N-Roberts 86 pass from Candeto (Rolfs kick), 7:57. N-Candeto 47 run (Rolfs kick), 6:39. N-Candeto 1 run (Rolfs kick), 1:48. Second quarter N-Lane 32 run (Rolfs kick), 8:33. CM-Harper 22 pass from Vickers (Gruzwalski kick), 3:18. CM-Gibson 28 blocked punt return (Gruzwalski kick), 1:46. N-Eckel 4 run (Rolfs kick), :44. Third quarter N-Eckel 33 run (Rolfs kick), 13:01. CM-Jackson 1 run (Gruzwalski kick), 4:37. Fourth quarter N-Candeto 8 run (Rolfs kick), 14:55. CM-Gibson 43 pass from Vickers (pass failed), 10:41. N-Carroll 16 run (Rolfs kick), 4:31. A-29,527.

CM N

First downs 29 28

Rushes-yards 62-283 52-530

Passing 233 114

Comp-Att-Int 20-28-1 3-6-0

Return yards 39 15

Punts-Avg. 2-43 2-22

Fumbles-Lost 4-1 1-0

Penalties-Yards 8-80 2-20

Time of possession 36:58 23:02

Rushing-Central Michigan, Seymour 33-154, Jackson 18-89, Vickers 10-28, Messam 1-12. Navy, Eckel 18-167, Candeto 13-150, Roberts 4-93, Lane 2-36, Hines 3-29, Carroll 3-27, Divis 4-24, Polanco 4-3, Brimage 1-1. Passing-Central Michigan, Vickers 20-28-1-233. Navy, Candeto 2-2-0-105, Polanco 1-4-0-9. Receiving-Central Michigan, Harper 5-68, Seymour 3-15, Gibson 2-63, Linson 2-26, Messam 2-19, Kurzen 2-19, Staley 2-17, Lawhorne 2-6. Navy, Roberts 2-105, Wesley 1-9.

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (7-4) vs. Army (0-11)

Site: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

When: Dec. 6, 4 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WNAV (1430 AM)

Yesterday: Army played at Hawaii.

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