This time, Delaware no match for Navy

A season after upset loss, Mids post 34-20 win, get to 7-1 for first time since 1978

College Football

October 31, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Navy conquered the homecoming hex and continued its charmed football season yesterday.

With fullback Kyle Eckel running for 143 of the team's 346 yards - both highs for the year - the Midshipmen ended a five-game Homecoming Day losing streak and gained revenge for a bitter 2003 loss by marching past Delaware, 34-20, before a sellout crowd of 34,416 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

It was the seventh straight home victory for Navy (7-1), which had last lost in Annapolis to Delaware almost a year ago to the day.

"It's definitely sweet," Navy defensive captain Josh Smith said. "I can't stand these guys [Delaware] in the first place and they got us last year."

Said Eckel: "It's revenge, especially after last year. You want to come out and beat them, especially under these circumstances [homecoming]."

The Midshipmen grabbed the lead with 2:06 remaining in the first half after Lord Cole's special teams tackle produced a Delaware fumble, then iced the decision with two long touchdown drives in the third period, the first covering 99 yards.

Delaware (6-2), the third-ranked team in Division I-AA, was nursing a 10-7 advantage when the Mids were forced to punt late in the second quarter. Sidney Haugabrook fielded the ball after Cole, the gunner on punt coverage, initially missed him. Cole rose from the ground, came back with a big hit and forced Haugabrook to fumble. Mick Yokitis recovered at the Blue Hens 11.

"That was a huge play," said Navy coach Paul Johnson. "He missed the guy, got up and punched it out. He does a great job in covering, takes pride in it."

Said Cole: "After I missed him, I just looked for him again. I wasn't even trying to get the ball, I was trying to make the tackle. After I heard the crowd, I figured I had done something right."

Added Haugabrook: "Their guy never gave up. It was a good play."

In three snaps, Navy was in the Blue Hens end zone, with quarterback Aaron Polanco passing to Eric Roberts for the touchdown from the 6. Geoff Blumenfeld's conversion gave Navy a 14-10 lead.

Although the Midshipmen went three-and-out on their first second-half series, they weren't about to settle for a narrow lead.

Delaware pinned them on their 1 after the next series. Less than six minutes later, Polanco went off tackle for a third touchdown after Navy drove the length of the field. A 26-yard pass to Amir Jenkins and a 32-yard gain on a reverse to Jason Tomlinson churned up most of the yardage on a drive that seemed to wear down the Blue Hens.

"A drive like that is definitely demoralizing to their defense," said Polanco, who ran for 64 yards and three scores and completed 8 of 11 throws for 95 yards. "Just getting out of that tough spot hurts the defense, which is already tired. It just shows how much we wanted it."

After forcing the Blue Hens to punt, Navy parlayed a 44-yard dash by Eckel into the clinching touchdown. The run was the longest of the bruising fullback's career, setting up Polanco for a seven-yard scoring dash three plays later. Blumenfeld missed the extra point, but the Navy defense kept Delaware out of the end zone until the final minute when Haugabrook scored on a 65-yard punt return against the reserves.

By then, the Mids had extended their advantage to 34-13 with a prolonged touchdown drive capped by a 4-yard run from Eckel.

The Blue Hens unleashed an unrelenting short passing game with Sonny Riccio throwing 50 times and receiver David Boler catching 16 passes to set a stadium record and tie the Delaware mark.

"I knew going in that we weren't going to have a lot of success running the ball," said Delaware coach K.C. Keeler. "We knew that we wouldn't be able to hold up all game if we tried to run. Their defense is very underrated and when they have a lead in the second half, they can change the way they play."

Navy had not been 7-1 since 1978 and is on its way to achieving all of its regular-season goals except beating Notre Dame.

The chance to atone for one of last season's losses was the primary motivation yesterday.

"I just think in the second half our guys wouldn't be denied," said Johnson.

Said Eckel: "We played with a lot of emotion."

Delaware 7 3 0 10 - 20

Navy 7 7 13 7 - 34

First quarter Navy-Polanco 22 run (Blumenfeld kick), 7:37 Del-Lee 5 pass from Riccio (Shushman kick) 1:10 Second Quarter Del-FG Shushman 35, 6:20 Navy-Roberts 6 pass from Polanco (Blumenfeld kick), 2:06 Third quarter Navy-Polanco 1 run (Blumenfeld kick), 6:28 Navy-Polanco 7 run (kick wide), 2:08 Fourth quarter Del-FG Shushman 23, 10:20 Navy-Eckel 4 run (Blumenfeld kick), 4:52 Del-Haugabrook 65 punt return (Shushman kick), 0:46 A-34,416.

Del Navy

First downs 18 22

Rushes-yards 18-59 60-346

Passing 255 95

Comp-Att-Int 30-50-0 8-11-0

Return Yards 147 84

Punts-Avg. 6-37.0 3-38.3

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1

Penalties-Yards 2-15 2-15

Time of Possession 28:34 31:26

Rushing-Delaware, Cuff 5-37, Lee 9-31, Riccio 4-(-9). Navy, Eckel 23-143, Roberts 8-64, Polanco 15-64, Tomlinson 1-32, Divis 4-19, Hall 3-15, Hines 2-6, Owens 2-6, Campbell 1-(-1), Team 1-(-2). Passing-Delaware, Riccio 50-30-255-0, Navy, Polanco 11-8-95-0 Receiving-Delaware, Boler 16-153, Bleymaier 5-34, Long 2-29, LaForgia 2-24. Lee 2-12, Cuff 1-2, Selk 1-1, Madigan 1-0. Navy, Tomlinson 4-41, Wesley 2-22, Jenkins 1-26, Roberts 1-6.

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