ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)—Noah Copeland is a football chameleon, willing and able to adapt to whatever role he’s asked to perform.
If Navy needs him to function as a blocker or decoy, the fullback is content to handle tasks that often go unnoticed. And when Copeland is asked to shoulder more of an offensive load, he can do that, too.
Copeland ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, leading Navy to a 21-10 victory over Texas State on Saturday.
“It feels nice just to contribute more, even if it’s just running now,” said Copeland, a sophomore who helped Navy prevail in its 10th straight senior day game. “The last couple games, I just had to do my role. It’s all about doing your role rather than running the ball and stats. It really doesn’t matter about stats, as long as you can do your role and win the game.”
Copeland scored on runs of 15 and 16 yards as the Midshipmen (7-4) won for the sixth time in seven games. Fellow fullback Chris Swain added 45 yards as Navy adjusted when Texas State limited quarterback Keenan Reynolds’ effectiveness by using a different front alignment than the Mids prepared for.
“Take what they give us,” Reynolds said. “They were trying to take away the quarterback, so the A backs and the fullback have a great game.”
Shaun Rutherford threw a touchdown pass to Isaiah Battle for the Bobcats (3-7), who dropped their fourth consecutive game. After scoring 55 points in a loss to Louisiana Tech a week ago, Texas State’s offense was held in check for much of the game despite offensive totals that might have suggested otherwise.
“I can’t be critical of the way our defense played,” said Bobcats coach Dennis Franchione. “We held them to 14 essentially. Except for the turnover on the second-half kickoff, I thought we played pretty good. If anybody had told me we’d hold them to 14 without the fumble, I’d have said we’d have won the game.”
A week after yielding 487 offensive yards in a 41-31 loss at Troy, the Mids’ defense surrendered 405 yards but did not allow a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
“The defense bailed us out,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They kept us in the game.”
It was Navy’s final contest before its Dec. 8 battle against Army in Philadelphia, where the winner will claim the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for football supremacy among U.S. service academies.
Gee Gee Greene also ran for a TD for Navy, which amassed 407 yards on the ground.
Niumatalolo said what reporters thought was an uneven offensive effort was actually a case of Navy making the most of the opportunities it was presented.
“It forced us to execute,” he said. “We were executing pretty well at the beginning. We just didn’t execute well enough, but we still won.”
The run-first mentality wasn’t a surprise to Franchione.
“They wouldn’t throw a pass some games if they didn’t have to. … Their option game is very unique and they choose to throw it underhand and backwards and read people, and that aspect of the game. It’s a different challenge from what we face week in and week out.”
Rutherford completed 25 of 40 passes for 290 yards, but was victimized by a handful of drops and inopportune penalties.
The game’s opening drive ended when Navy’s Bo Snelson mishandled Reynolds’ pitch left, ending an all-ground assault that saw six different Midshipmen rush the ball. After a three-and-out by Texas State, Navy stayed with the run, Copeland’s 15-yard touchdown jaunt ending a six-play, 73-yard march for a 7-0 lead.
Midway through the second quarter, Navy turned the ball over on downs at the Bobcats’ 45-yard line. Texas State advanced to the Mids’ 3, and lined up for a 21-yard field goal on fourth-and-1. But Rutherford, the holder, was sacked for a 10-yard loss by Kwazel Bertrand on the fake field goal.
Texas State’s Jafus Gaines fumbled the second-half kickoff after an 18-yard return when he was hit by John O’Boyle. The Mids’ James Britton recovered and on the next play, Copeland rumbled in from 16 yards out for his second TD of the day.
With 2:35 remaining in the third quarter, Will Johnson’s 36-yard field goal finally got the Bobcats on the scoreboard.
Navy responded with a 75-yard drive capped by Greene’s 10-yard left-side dash early in the fourth quarter. On the first play following the ensuing kickoff, Rutherford threw a 62-yard TD pass to Battle, cutting the lead to 21-10.
Johnson recovered his own onside kick, but Texas State’s attempt to get within four points was marred by penalties for a false start, face masking and encroachment and stalled on a fourth-down pass completion that came up short.
Navy missed an opportunity to add to its lead with 3:22 left when Nick Sloan was wide left on a 36-yard field goal attempt, his second miss of the game.