It’s uncommon for a timeout to be the turning point in a football game, but a timely decision by Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo changed the course of Saturday afternoon’s rivalry game against Army and helped the Midshipmen extend their winning streak in the series to 13 games with a 17-10 win.
The Black Knights, already leading 7-0 late in the first half, faced a fourth-and-one from the Navy 30-yard line. Army dialed up a quarterback sneak, and Angel Santiago appeared to pick up the first down, but the play was whistled dead after Niumatalolo called timeout just before the ball was snapped.
Following the timeout, Army’s next attempt was stuffed by the Navy defense, forcing a turnover on downs. The momentum swung toward the Midshipmen and six plays later, a Navy offense that had struggled the entire half scored on a Keenan Reynolds touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman to tie the score 7-7 going into half.
Navy took a 10-7 lead on a 45-yard Austin Grebe field goal on its opening drive of the second half and controlled the game the rest of the way.
Despite a fantastic effort from a swarming Army defense, the Black Knights just could not get anything going on offense. First-year coach Jeff Monken's squad struck first early in the first quarter when Xavier Moss returned a blocked punt seven yards for a touchdown, but the offense struggled to score more points despite crossing into Navy territory four different times.
Following Grebe’s field goal, Army’s Daniel Grochowski had a chance to tie the game with a field goal of his own, but he hooked a 49-yard attempt to the left. Navy took over and showed off its top-ranked ground attack. A Reynolds (100 rushing yards, 77 passing yards) one-yard touchdown run capped off a 15-play, 69-yard drive that took 7:49 off the clock, giving the Midshipmen a 17-7 lead with 12:07 to go.
Army’s next drive got off to a promising start with runs six, seven and ten yards, but the drive soon turned sour. After crossing the Navy 40-yard line, A.J. Schurr, in at quarterback for Santiago, fumbled on a second down run.
Navy took over and ran another four minutes off the clock before Army got another shot with 3:47 to go. Schurr led the Black Knights into Navy territory again, but this time Grochowski cut the Navy lead to 17-10 with a 52-yard field goal with 1:51 to go.
Army’s attempt at regaining position via an onside kick failed, and Navy was able to run out the clock and seal the win.
Not only did the win extend Navy’s winning streak in the series to 13, Niumatalolo broke a program record with his 56th win.
The Midshipmen, heading into Poinsettia Bowl against San Diego State on Dec. 23, improved to 7-5 with the win. Army dropped to 4-8.
- - - - - - -