BALTIMORE – Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo poked some fun at himself on Dec. 14 after watching quarterback Malcolm Perry turn in a performance for the ages as the Midshipmen ended a three-game losing streak against arch-rival Army.
“I’m a bad coach,” he said in a TV interview. “How did I bench him last year?”
He played Perry this year, and everything turned around for Navy, including in the annual Army game in Philadelphia on Dec. 14. Perry ran for 304 yards and two touchdowns as the Midshipmen rolled to a 31-7 victory over the Black Knights.
Perry, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior, became the fourth quarterback in FBS history to run for 300 yards in a game. For Perry, though, the victory over Army meant more than the numbers.
“This was the biggest game I’ve played in my life,” Perry said. “We didn’t win the last three games. But that makes this even more sweet.”
Navy improved to 10-2 this season with one game left, a Dec. 31 meeting against Kansas State in the Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis. With the win over the Black Knights, the Midshipmen now lead the series with Army 61-52-7.
But this game belonged to Perry. He scored on runs of 55 and 15 yards (in the second and fourth quarters, respectively) as Navy truly stuck with the ground game. Perry also set the record for most rushing yards in a season (1,804) as well as total offense in a season (2,831 yards).
Perry ran 29 times for his 304 yards and those two scores. Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers added 75 yards rushing on 22 carries and one more touchdown.
The senior quarterback did not throw one pass. He dropped back a few times but took off out of the pocket and ran. The only pass the Midshipmen threw was from wide receiver Chance Warren as he received the handoff from Perry and tossed a short pass to Carothers on the right side of the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown. After the game, Niumatalolo called the play Navy’s version of the “Philly Special,” in the home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
Despite surrounding the game’s first touchdown after Army ran an 18-play drive, Navy did not struggle to pull away with the victory. Niumatalolo said the Midshipmen wanted to get the ball into Perry’s hands and let him get going. The plan worked very well.
“We wanted to open up the box,” Niumatalolo said. “The last few years, we played in a phone booth. We didn’t want to play that way. We wanted to spread things out and let Malcolm’s talent take over.”
Navy held onto the ball for huge chunks of the game, finishing with over 32 minutes of possession time, while running down the play clock with their running game. With less than two minutes remaining, Perry rushed for 15 yards to score the final touchdown to send all the Navy fans home happy.
This was Niumatalolo’s 10th victory in the Army-Navy series and his 97th career win with the Midshipmen, making him the program’s most winningest coach.
Navy swimming sweeps Army
The Navy swimming teams continued the school’s dominance over its rivals as they easily topped Army in a home meet on Dec. 12.
The women rolled to a 221-79 win while the men scored a 194-106 victory over Army. For the Navy women, they won 13 of the 16 contested events and won the meet for a 31st consecutive year.
Navy’s men won 11 events and stretched its winning streak to 29 in this series. Both Navy women’s Head Coach John Morrison and men’s coach Bill Roberts said the crowd that packed Lejeune Hall helped the Mids.
“It was an amazing turnover for this event, and I cannot put into words what this means to our programs,” Roberts said.
There were several strong performances for Navy, one of which came when Sydney Harrington posted a time of 1:54.47 in the 100-meter breaststroke, which topped her school and league record as well as the meet record and snapped the pool mark of 1:54.53. Olympian Katie Hoff (2007) set that record.