Navy didn’t have any problem getting its ground game working in a blasting of Virginia in the Military Bowl. Here are five things that matter.
2017 Military Bowl: Navy 49, Virginia 7
5. Apparently, this option thing is harder to stop than it appears
San Diego State had a great run defense and the type of team good enough to slow down, if not shut down, Army. Nope – the Knights won their bowl game with a dominant performance from the ground attack.
Virginia is full of good, veteran defenders along with a smart coaching staff, but it wasn’t even close.
Give Navy credit for being amazing, precise, and doing everything right, but the Cavaliers just couldn’t hit the curveball.
452 Navy rushing yards later, and, again, nope … Virginia didn’t have it. But …
4. Virginia didn’t show up
What was that?!
After fighting so hard to go bowling, and considering how much the program and the players wanted to get that extra game after years of futility, the Cavaliers just weren’t prepared on either side of the ball.
Fine, the defense couldn’t figure out the Navy option. That happens. But there’s no excuse for this offense to be as miserable as it was. Shut out? NOTHING after returning the opening kickoff for a score?
This wasn’t okay.
The offensive line couldn’t do anything, the ground game finished with just 30 yards – 20 on one carry – and veteran QB Kurt Benkert was miserable, completing just 16-of-36 passes for 145 yards and a pick.
3. Bronco Mendenhall … really?!
It’s not like Mendenhall hasn’t dealt with the option before.
His BYU teams owned Air Force for years back when the Cougars were a part of the Mountain West. And with all the experience and tackling talent on the Cavalier defense, this was inexcusable.
And now, it’s been a long, long time since Mendenhall won a bowl game. He lost his last three bowls at BYU, and now this, meaning the 2012 Poinsettia was the last post-season game his teams have won.
2. Welcome back, Zach Abey
Amazing at times during the regular season, the Navy quarterback suffered a slew of injuries and had concussion issues. It was all about Malcolm Perry in the Army game – he ran for 114 yards and two scores against Virginia – but Abey was back to form in the bowl.
He ran 13 times for 88 yards and five touchdowns, running and playing like the extra running back he really is. And now that he’s coming back along with Perry,
1. Ken Niumatalolo does it again
Yeah, the option isn’t a sexy offense for the bigger programs, but winning is fun.
Granted, Georgia Tech has been hit-or-miss over the years under Paul Johnson, but Niumatalolo has created a consistent machine that just keeps on winning.
With this, Navy finishes 7-6 for the sixth straight wining season and ninth in his ten-year run. Throw in the four bowl wins in the last five years, and he’s got something special going.
Remember, he’s doing this mostly with players who wouldn’t get a shot at most FBS programs – he’s recruiting to a type to the nth degree.
And now his team just took down an ACC team that gave Miami all it could handle.