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Navy fights back twice in second half to defeat SMU, 28-21
Annapolis, MD - Alex Teich's second TD of the day on a 5-yard run gave Navy a 28-21 lead with 1:38 left in the game after Tyler Simmons INT of a Kyle Padron pass gave the Mids possession on the SMU 13 to finish a big comeback win for Navy in Annapolis before 33,924 at a happy homecoming celebration. SMU's third TD pass of the game tied Navy 21-21 with 2:51 left in the game after Navy overcame a 14-0 halftime deficit with TDs on each of their first three possessions of the second half. It was an exciting game for Collegefootballfan.com on a beautiful football Saturday for "no better way to spend an autumn afternoon." We were also thrilled to see Navy honor former DB Chet Moeller, whom I saw play many times in 1974-75, at halftime on his induction to the College Football Hall of Fame. Many of the highlights captured during his Navy career were displayed on the scoreboard. It brought back a lot of memories of games seen in the past.
Things went Navy's way to start things off. SMU went three and out to start the game to punt to Navy, and the first offensive series seemed to be going Navy's way until a thirty-yard pass from Ricky Dobbs to Aaron Santiago slipped though the wide-out's fingers in the end zone to void Navy's potential lead. SMU stopped USNA at the 30 on a fourth and three. Things went SMU's way immediately as the 71-yard drive resulted in seven points when Padron threw a five-yarder to Cole Beasley and Matt Szymanski converted the extra point for the 7-0 lead. An announcement came over the P.A. System, "Virginia license plate number "XXXXX", your engine is running and your car is locked. Please go to the parking lot on the gold side of the stadium to turn your engine off." Someone must have had environmental concerns. Maybe the owner locked the only set of keys they had inside and decided to go to watch the game and call AAA afterwards. That's what we'd have done. The first period ended, and the crowd sat through one of many long TV time-outs during the CBS College Sports TV broadcast. The delays were longer than those we've sat through during ESPN broadcasts. How many weapon system suppliers advertise during Navy games? The game action delays reminded us of being at a pro game in person.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Padron hooked up with Darius Johnson (12 catches for 104 yards, 1 TD) for a three-yard TD pass and a 14-0 lead. On the subsequent Navy series, the Mids came up empty again as PK Joe Buckley misfired on a 39-yard FG. A second announcement came across the P.A. seeking the owner of the car with the engine left running. Padron ( 28 of 42, 254 yards, 1 INT, 3 TDs) had his team moving again before the half. A sack by LB Jerry Hauburger for eight yards forced a 43 yard FG attempt. The Mids blocked it and time expired to end the second period with SMU holding a comfortable 14-0 lead.
Former Navy DB Chet Moeller was honored to start the halftime festivities. Moeller's accolades while at Navy from 1973-75 included First Team All-American in 1975, ECAC Player of the Year, Second Team academic All-American, two-time All East, Co-captain during his senior year, and winner of the Naval Academy Association Sword presented for athletic excellence to a Senior class member. He became a Marine Officer and still serves as a board member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The big scoreboard displayed highlights of his Navy career. He made 275 stops including 25 for losses. Several were displayed and I remember some great ones to this day as he stayed low knifing past blockers to "submarine" a ball carrier for a big loss. He was fun to watch. The board showed highlights with big hits against Penn State in 1974 when Navy pulled off the 7-6 win at State College the last time these two teams played. They will play again in 2012. A replay also showed him taking down down Heisman Winner and NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett when Navy met Pitt. The Navy program and Navy-Marine Corps Stadium have come a long way since then, but Chet and the Navy squad of those day epitomized the spirit of Navy football even during those tough times. Seeing Chet and watching those highlights made me happy to say that I had a chance to witness many games played by a great college football player. Jack Lengyl, the USNA AD during those times was one of the presenters. He is also known as the Head Coach who took over the Marshall football program forty years ago after the crash killing most of the players and coaches of that program. The Drum and Bugle Corps finished the festivities with their always stirring renditions of "Anchors Aweigh" and "The Marine Corps Hymn". The P.A. announcer now specifically called the name of the missing driver to report to his car to turn the engine off. No subsequent announcements were made. NCIS (or the Annapolis PD) found their missing driver.
started the second half from their own 19. The Navy offense got
jump-started on a third and 17 when Dobbs (6 of 9, 84 yards, 1 TD, and 19 for 67
rushing yards) connected with Santiago on a tight spiral for a 51-yard
gain down the middle of the field. On gutsy all on fourth and goal
at the three, Dobbs rolled right and hit Santiago crossing from his left for a
three-yard TD pass. Buckley's PAT brought Navy to within 14-7.
Navy's defense held SMU to three-and-out on its next series and started the
offense from the 20 following a touchback. A big 33-yard run by Greg Jones
and a facemask penalty on the same play put Navy at SMU's 20. From our
perspective sitting eight rows up in the south end zone of Navy-Marine Corps
Stadium, we watched SMU CB Benny Thomas do a lot of jabbering, finger-pointing,
and extra curricular activities with Navy receivers during this series. He
was "jawing" at the side judge as well as the Navy sideline where Capt. Robert
E. Clark II, Commandant of Midshipmen, stood. With 1:57 left in the
FB Alexander Teich (21 carries for 95 yards, 2 TDs) , a junior FB from Conroe, Texas had the honors to score against the visitors from Dallas from the two to put Navy in the lead for the first time in the game, 21-14. A little nastiness had been spreading with extra -curricular stuff going on primarily between Navy receivers and the SMU secondary. After exchanging punts, SMU started from their own 43 with eight minutes remaining. Padron connected with Johnson and Beasley as his key receivers to get to Navy's 10. From there he found Kyle Guinyard in the end zone for a TD to tie the game up, 21-21. Guest Game Analyst Frank Lorito envisioned overtime. Navy punted the ball away on its next possession and Frank looked to be correct. SMU had the ball on its own 11 and June Jones' team would throw the ball to give itself a chance to win with less than two minutes to play in the game. Padron's first pass was picked off by LB Tyler Simmons who darted in front of his intended receiver to put the Mids in scoring position at the Ponies' 13. Teich charged up the middle for his second score and Navy's defense held on to win as time ran out for SMU.
The Mids won their second straight tight game to go to 4-2. The loss snapped SMU's two-game winning streak to put them at 4-3. We'll see Navy play 4-3 Notre Dame next Saturday at the New Meadowlands Stadium. The Mustangs return down on the Boulevard to host 3-3 Conference-USA foe Houston (3-3). It was fun, interesting game to attend, not as high-scoring as we initially perceived, but well-played and entertaining nonetheless. Both teams should be bowling someplace this year. After the singing of "Navy Blue and Gold", Captain Clark made the homecoming win even happier for many Mids as he granted Liberty that night for all Mids eligible to do so. We would take advantage of downtown Annapolis after the game as well.
Extra points: LB Taylor Reed recorded 20 tackles for the Stangs from his LB position.
Padron graduated from Southlake high School in Texas where other well-known QBs played including Drew Brees, of Super Bowl stardom who we saw play for Purdue.
So much for being a precision march unit. While playing in the stands, the Navy D&B Sousaphone section spelled out " GO AVYN".
The blocked FG to end the half came on third down. SMU had plans to run another play, but they were out of time-outs and the clock ran out.
The Homecoming flyover featured FA18s flown by the Gladiators out of Oceana NAS in Virginia. The lead Hornet was flown by a Naval Academy grad and his wingman was a grad of Ohio State. The wingman's school didn't have such a great days as they lost to Wisconsin to relinquish their No. 1 status in the polls.
After Navy's final score, the physicality of the game resulted in a roughing the kicker call on the extra point by Buckley. Jon Teague handles kickoff duties for Navy and boomed it out of the end zone to avoid any runback by SMU and set them up at the 20. On a subsequent play from scrimmage, Tuani lost his helmet earlier in a play and pursed a ball carrier down the field to help with the tackle. He was briefly attended to by the medical staff but appeared to be OK. It was scary for a few moments,
Electing to tailgate in a local church parking lot near Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, we ended up paring next to Gene Haplea and his wife. Gene is not only a 1976 USNA grad, but his son Kevin is now the starting TE for Penn State. He stepped up after a couple of injuries to starters in the last few games. The true freshman is a graduate of North Hunterdon (NJ) High School. We'll be watching for him and his parents when we head back to State College for the game against Northwestern on November 6.
After traffic cleared around the stadium following the game, we drove to downtown Annapolis for the evening. Regretfully, once again the public dock was inaccessible to us as their was boat show going on in the area. Previous visits for us were thwarted by construction improvements to the area. We stopped into Dillo's near the dock for drinks and appetizers to while we caught up on scores of the day. Their walls were adorned with Navy stuff. I don't remember anything like that in town 35 years ago. Frank pointed out that the attitude for the military has changed much for the better since those days around the end of the war in Viet Nam. After that, we both enjoyed the Mediterranean Platters at the Federal House. A DJ was pumping up the music there. We bought cigars (3 for $20 or more gets you a freebie) at the Annapolis Cigar Company on 121 Main Street. On a trip to the men's room, Frank found they had a smoking lounge in back. We puffed away catching up on late scores on the TV there while some young female Psychology major psyho-analyzed a few new-found friends behind us. Frank wanted to be analyzed. I wished we had brought a bottle of something with us to make the analysis even more interesting. We'll plan ahead next time.
We hope to return next season to see Navy host East Carolina. Frank's stepdaughter and my niece, Katie, is a freshman now at ECU. We hope we can work something out. Go Navy!