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The Goal - See 'em all!
South Carolina's ground attack defeats Navy's, 24-21
Columbia, South Carolina - In a
In the first period following a Navy quick-kick on fourth dawn and South Carolina turning the ball over on downs, Navy meticulously dissected the Gamecock defense with the option attack to drive 65 yards for the game's first score when Slot back John Howell raced 27 yards stunning the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd for a touchdown. Jon Teague's extra point gave Navy the 7-0 lead. The Garnet and Black came right back on the subsequent series as Lattimore did most of the work picking up yards on the ground before taking it over from the six to get SC on the board. Jay Wooten's conversion evened the score heading into the second with Navy once again controlling the ball with a prolonged drive.
A minute and ten seconds into the second, QB Kriss Proctor (17 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD on the ground and 5 of 9 passing for 61 yards and one INT) carried it over from the five to put Navy on top, 14-7. Navy appeared to have held the Cocks in check on its next series, but on a third-and fifteen from his own 29, Stephen Garcia (18 of 25 passes for 204 yards and 1 INT) connected with Nick Jones on an over-the should catch to pick up a first down at the Navy 27. Lattimore finished off the 80-yard drive with his five yard run with 8:05 left in the half. Indicating how concerned South Carolina was about its inability to stop the Navy option, SC lined up to kick an onside kick. The ball was caught and downed by Navy on the Gamecock 40. However, Navy HC Ken Niumatololo made a big mistake calling a timeout right before the ball was kicked. The result gave Steve Spurrier a chance to rethink things quickly, and he kicked the ball away to void the risk and set Navy up at their own 25. The Mids got as far as the SC 37 before turning the ball over on downs. Garcia connected on a fourth and ten to TE Justice to get to the Navy 36. With :00 left in the half, Wooten got SC three to put the Cocks up, 17-14, at the half.
My daughter, Alex, and my money go to the University of South Carolina, but when it comes to football teams, my heart is still with Navy and Penn State. I went to USNA for two years before the Navy and I realized that I was not engineering material. I knew it before they did, but I still follow Navy football and root for the Mids every game. Next year, when they play at Penn State, I'm hoping that the OT rule is rescinded that day so the game can end in a tie. Luckily, I think my son Eric has a varsity game that afternoon next year so I won't be able to take sides. As a matter of fact, this is how Eric described what is was like being at the game this weekend to my daughter when we met up with her the next day: "We sat among all the South Carolina fans in our section. Everyone was turning around looking near us trying to figure out who was cheering for Navy because everyone was wearing South Carolina stuff." Not exactly. I did wear my scarlet No. 119 jersey depicting my Goal to "see them all!" I wore it over my garnet USC hooded sweatshirt. On the way out Saturday morning, I could not find my blue and gold Navy baseball cap, so I opted to bring my PSU cap and a garnet, black and white camo Carolina cap I bought last time I was down in Columbia. Last minute out from the hotel, I just grabbed the SC hat. When I got to our seats, I had to root for Navy despite what I was wearing and didn't hold back. Navy played well and provided a lot to cheer about. I'm glad I did. I promise the surrounding fans in Section 309 that when I'm back for the Clemson game, I will be rooting just as enthusiastically for the Gamecocks! Beat Clemson!
South Carolina started the second half with the line of scrimmage starting from their eight. Their offense was driving until the Mids finally got a pressure and smacked Garcia as he threw the ball, and Kwesi Mitchell picked the bird off to put Navy back in business starting from its nine. It prevented the Mids from possibly trailing by ten. Methodically, the Mids did not skip a beat from their initial, offensive game plan. They covered 91 yards in 6:10 to capitalize with a one-yard scoring run by FB Alexander Teich (15 carries for 93 yards and 1 TD). Navy shocked the No. 10 Cocks to regain the lead 21-17 going into the final period, but Lattimore was at it again.
On the 15th play of the SC drive entering the final period, he ran it in from the seven to take back the lead, 24-17, with 12:45 left in the game. The Carolina defense put some stops to the Navy option offense on first and second downs forcing the left-handed Proctor to throw the ball. The option team's passing game was off its mark as receivers were not looking for Proctor's passes early enough on several occasions. The Mids punted away in punt formation for the only time for either team during this game from the 26. USC drove 48 yards to the Navy five for a fourth and short, but the Mid defense stopped Lattimore this time for one of his few losses, and took over from the six. This is where Navy's time-consuming strategy does not work. Their passing game was nil and their running game can't stop the clock unless they peel off ten yards per carry. With 1:00 left to play, Antonio Allen's INT thwarted Navy's last-ditch attempt to at least drive for a FG. SC triumphed, 24-21, on Marcus Lattimore's career-high 246 yards. I hope he exceeds that mark when I go see him play Clemson (currently 3-0 and a winner over Auburn last Saturday).
The Mids take a week off to prep for Commander-in-Chief rival Air Force (1-1) who skillfully runs the same triple-option. Carolina hosts surprising 3-0 Vanderbilt this Saturday on parents weekend. My wife Laurie will be attending that with Alex as I go to Eric's game Friday night and to Lehigh vs. Liberty on Saturday.
Extra points: Bumper sticker on the way from Charlotte Airport to Columbia on Saturday: "Decrease the redneck population - neuter a Clemson fan!"
Three SC students used some imagination the honor Jadeveon Clowney, SC's freshman DE. One dressed in a clown suit, and his buddies had "E" and "Y" painted on their bodies and stood next to him.
Whatever fans boo the Navy team as it takes the field just don't seem to get it. This is not a bunch of blue-chip athletes playing football looking to sign million dollar contracts to play in the NFL and possibly squander that away. These are true student-athletes who have to meet high academic standards necessary to defend America's freedom throughout the world. These are the guys who navigate ships so sharpshooters under another officer's command can pick off Somali pirates from the deck of a ship to rescue the crew of a merchant ship. These are guys who fly helicopters into a foreign compound in the middle of the night to deploy Navy SEALS to take out the highest-ranking terrorists. Some of those SEALS are possibly even former Navy players. These are guys flying jets off the decks of carriers to take out targets trying to stop others from keeping the enemy far from our shores. These are guys training to lead Marines on to those shores. These are guys who within a year or so are going to be some place far from a football stadium. These are young people who will be risking their lives so we can enjoy life like no other country on this planet. You boo that team carrying American flags on to the football field, you're booing more than just another college football team of pampered athletes playing yours. You're booing the best this country has to offer. Root for your team against them when the action takes place on the field, but think about who these players are and what that school means to all of us when they enter your stadium.
Overheard: One SC fan commented, "This is the best team Navy's had in fifteen years." I guess that's what life is like in the sheltered SEC. If he had said that Navy is much improved over what it was 15 years ago, I'd agree. For eight straight years, Navy's won eight or more games every season and gone to eight bowl games (4-4). It's won 10 games twice in a season over that span. Navy's been thriving since Paul Johnson took over in 2002 and handed the reins over to Ken Niumatalolo four years ago. The triple option has done them well based on the skill sets their student athletes bring to the game of college football.
We'll see Navy play Rutgers at RU on Oct. 15 and the following week home against ECU. We may see them play Army and we'll most likely see them play a post season bowl at D.C.'s Military bowl. Go Navy!