It was clear -- even before the game -- that the winner of the 119th meeting between Army and Navy on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field would dominate the running game.
After all, Army went into the game ranked second in the nation in rushing yards, and Navy was third. On the other hand, Navy was last in the nation in passing yards, and Army was next-to-last. These teams run the ball.
And the expectation came true. Army outrushed Navy, 222-127, and won the game, 17-10. Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. led all rushers with 64 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Darnell Woolfolk added 62 yards, and running back Kell Walker had a 56-yard performance that was highlighted by a 51-yarder.
For Navy, running back Malcolm Perry led the team with 52 rushing yards, which included a 43-yard run. Running back Anthony Gargiulo had 38 yards. Navy quarterback Garret Lewis, who entered the game in relief of starter Zach Abey, added 14 yards and a touchdown.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” said Army head coach Jeff Monken, whose rushing defense was ranked 12th in the nation. "They came up with some really key plays and key stops.”
Army linebacker Cole Christiansen credited defensive coordinator Jay Bateman for anticipating what the Navy offense was planning.
“He knew exactly where the ball was going every play, it seemed like, and we just ran where he told us to run, and we made plays when we got there,” Christiansen said. “We’re just a tough physical bunch of guys, and we pride ourselves on that.”
The passing game was never a factor. Army completed a few passes early, but Navy struggled and did not complete its first pass until the fourth quarter. Lewis completed 5-of-11 passes for 81 yards. Army’s Hopkins completed 4-of-9 passes for 61 yards. Abey was 0-for-5 with two interceptions.
"It was hard to run the football, and we knew each other well,” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo.
In addition to Army’s defense, Navy made it hard on itself by losing two fumbles, one in the fourth quarter on the Army 3-yard line by Lewis on a keeper. Later in the fourth quarter, Abey fumbled, and Army recovered at the Navy 22-yard line.