It was Navy’s gift to Philadelphia, a 1-yard touchdown pass just before halftime that resembled a Super Bowl moment that Eagles fans will long remember.
“It was off the Philly Special so it was kind of appropriate to run it here,” Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo said Saturday after his team defeated Army, 31-7, at Lincoln Financial Field. “But we had to change it. We changed it to Navy Special.”
On the play, quarterback Malcolm Perry took the snap and went left, pitching to wide receiver Chance Warren running to the right. Warren lofted a pass on the run to the end zone that fullback Jamale Carothers caught just inside the sideline for the touchdown, Navy’s only pass completion of the game, for a 14-7 lead with 6 seconds remaining in the half.
Niumatalolo credited offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper with the play.
“He designed the play,” he said. “It was great execution. That was a heck of a catch by Jamale. I didn’t even know he caught it. We had practiced it a lot this week. Coach Jasper said in the meetings this play would win the game for us.”
“I just wanted to make sure I was inbounds and try to make a play on the ball,” Carothers said. “I knew either way we were going to get points on that possession so I just tried to give myself the best chance possible.”
End of the streak
Army’s seniors saw their dream of a 4-0 career record against Navy go unfulfilled, but their 34 victories as a class were the most since the class of 1946 also won 34 games, capturing national championships in 1944 and 1945.
“It’s really been an awesome four-year experience for us,” linebacker Cole Christiansen said. “This definitely hasn’t been the season we wanted to end on, but we’ve probably learned more as leaders this year than we have in the past three. We’re grateful for that. I’m proud of all my brothers and the class of 2020.”
Black Knights coach Jeff Monken remembered the commitment the current seniors made after some lean seasons.
“They committed to our program before there were any bowl games or Commander-In-Chief Trophies,” he said. “They believed enough in the program and the players that they met, the coaching staff and in West Point, that they wanted to come and be a part of it. So I am grateful for the commitment they made. They’ve been a part of some really great victories here.”
Figuring it out
Army looked ready to win a fourth straight game against Navy after going 78 yards in 18 plays in 10 minutes, 41 seconds of playing time to take an early 7-0 lead. But the Mids defense knew what it had to do to regroup.
“I just know the guys that have been practicing since spring ball, we wanted it more,” linebacker Nizaire Cromartie said. “So whether it was going to be two of those drives and they scored twice, the product was going to be the same in the end. I think that’s very true, but at the same time we made adjustments and we just kind of analyzed our own play and made some adjustments there.”
Linebacker Paul Carothers said the defense had to adjust to what the Black Knights, and new starting quarterback Christian Anderson, were doing.
“I would just say our defense gained a familiarity with what they were trying to do,” he said. “They do it well, they’ve done it well for a long time. But seeing it live and just seeing their strategy, we had to keep our eyes right and get the flow.”
He’s No. 1
With the victory, Niumatalolo became the winningest coach in the history of the Army-Navy game, improving his record to 9-4 against the Black Knights.
“It’s about our players, it’s not about me,” he said. “I feel very humbled that I’ve been here this long. But this is always about players. As coaches, we try to help our guys. You win with players. I’m humbled by this, but the players won these games.”