Malcolm Perry was the last player Saturday evening to walk off Lincoln Financial Field and head to the Navy locker room. When you dominate an Army-Navy game like he did, people want photos they can cherish for years to come.
“I’m not one to say no so I was caught up for a while on the field,” Perry said. “It was a good feeling.”
The Midshipmen’s senior quarterback set a flotilla of records in the 120th meeting of the service academy rivals, with the most significant being his 304 rushing yards that helped Navy break a three-game losing streak in the series and defeat the Black Knights, 31-7, before a crowd of 68,705 that included President Donald J. Trump.
The victory gave the Mids (10-2) possession of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy thanks to their wins over Army and Air Force. They extended their lead in the 120-game series to 61-52-7. Army finished its season with a 5-8 record.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Perry, who carried the ball 29 times, scored a pair of touchdowns on runs of 55 and 15 yards, using a devastating jump-cut to break free on the first, and pure speed on the second. He finished the game with Navy single-season records for rushing yards (1,804) and total offense yards (2,831).
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo called Perry “the greatest running back that I’ve coached here at the academy” and marveled at his moves.
“That’s God-given,” he said. “I wish we could show a clinic like him doing something and us showing some cone drills like we helped him. That’s him. Either you have that or don’t. He’s just an amazing runner.”
Perry, named the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s most valuable player, preferred to talk more about getting the win, Navy’s first over the Black Knights since 2015, and not about his individual numbers.
“It means the world,” he said. “This was my biggest goal. Of course, I wanted to have a great season, regular season, accomplish a lot of great things, win a conference championship, but for me personally, this was the biggest game I’ve ever played in my life. We didn’t win the last three games but that makes this win even more sweet.”
Army entered the game without its regular starting quarterback. Senior Kelvin Hopkins Jr., the most valuable player of last year’s contest, suffered a pulled hamstring in the team’s Nov. 30 game against Hawaii and only had one day of practice since then. He played Army’s last two series.
The Black Knights went with junior Christian Anderson, making his first career start, and he did a fine job of taking Army 78 yards in 18 plays for the game’s first touchdown in the opening quarter. However, the Navy defense settled down, and held its opponent to 148 total yards in the game.
Perry’s 55-yard run tied the game early in the second quarter, and the Midshipmen took the lead for good 6 seconds before halftime on their version of the “Philly Special.” Perry took the snap, went left, pitched to wide receiver Chance Warren coming the other way, and Warren threw a 1-yard scoring pass to fullback Jamale Carothers.
The second half was all Navy. Carothers scored on a 5-yard run, Bijan Nichols kicked a 37-yard field goal and Perry capped it off with his 15-yard TD dash around left end with 1:42 to play.
“I couldn’t be happier to see Malcolm Perry graduate,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “He is a terrific player. He ran through us today. There wasn’t much we could do about it. He wasn’t the only one. They did a good job of running the football and blocking us.”
The Midshipmen, who came in as the FBS leader in rushing offense at 360.8 yards per game, rolled up 395 yards on the ground and passed for one – the trick-play touchdown pass. But the only numbers they cared about was the final score.
“That was the biggest thing for me, especially my senior year never having beaten Army at all,” senior linebacker Nizaire Cromartie said. “I felt like even from the freshman class, the sophomores and juniors, that was the biggest thing on their goal sheet as well. So I’m blessed to be a part of this team with these talented guys and be successful this year.”