After losing to Temple 34-26 on Nov. 2 at Lincoln Financial Field and dropping its third consecutive game, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo felt a change was needed at quarterback even though Zach Abey had rushed for 1,202 yards and 13 touchdowns in the first eight games.
Abey injured his shoulder against Temple, but was active for the last week's game against visiting Southern Methodist University. Niumatalolo said Abey wasn't totally healthy but even if he were, the veteran coach said he was contemplating a change.
"I just felt we needed a spark and we had struggled on offense the previous three games," Niumatalolo said during Monday's American Athletic Conference media call.
So Niumatalolo moved sophomore slot back Malcolm Perry to quarterback. In his first career start at quarterback, Perry rushed for an AAC record 282 yards and scored four touchdowns on 33 carries as Navy beat SMU, 43-40.
"Malcolm, for his first game at quarterback, played phenomenally," Niumatalolo said. "He wasn't perfect and didn't get everything right, but provided the spark we were looking for."
It was a wild game in which Navy led 34-11 at halftime but needed an 18-yard field goal by J.R. Osborn on his first college attempt as time expired.
Navy (6-3, 4-3 AAC) became bowl eligible for the 14th time in the last 15 years.
Perry was injured late in the game and junior Garrett Lewis led the Midshipmen on their game-winning drive.
Niumatalolo wasn't ready to announce who his starting quarterback would be for Saturday's game at Notre Dame.
Owls stay put in power rankings
Temple remained No. 7 in the weekly AAC power rankings, conducted by beat writers. The Owls opponent, Central Florida, remained No. 1. Here are the ratings.
1. Central Florida (9-0, 6-0 AAC)
2. Memphis (8-1, 5-1)
3. South Florida (8-1, 5-1)
4. Houston (6-3, 4-2)
5. Navy (6-3, 4-3)
6. SMU (6-4, 3-3)
7. Temple (5-5, 3-3)
8. Cincinnati (3-7, 1-5)
9. Tulane (4-6, 2-4)
10. Connecticut (3-7, 2-5)
11. Tulsa (2-8, 1-5)
12. East Carolina (2-8, 1-5)
Three in the rankings
Three AAC teams earned spots in the Associated Press Top 25. Central Florida is 14th, Memphis is No. 18 and South Florida is 23rd. Central Florida is also 15th in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, while Memphis is 21st.
The AAC remains the only FBS conference with that has three teams with one loss or fewer – UCF, Memphis and South Florida.
Game of the week
Memphis (8-1, 5-1) can clinch the West Division title with a win over visiting SMU (6-4, 3-3) on Saturday (12 p.m., ESPNews). The Tigers were the preseason choice to win the West Division. The only loss has come to Central Florida of the East Division. (All AAC games count in the division standings).
"This week is a championship game for us, and if we find a way to be successful and get a victory then we would accomplish another goal of being West Division champions," Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. "It would be a great day for our program."
This should be a high scoring game since Memphis is second in the AAC in scoring offense (42.3 ppg.) while SMU is third (39.6 ppg.).
Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson has thrown for 2,881 yards and 27 touchdowns. Both totals are best in the AAC.