Full speed ahead to date with ND

Mids crush UConn to set up show­down against the Ir­ish

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Bill Wag­ner

HART­FORD, Conn. — Navy took apart strug­gling Con­necti­cut with mil­i­tary-like pre­ci­sion on Fri­day night.

Quar­ter­back Mal­colm Perry and the of­fense were on tar­get from the out­set, scor­ing touch­downs on four of five pos­ses­sions in the first half to set the tone. Navy’s defense had a cou­ple hic­cups early be­fore es­tab­lish­ing com­mand on that side of the ball.

The Mid­ship­men just had too many of­fen­sive weapons for the Huskies to de­fend and turned the en­gage­ment into a rout, outscor­ing the home team 28-0 in the sec­ond half.

When all was said and done, Perry and com­pany had piled up 573 to­tal yards of of­fense on the way to a 56-10 vic­tory. Navy’s defense did its part by forc­ing three turnovers and mak­ing a huge goal-line stand at the end of the first half.

“A great team win, on the road. I thought our guys played re­ally well,” coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said af­ter­ward.

Ni­u­mat­alolo made no fewer than five ref­er­ences to No. 16 Notre Dame, which hosts Navy on Nov. 16 in South Bend. There’s a good chance the Mid­ship­men will move into the Top 25 this week, which would add drama and hype to the long­est, con­tin­u­ous in­ter­sec­tional ri­valry in col­lege foot­ball.

Navy and Notre Dame have not both been ranked go­ing into the an­nual meet­ing since 1978. Hall of Fame head coach Ge­orge Welsh and leg­endary wide re­ceiver Phil McCon­key would lead the Mids to a 9-3 record that in­cluded a Hol­i­day Bowl vic­tory that sea­son, but the Fight­ing Ir­ish ex­tended their win­ning streak in the se­ries with a 27-7 re­sult at Mu­nic­i­pal Sta­dium in Cleve­land.

“Notre Dame will be the most tal­ented team we play. We have to coach per­fectly, we have to pre­pare per­fectly, we have to play per­fectly just to have a chance to beat them,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “Some­times we’ve played re­ally well and still couldn’t beat them.”

“You come to Navy know­ing that’s go­ing to be your op­po­nent at some point in the sea­son. Ob­vi­ously, that’s a great team. It’s Notre Dame,” Perry said. “So the stage is set. I don’t think there’s much we need to do to mo­ti­vate the guys. Ob­vi­ously, it’s a huge game and we’re ready to go.”

Navy ranked sec­ond be­hind Texas in the oth­ers re­ceiv­ing votes cat­e­gory of the Top 25. The Mid­ship­men have not been ranked since Oc­to­ber 14, 2017.

Navy is 7-1 for only the third time dur­ing the cur­rent triple-op­tion era (2002 to present). This bounce-back cam­paign could be­come his­toric if the Mid­ship­men can nav­i­gate the next four games.

“From where we were last year, to be 7-1 at this point – I’m en­cour­aged. It’s a tes­ta­ment to our se­nior lead­er­ship. They did a great job dur­ing the off­sea­son of build­ing the cul­ture of our pro­gram,”

Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “Our mantra has been 1-0. Just think about win­ning the next game. It’s great to be 7-1, but we don’t want to stop here. We want to keep press­ing for­ward.”

Perry, who be­came just the sec­ond player in Navy his­tory to sur­pass 1,000 yards rush­ing in three sep­a­rate sea­sons, echoed those sen­ti­ments when asked how it felt to be 7-1 at this point.

“It means a lot. This is what we worked for all off­sea­son,” said Perry, who joined record-set­ting quar­ter­back Keenan Reynolds in the ex­clu­sive club. “We’ve only put our­selves in a great po­si­tion. We have some tough com­peti­tors com­ing up over the next few weeks.”

STEPHEN DUNN/AP

Navy full­back Ja­male Carothers (34) and the Mid­ship­men are off to a 7-1 start and a pos­si­ble Top 25 rank­ing, but a game against Notre Dame looms.

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