Full speed ahead to date with ND
Mids crush UConn to set up showdown against the Irish
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.”
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.