• Diane Roberts

#23 SMU Handles Midshipmen, Navy Stuck At a Single Win

by Diane Roberts

There was a lot of optimism following Navy's come-from-behind win in Week 5 over Central Florida: special teams played well, the offense was clicking and the Mids put up their first win of the season. But then, undefeated Southern Methodist came to town, and despite being tied at halftime, Navy lost 31-24 to the Mustangs.

In just four plays the now #23-ranked Mustangs jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the 66-yard Tanner Mordecai pass to Reggie Roberson, barely 90 seconds into the game.

The Mids answered on their second drive of the game, capping off a 50-yard drive with a Chance Warren 23-yard scamper to tie the game at seven.

Then Navy would take the lead, 14-7, thanks quarterback Tai Lavatai's first TD pass of his collegiate career, and some trickery. The play started with a hand-off to Warren, who then flicked it back to the QB, and then Lavatai hit slotback Kai Puailoa-Rojas wide open over the middle for the 38-yard touchdown.

"We kinda worked on that," Warren said after the game, "The coaches are geniuses. They drew it up exactly how it was going to look. We got the look we wanted in the game and just executed."

Midway through the second quarter, Navy's defense lowered the boom on Mordecai. Nose tackle Clay Cromwell caused a strip sack that linebacker Diego Fagot scooped up and took to the house for a 21-yard touchdown. The Mids had a two-touchdown lead over their undefeated guests.

That momentum was cut short as SMU's Brian Massey returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and cut the lead to just seven in another special teams breakdown for Navy.

"You're up 21-7 and you're feeling really good about things," Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We got the crowd into the game, everything's going great and that kickoff return just killed us."

The Mustangs would add another score before halftime and, just like that, the game was tied at 21 after two quarters.

In the second half the Navy offense sputtered. They punted twice, twice failed to convert on fourth down, and their only score was a 50-yard field goal from Bijan Nichols. For the game Navy had 241 yards of total offense, but only 79 of them in the second half.

"Offensively we couldn't get anything going and that hurt us," Niumatalolo said after the game, "Not being able to be consistent on offense in the second half."

Meanwhile, Mordecai -- who leads all of college football with 26 touchdown passes this season -- would throw his second touchdown of the day and seal the 7-point Mustang win.

Navy needs to have a short memory about this disappointing loss. The Mids take their 1-4 record to Memphis on Thursday night, the 14th, for a conference game, and then it's back to Annapolis the following weekend for another AAC match-up against the #3-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats.

edited for web by Joe Harman