Navy’s offense faltered in a 15-0 loss to Army in the 121st matchup of America’s Game, and the Black Knights shut out the Midshipmen for the first time since 1969.
Army (8-2) has won four of the past five games against Navy (3-7) but still trails the all-time series 61-53-7.
It was the first time the game was played at a home site since 1943, when Navy won, 13-0, in a game played at West Point due to World War II. Navy also won the 1942 game in Annapolis 14-0.
A scuffle ensued with five seconds left in the game but was quickly broken up. Here are five takeaways from Navy’s loss:
1. Army entered the game ranked third nationally with 296.7 yards rushing per game. The Black Knights were effective again with 134 yards on the ground, which allowed them to control the tempo of the game.
Army had some challenges at quarterback this season, but sophomore Tyhier Tyler has emerged as a key playmaker. Tyler is one of six players to play quarterback for the Black Knights this year, and he might have played his best game against the Midshipmen. He ran for 96 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown. He also completed his only pass attempt for 28 yards. It was all the offense that was needed in this game.
2. Army can win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with a win against Air Force Dec. 19.
Navy’s defense had some struggles this season, mostly because of challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo opted not to tackle in preseason practice, and the lack of technique showed in blowout losses to BYU, Air Force and SMU. The Midshipmen entered the game allowing 212.6 yards rushing per game, which ranked 109th among FBS programs.
Navy played better against Army, and there weren’t many issues with tackling. However, there were some costly lapses. Trailing 3-0 late in the third quarter, Navy had a chance at a key takeaway, but cornerback Jamal Glenn failed to scoop up a fumble instead of just falling on the ball. Three other Navy defenders could not manage a recovery before the ball rolled out of bounds and Army maintained possession. Overall, Navy’s defense put forth an admirable performance on the road.
3. Xavier Arline was just the fifth freshman to start at quarterback for the Midshipmen in this annual game.
The Mids had gone 3-1 in the previous four games with Keenan Reynolds leading Navy to a win in 2012 (17-13), Jim Kubiak in 1991 (24-3) and Mike Roban in 1974 (19-0). After a shaky start, Arline showed poise and managed a 64-yard run early in the third quarter. However, Navy could not score on four attempts inside the 5-yard line, which could have swayed the momentum of the game.
In the fourth quarter, slotback C.J. Williams fumbled a pitch by Arline that was recovered by Army linebacker Jon Rhattigan. That set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Tyler that provided a 10-0 lead with 11:02 remaining in the game. Army later added a safety when defensive back Daryan McDonald tackled wide receiver Mark Walker in the end zone on a failed flea-flicker with 5:21 left. The Midshipmen have some work ahead of them to get the offense back on track.
Navy started three different quarterbacks in its first three games of the season — Dalen Morris (BYU), Arline (Tulane) and Tyger Goslin (Air Force) — for the first time since 1992. Navy also played at least two quarterbacks in seven of its nine games this year. However, Arline has gained the confidence of coaches throughout the past month, and he has a chance to enter spring practice atop the depth chart. Navy needs to go into the 2021 season with a confident signal-caller ready to lead the triple-option attack.
4. Both Army and Navy might want to consider turning this game into a home-and-home event.
Excitement and pride were very apparent on the West Point campus. Navy is also capable of hosting a prestigious event. The change would also provide the academies the opportunity to showcase their campuses on a national stage.
5. Ken Niumatalolo will get the program back on track after a year full of tumult due to COVID-19.
Ideally, the Midshipmen will have a full spring practice schedule that will provide Arline more time to master the offense. Defensive coordinator Brian Newberry will also have the players competing at a higher level because they should be allowed to have more contact in practice.
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