One year after it salvaged a miserable season with a suspenseful win in the final seconds over Army, the Naval Academy again found itself rallying late against its archrival.But this time -- the 100th anniversary of the Army-Navy game -- there would be no happy ending. The Midshipmen fought back from a 17-point first-half deficit to come within four points early in the fourth quarter, but fell short, 30-20, before a crowd of 67,622 at Veterans Stadium.
In losing, Navy (5-6) failed in its quest for its first winning seasosince 1982. Army (6-5), however, secured a winning record in the last game of retiring coach Jim Young.
"It was a great win, and we are thrilled by it," said Young, who ieight years at Army led the team to its only three bowl appearances. "I just tried to win and call the plays. I felt I did a good job, and I felt the players did a good job."
The big standout for the Cadets was junior quarterback WilliMcMillian, who ran the wishbone to perfection in rushing for a career-high 195 yards on a career-high 35 carries. McMillian attempted only one pass -- but that was a 35-yard strike to split end Myreon Willams that gave Army a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"Their passing was good -- one pass, one touchdown," Navcoach George Chaump said after his first Army-Navy game. "I give credit to them for executing their offense to perfection."
The only other wishbone team that Navy faced this season waAir Force and, although the Midshipmen lost, 24-7, they were able to contain the option.
That never was the case against the Cadets, who rushed for 36yards (they averaged 328 yards going in -- third in the nation) and had a big edge in time of possession -- 35 minutes, 45 seconds to 24:15.
Navy was successful in containing All-American halfback MikMayweather (22 carries, 87 yards), but McMillian, whose previous rushing high was 182 yards, was able to get outside often and turn upfield with big gains.
"We knew he was good. But our inability to stop his cutbacks iwhat did us in," Chaump said. "We kept changing fronts and tried to contain their scheme. They picked up what we did well."
McMillian was the primary ball handler on Army's first drivecarrying the ball on eight of the 14 plays of a seven-minute series that ended with a 30-yard field goal by Pat Malcom, giving Army a 3-0 lead. The Midshipmen answered with an impressive drive from their 12 to the Army 36, only to lose the ball on a fumble by Jason Pace. Eight plays later, Mayweather scored on a 3-yard run and Army led, 10-0.
A 7-yard run by McMillian with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in thfirst half gave the Cadets a 17-0 lead. But the Midshipmen put a lengthy series together of their own, with Grizzard's 6-yard scoring pass to Jerry Dawson capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive that cut the lead to 17-7 with 26 seconds left in the half.
That's the way the half ended, with Army rushing for 191 yardand dominating the time of possession (18:08 to 11:52) in the first 30 minutes.
"We just didn't have the ball to do anything," Chaump said"They were just able to block us and keep us blocked."
But still, Navy, a come-from-behind winner in games againsToledo and Delaware, fought back. After the teams exchanged turnovers early in the third quarter, Navy went to the ground game and came up with a 45-yard touchdown run by plebe
fullback Brad Stramanak that pulled the team to within 17-14 and gave the Navy crowd a boost.
But four plays later, McMillian dropped back for his first pass and found Williams down the right side running stride-for-stride with Navy defensive back Chris Cordero. Cordero turned his back at the last second, giving Williams just enough room to haul down the 35-yard scoring pass that gave Army a 24-14 advantage with 14:16 left in the game.
"I was with him, and he was all mine," Cordero said. "I lookeback. My coverage was good -- right up to the very end. That doesn't count."
Navy still had its chances, capitalizing on a muffed punt by Armthat resulted in a 1-yard touchdown by Grizzard, making the score 24-20. A two-point conversion failed, but Navy still was in the game with 10:10 left.
After a 38-yard field goal by Malcom with 6:14 left made it 27-20Navy took over on its own 20 with an opportunity to win. But Grizzard's pass attempt to Dawson was picked off by defensive back Mike McElrath with 6:03 left, and Malcom kicked another field goal with 46 seconds left to finish the scoring.
"The [last] interception was my fault. They didn't cover the No. receiver, and I should have gone to him," Grizzard said. "They had good ball control. We had the opportunities to score, and we didn't"
It was a disappointing loss for Navy, but the game ended season when the Midshipmen made some great strides in its program under Chaump. After a 3-8 season last year, the Midshipmen showed that it could win some close games, and, in its 52-31 loss to Notre Dame, that they at least could play on the same field with a good team.
"We're on the brink of something here, I'm just sorry it was mlast season," Dawson, a senior, said. "We had a chance at a winning season, but we just let it slide.
"But nobody ever quit this year, and nobody gave u[yesterday]," he added. "That's a great attitude, and hopefully I had a part in instilling that."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun