There are parts of the 2002 football season that Navy would probably like to forget. Yesterday, however, the Midshipmen put on a record-setting performance at Giants Stadium they'll want to savor forever.
Led by junior quarterback Craig Candeto, who rushed for six touchdowns andthrew for one, Navy routed rival Army, 58-12, in front of 78,672 in what willgo down as one of the most decisive victories in the 103-game series.
"I'm really proud of our football team," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "Ipromise you, I'm going to enjoy this one for a little bit."
Navy's 58 points were the most in the game's history, and the 46-pointmargin was the second largest in the series, behind a 51-0 Navy win in 1973.The Mids' 508 yards of total offense and 421 rushing yards are also records inthe series.
Candeto, who didn't even play in the fourth quarter, rushed for 103 yardson just 18 carries. His six touchdowns were the most by one player in theseries.
"It felt a lot like a dream out there," Candeto said. "It just humbles meto think about it. There have been so many great players to play in this game,for me to be able to have that record, I'm really at a loss for words."
In the end, Army (1-11) was the one left speechless. The Black Knightsturned two good kickoff returns by William White into two first-half fieldgoals, but that was essentially it until a late 36-yard touchdown catch byAaron Alexander.
Meanwhile, Navy (2-10) scored touchdowns on eight consecutive possessionsto open the game, as Candeto, Michael Brimage (10 carries for 84 yards), TonyLane (five carries for 65 yards), Bryce McDonald (10 carries for 63 yards) andEric Roberts (six for 35 yards) steamrollered through the Black Knights'defense with relative ease.
"I don't think any of us could have dreamed that the game could have gonein that direction," Army coach Todd Berry said. "You don't ever expect that tohappen. I've been around the game for a while. This has to be the toughest oneI've ever experienced."
Berry had every reason to think the game would be close, if for no otherreason than history. Seven times in the past 10 years, the Army-Navy game hasbeen decided by five points or fewer, but it was clear early on that would notbe the case this time.
Candeto scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter, then added threetouchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 1, 42 and 7 yards. Candeto hitLane over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown with 10:43 left in the third toput Navy up 44-6, then capped off his career day with a 1-yard run exactlyfive minutes later.
"Who says this game has to come down to one or two points?" Candeto said."I'm sure we gave Coach Johnson a few less gray hairs today than normal."
Candeto's performance overshadowed the play of Navy's defense, which hadits best day of the season. The Mids forced two turnovers, held the BlackKnights to 241 total yards (the fewest Navy has given up all season), andsacked Reggie Nevels four times.
"People were running to the ball and getting after it," Navy safety MichawnYuvienco said. "We didn't have many breakdowns in coverage, and everybodytackled well."
Even still, Yuvienco acknowledged that most of the team simply sat back andwatched Candeto, the maestro of Navy's triple-option attack. "In the lockerroom, we call him Candy Man," Yuvienco said, "The reason is, when he takes offrunning, he's sweeter than candy."
Candeto was also as cool as ice cream, taking time in the huddle to jokewith his teammates, soak up the atmosphere at Giants Stadium and occasionallysneak a peak at the spirit spots on the JumboTron.
(Each year, Army and Navy put together dueling comedy sketches poking funat each other.) Candeto even shrugged off the fact that his jersey was coveredin blood after the game, which appeared to be the result of several cuts onhis arms and hands.
"I wish I could say it was Army's blood," Candeto said with a laugh. "ButI'm pretty sure it's mine. That's OK. ... I'd be lying if I said I didn't takea little extra pleasure in beating Army like this. It feels really special."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun