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Defense comes through again for Army West Point

Army West Point coach Jeff Monken and linebacker Kenneth Brinson address the media following the Army-Navy game.

PHILADELPHIA — When Navy enjoyed a 14-game winning streak against Army West Point, the Mids put up huge offensive numbers several times.

Now that the Black Knights have won three straight, the defense has been largely responsible for the new streak.

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Army West Point gave up a combined 30 points in its previous two wins over Navy, then on Saturday gave up its fewest points in the series since a 17-3 victory in 1987.

“I just can’t say enough about our defense,” Army West Point coach Jeff Monken said. “They came up with some really key plays and key stops.”

While Navy’s offense found some life in the fourth quarter of Army’s 17-10 victory, the Mids still managed just 208 yards of total offense, well below its season average of 360 a game. The four turnovers by Navy was a season high and was the most turnovers in a game since turning it over five times against Memphis last year.

Jaylon McClinton had a team-high nine tackles, picked off a pass and forced a fumble for the Black Knights. Kenneth Brinson and James Gibson each recovered fumbles and Mike Reynolds had an interception and broke up three passes for Army West Point.

With so many big plays by his defense on Saturday, Monken was asked to pick the key play in the game.

“I think collectively, it was the turnovers,” he said. “Those made a big difference.”

Army West Point came into the game 11th in the nation in total defense, giving up just 301 yards a game. The Black Knights were 12th in rushing defense, giving up a little more than 106 yards a game.

Navy had 127 yards rushing on Saturday, with a bulk coming in the fourth quarter, and went under 150 for the second straight game and fourth time this season.

“It started the week of Thanksgiving in practice,” junior defensive back Elijah Riley said. “We were working hard every single day in practice. We never let our foot off the gas pedal. Everybody was just grinding the entire time to get ourselves prepared.”

Going against a Navy offense that was third in the nation in rushing offense at 288 yards a game, Army West Point gave up just 64 total yards, all on the ground, through three quarters. As Navy began to move the ball early in the fourth once Garrett Lewis entered the game, the Black Knights forced their third turnover of the game when McClinton forced a Lewis fumble after the quarterback had ran the ball inside the 5-yard line.

“That was the probably the biggest play,” Monken said. “That momentum and keeping them out of the end zone and being able to burn some more time off the clock and giving them less of a chance. I thought that was a really big play in the football game.”

Lewis provided a spark for the Mids and led them on a four-play, 48-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard plunge that made it a 10-7 game with 7:10 left in the game.

After the Navy defense forced a punt on Army West Point’s next possession, the Black Knights’ defense came up with two more big plays to essentially seal the victory.

With Navy facing a third-and-long, wide receiver O.J. Davis took a pitch and let a pass go toward Lewis, but Riley hit Lewis just as the ball arrived. Lewis was injured on the play and Zach Abey returned for the fourth-down play and was hit by Brinson, forcing a fumble that Brinson recovered.

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“I don’t think anyone on offense would argue that we wouldn’t be able to do anything without those guys,” said Army West Point quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, who was named the game’s most valuable player. “They were controlling the clock and getting them off the field.”

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