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Modest beginnings to harbinger of glory, Carothers glows in Army-Navy victory

Navy's Jamale Carothers catches a big pass for a touchdown late in the second quarter. The Navy Midshipmen played the Army Black Knights in the 120th Army-Navy Game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Navy's Jamale Carothers catches a big pass for a touchdown late in the second quarter. The Navy Midshipmen played the Army Black Knights in the 120th Army-Navy Game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (Paul W. Gillespie)

The pass that ignited Navy’s comeback over archrival Army sailed into the hands of a man who didn’t begin this season even on varsity.

Another bad decision, head coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

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“Jamale didn’t even go to the Memphis game. The guy was on the JV team," Niumatalolo said. "Fortunately, we found him.”

Carothers played the Baby Yoda to quarterback Malcolm Perry’s Mandalorian; on Perry’s multiple-record-breaking night, Carothers backed him up, dragging down and hauling in two of the Midshipmen’s four touchdowns, including the first that delivered Navy its permanent lead.

This was Perry’s night -- no one could hold a candle to the quarterback’s 304-yard rushing game -- but Carothers held his own, good for second as he accumulated 75 yards on 22 carries.

In a game won on if by ground, Carothers also led the Mids with one receiving yard, for that touchdown.

“Jamale’s been awesome because it gives us the one-two punch," Niumatalolo said. "People can’t always tee off on Malcolm, but gives us a breakaway threat in the middle. He’s been unbelievable. Jamale’s been a huge, huge weapon this year.”

Carothers will forever live in Navy football lore, the centerpiece of what Niumatalolo christened “the Navy Special."

Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper had cooked up the plan specifically for Army-Navy, a tribute to the Philly Special that seized Super Bowl LII for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018. The offense toiled away all week, practicing the play over and over again.

“I kind of suspected it once we got down there,” Perry said. “It was a big point of the game where we could go score, go back into half and get the ball back.”

At the call, the offense doled out the “Navy Special,” just as intended.

Perry flipped the ball to sophomore wide receiver Chance Warren. Warren crossed behind him and flung a pass that seemed to hang in the air like it was made of pure molasses, so slow, and yet, Niumatalolo wasn’t even sure Carothers had made the catch at first.

Carothers knew what he had to do.

“I just wanted to make sure I was in bounds to try and make a play on the ball,” Carothers said. “I knew, either way, we would get points on that possession. I just tried to give myself the best chance possible.”

Inspired by his quarterback’s Lamar Jackson-esque cuts and dodges, Carothers swirled past his Black Knight marks to pick up a 14-yard gain to within five yards of the red zone, his longest yet of the day, and then hauled in another touchdown dead down the middle.

As soon as Carothers stepped on the varsity field, his rise was meteoric. After making his first career start against Tulsa, in which the sophomore posted 52 rushing yards with one score, it took mere weeks, against Notre Dame, for Carothers to jump to the top of the fullbacks on the depth chart.

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Carothers then stacked up another 660 yards for a total of 712, making him Navy’s second most valuable runner, behind Perry.

None of it came by the universe’s hand alone. Carothers labored diligently with his coaches to refine his craft. His highest rushing performance came most recently, against Houston (18 for 188).

“It’s a blessing. It’s been a great experience this whole season,” Carothers said. "It’s a tribute to what my teammates and I have done this season, how much work we’ve put in. I’m just happy to be in this moment right now.

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