The way it performed for most of Saturday’s game with Air Force, Navy’s defense deserved that touchdown on the last play of the game.
Outside of a 16-point performance by Air Force over a nine-minute stretch of the fourth quarter, the Navy defense did enough the rest of the game to put the Mids in position for the dramatic victory.
“They’re a resilient bunch,” Navy first-year defensive coordinator Brian Newberry said. “I’m really proud of the way our guys kept fighting. For three quarters, I thought we played really well.”
Navy held Air Force well below its season averages in several categories, including points (34.5/game), rushing yards (332/game) and total yards (442/game). The Falcons’ 25 points on Saturday are their fewest outside of 19 in a loss to Boise State. They finished with just 108 yards rushing and 354 total yards, with a bulk of the production coming in the final quarter.
Tony Brown’s touchdown on the final play of the game came as the Mids were protecting a three-point lead and with Air Force trying one last desperation play. It was his first career fumble recovery and first touchdown.
“I didn’t even see it,” Newberry admitted. “I was busy celebrating. I didn’t even know we scored until someone told me on the way in.”
Air Force had just nine points, 98 rushing yards and 244 total yards through three quarters. The Falcons didn’t get in the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter, and that’s when they were given a short field and started on the Navy 37 following a turnover.
Prior to that, Air Force had settled for just three field goals through the first three and a half quarters, including one drive where they ran 13 plays and ate up more than five minutes. That drive resulted in a 40-yard field goal late in the first half.
“That was huge,” Newberry said. “Anytime you can do that in the red zone...you’ve got to buckle up down there and force them to kick field goals.”
Paul Carothers and Diego Fagot led the defense with 12 tackles apiece, both career highs. Carothers had a sack and a tackle for loss and Fagot had 1 ½ tackles for loss, a pass break-up and two quarterback hits. Jacob Springer had Navy’s other sack and a tackle for loss, J’arius Warren and Nizaire Cromartie each forced fumbles and Jackson Pittman and Brown had fumble recoveries for the Mids. Navy came into the game ranked 10th in third-down defense and allowed only five conversions for Air Force on 17 attempts.
“I thought for Coach Newberry’s first academy game, he had a marvelous game-plan. I thought we played really well on defense,” head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We had some turnovers on offense that put them in bad positions, but they scrapped and battled.”
Archbishop Spalding product Evan Fochtman had seven tackles and his first career interception. He also had a pair of pass break-ups, including one on Air Force’s final drive following Navy’s go-ahead touchdown.
“I thought our defense came together and played really well today,” Fochtman said. “I feel like everyone was just doing their job and focusing on what they had to do. They could not run the ball on us, so they had to start testing us in the secondary. Hat’s off to our front guys and linebackers, they played awesome today.”