By BILL WAGNER CAPITAL GAZETTE |DEC 17, 2021 AT 5:00 AM
Army Navy game 2021
The Naval Academy Mids face off against the United States Military Academy West Point Black Knights at MetLife Stadium …MORE(Greg Morgenthaler / USNA Athletics)
Army coach Jeff Monken didn’t mince words after his team’s 17-13 loss to Navy on Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
“We got outplayed, we got outcoached, and that’s the bottom line,” Monken said of the upset loss to archrival Navy. “They were better prepared to win than we were, and they performed better.”
Army jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on a 56-yard touchdown run by quarterback Christian Anderson, who found a hole on the left side off of a mid-line option play then bounced outside and outraced several chasing defenders to the end zone on the opening drive.
“We just fitted it wrong,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “[Brian] Newberry is a great defensive coordinator and he got it fixed. After that, I thought we played really well on defense.”
Indeed, Army finished with 232 total yards of offense, of which 139 came in the first quarter. The Black Knights held a 10-7 lead going into the second quarter after a 61-yard drive produced a 31-yard field goal by Cole Talley.
Navy’s defense dominated the rest of the way, allowing just one more field goal by Talley. The Midshipmen shut out the Black Knights in the second half, allowing just 57 total yards and three first downs.
“We got off to a slow start, but our players didn’t flinch. We made some adjustments and they executed,” Newberry said. “We got stops and got off the field on third down. We got them behind the sticks a bit and they couldn’t recover.”
Newberry noted the Navy offense had two time-consuming drives in the second half. The Mids marched 74 yards in 10 plays and took almost six minutes off the clock before quarterback Tai Lavatai scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard plunge.
Linebacker Diego Fagot’s fourth-down conversion run enabled Navy to hold the ball for 15 plays and almost nine minutes to set up the Bijan Nichols field goal that provided a four-point lead.
“The offense helped us out a lot by holding onto the football,” Newberry said. “They had some long drives, and when you’re sitting on the sideline for six or seven minutes you get cold as an offense. [Army] just couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
Navy opened the game in its base 3-4 defense, but Newberry often switched to a 4-3 look with nose guard Clay Cromwell replacing an outside linebacker. Cromwell, fellow nose guard Donald Berniard Jr., tackle J’arius Warren and end Jacob Busic controlled the line of scrimmage.
“We couldn’t keep them blocked. They escaped and destroyed blocks,” Monken admitted. “Other than the big play in the first quarter for a touchdown, we didn’t do much on offense.
“In the second half, we didn’t give ourselves a chance on offense. That’s a credit to Navy, which just outplayed us. They were more physical and beat blocks.”
By many measures, it was another successful season for Army (8-4), which will play Missouri of the Southeastern Conference in the Armed Forces Bowl on Wednesday night. The Black Knights have now posted winning records and earned bowl berths in five of the last six seasons, but the loss to Navy stings.
“It’s difficult to feel like this was a good season when we lose this game,” Monken said. “This is a devastating loss … really disappointing and heartbreaking.”
Monken frowned when asked if the Army coaching staff would learn anything from the Navy tape that would help the program in preparation for the Armed Forces Bowl. “I’ll probably throw up when I watch the tape of this game,” he said.
Bill Wagner CONTACT
Bill Wagner has worked for Capital Gazette Newspapers for 30 years. He served as beat writer for Navy athletics and general assignment sports reporter. He is also the sailing editor.