Home / Sports / Army-Navy game: Black Knights smother Midshipmen to extend recent dominance

Army-Navy game: Black Knights smother Midshipmen to extend recent dominance

Army celebrates its third win in a row over Navy. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The new era in the Army-Navy rivalry looks like this: Army’s Kell Walker taking one sharp side step at full speed around his defender to break free for a 51-yard run that sets up a touchdown on the Black Knights opening drive.

It looks like safety Jaylon McClinton knocking the ball out of second-string quarterback Garret Lewis’s hands to force a fumble early in the fourth quarter — the first of two Navy fumbles that period while it tried to rally.

It looks like the gray mob of cadets jumping up and down with such fervor in the northwest corner of Lincoln Financial Field that some lost their caps in the fray.

Army’s third win in a row over Navy, a 17-10 victory Saturday in the 119th edition of the game, that said as much about Army’s recently renewed strength as a program as it did about Navy’s troubled season.

Coach Jeff Monken’s Black Knights claimed undeniable ownership of momentum in the storied Army-Navy rivalry and extended their program turnaround in front of a crowd of 66,729 that included President Trump, the first sitting president to attend the Army-Navy game in seven years.

Army, which beat Air Force, 17-14, in early November, will keep the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for another year after claiming it in 2017, and for just the third time in the past 23 years. The Black Knights will a chance to win 11 games in a season for the first time in program history when they play Houston on Dec. 22 at the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

It might just feel as good as beating Navy.

The Black Knights dominated the Midshipmen on offense for most of the day on Saturday, outgaining them 283 to 208 thanks only to a late push from Navy, which was held scoreless and to 64 total yards through the first three quarters.

On the ground, Army outgained their rivals 222-127 yards thanks to a balanced, disciplined attack led by quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr., who ran for 64 yards and both of the Black Knights’ touchdowns.

Navy’s run game was just as anemic as it has been all season and was led by the speedy slotback Malcolm Perry, who ran for a lackluster 53 yards on six carries and never got the chance to do what he does best: make big plays.

A one-yard touchdown rush with less than 90 seconds to play sealed the win for Army, which mostly dominated Saturday. In addition to his ground gains, Hopkins completed 4 of 9 passes for 61 yards and was sacked once.

Navy’s quarterbacks — Lewis, starter Zach Abey and Perry — all attempted passes to much less effect. Only Lewis completed a pass, going 5 for 11 for 81 yards. Abey went 0 for 5 and threw two interceptions.

The Mids (3-10) clocked their 13th straight road loss Saturday and finished their worst season since they went 2-10 in 2002, Paul Johnson’s first year as head coach.

Army (10-2) started strong, with Walker reeling off a career-high 51-yard run to put the Black Knight’s on Navy’s 10. Hopkins ran in the opening touchdown less than 90 seconds into the game, and the score felt like a tone-setter for Army — it was, after all, the sixth time this season Navy’s defense has allowed an opponent to score on the opening drive.

What followed instead was a screwball half of football that resulted in mutual futility.

Navy’s offense threw a few new looks Army’s way — they even used Perry in the Wildcat formation, for a gain of one yard — none of which accomplished much. The Mids ended the half with 39 total yards and didn’t convert any of their five third downs.

The Black Knights were marginally more effective, ending the half with 180 yards, but missed a few critical chances including two incompletions. One came on fourth and nine from the Navy 31 in which Hopkins either threw to the wrong receiver or underthrew his intended target. It was a rare flubbed fourth-down attempt for Army’s part, which entered Saturday having converted 30 for 33 fourth downs.

Perhaps the most unexpected part of the half was how often both offenses threw the ball — they combined to complete 2 of 11 pass attempts, more than three times the number of total pass attempts in last year’s game in the snow, with the same number of completions.

Navy managed to put something together on offense in the fourth quarter; a four play, 48-yard touchdown drive and a 46-yard field goal with 29 seconds to go that proved too little, too late.

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