Navy’s 2021 season wasn’t a very good one. But it finished with a win over Army.
The Midshipmen (4-8) got their second win over Army in three seasons with a 17-13 win on Saturday. QB Tai Lavatai’s second touchdown run of the game in the third quarter put the Midshipmen up 14-13 and ultimately provided the winning margin.
Army (8-4) entered the game as a 7.5-point favorite in a game that has been low-scoring in recent years. That trend continued — the under hit as the over/under was set at 34.5 — as Navy had to rely on its defense to close out the win.
Army got the ball back with three minutes to needing a touchdown to win. But Navy stopped Army QB Christian Anderson on a fourth-down run with 1:32 to go to seal the win. Star Navy linebacker Diego Fagot was in on the stop of Anderson and finished the game with nine tackles. He also had a fourth-down run on a fake punt early in the fourth quarter. That fake punt helped set up a field goal that pushed Navy’s lead to four with 6:10 left and forced Army to have to score a touchdown.
The two triple-option teams combined for a relative aerial assault this season. After they combined to throw eight passes a year ago and Army only threw one of those, Army and Navy combined to throw 22 passes on Saturday. Army coach Jef Monken said at halftime that the team was forced to go to the pass game more frequently than normal because of its ineffectiveness at running the football.
Army finished the game averaging just less than four yards a carry while Navy averaged just over four yards a carry.
After Navy won every game from 2002-15, Army won three consecutive games. Navy won the 2019 contest between the schools by 24 points before Army won 15-0 in 2020. The Black Knights will face Missouri in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22.
Army’s recent run of success in the rivalry has corresponded with the program’s rise under Jeff Monkey. Army has won at least eight games in five of the last six seasons after going 2-10 in 2015.
Navy, meanwhile, just had back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2001 and 2002.
The Midshipmen went 3-7 in 2020 after an 11-2 campaign in 2019. That 11-2 season might have been a blip — Navy went 3-10 in 2018 and Saturday’s win avoided a third three-win season in four years.