No. 2 Cincinnati stays unbeaten with 27-20 win over Navy

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Arquon Bush intercepted a pass with 25 seconds left to help No. 2 Cincinnati hold on for a 27-20 victory over Navy on Sunday.

The Bearcats (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) weren’t at their best, but they never looked like they were in significant danger until the final minute, when Navy scored to make it a one-score game and then recovered an onside kick with 48 seconds left.

The Midshipmen (1-6, 1-4) didn’t do much with that final chance, though. Tai Lavatai‘s third-down pass was picked off by Bush near the Cincinnati 45.

“We’ve got to find ways, especially on the road, when you’re up, whatever it is, 13 points or something, to kind of close things out,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “That’s probably the only thing that I’m somewhat disappointed we couldn’t and didn’t do today, but we needed a challenge and we got one.”

The Bearcats were fortunate to lead by three after a mistake-filled first half, but Cincinnati eventually snapped out of its offensive funk. Desmond Ridder threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy was hosting a top-five team for the first time since 1984, and the Midshipmen didn’t trail until a wild swing at the end of the first half. With the game tied at 10, Navy was driving and looked poised to use up the remaining time in the second quarter. But after losing yards on back-to-back plays, the Midshipmen had to try a 51-yard field goal.

The kick was blocked, and Cincinnati’s Deshawn Pace nearly ran it back for a touchdown, but he stepped out of bounds with 1 second left. That was enough time for Alex Bales to kick a 52-yard field goal and give the Bearcats a 13-10 lead.

Jerome Ford‘s 43-yard touchdown run made it 20-10, and Ridder added a 3-yard TD pass to Josh Whyle later in the third.

Lavatai scored on a 1-yard run for Navy in the final minute of the game.

“I’m very very proud of our team, proud of our defense, but that’s not good enough,” said Navy cornerback Jamal Glenn, who had an interception and recovered the late onside kick. “Coming into the game … we stressed, moral victories is not a thing. Yeah, they’re the No. 2 team in the country, but we want to win games.”

Cincinnati was coming off back-to-back 50-point performances, but the first half of this one was a slog. Navy drove 79 yards in 7:12 and took a 7-0 lead on Lavatai’s 2-yard run.

The Bearcats quickly tied it on a 31-yard pass from Ridder to Whyle.

With Cincinnati down 10-7, Ridder threw an interception deep in Navy territory, but after that, the Bearcats scored on their next four possessions.

THE TAKEAWAY

Cincinnati: Navy presents some unique challenges for its opponents, but it wasn’t the option-based offense that was causing the Bearcats that much trouble. Cincinnati just didn’t look smooth offensively for much of the day.

Navy: The Midshipmen kept the Bearcats from making too many big plays early on, and Navy’s rarely used passing game was good enough to mount a comeback at the end.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

While Cincinnati was struggling with Navy, No. 3 Oklahoma was also having problems with Kansas. This game will fuel the Bearcats’ detractors, but they remained unbeaten and have plenty of chances to win more impressively later in the season.

UP NEXT

Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at Tulane next Saturday.

Navy: The Midshipmen play at Tulsa on Friday night.

No. 24 SMU rallies, stays unbeaten with 31-24 win over Navy

Jordan Hofeditz/Reporter-News via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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ANNAPOLIS, Md.- The last thing No. 24 SMU needed was to fall too far behind against a methodical Navy team.

The moment the Mustangs seemed like they might be in trouble, Bryan Massey turned the game around with a long kickoff return.

“I thought that gave us a little bit of momentum back,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “The thing I was most proud of our guys about doing, they just kept their head down, never looked at the scoreboard. We talk to them all the time about doing that.”

Tanner Mordecai threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns, and the unbeaten Mustangs rallied from a 14-point second-quarter deficit to beat Navy 31-24 on Saturday. Massey’s 95-yard kickoff return began the comeback, and SMU’s defense held firm for most of the second half.

SMU (6-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) had the game tied by halftime and went up 31-24 on a 22-yard TD pass from Mordecai to Jordan Kerley with 8:19 remaining in the final quarter.

“That was heartbreaking for our young men and the program to play the 24th-ranked team here and be up 21-7,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We were feeling pretty good about where we were at.”

Mordecai now has 26 touchdown passes on the season. He also threw a 66-yarder to Reggie Roberson on fourth-and-1 to open the scoring, but Navy (1-4, 1-2) answered with the next 21 points.

Chance Warren tied the game with a 23-yard scoring run, then Tai Lavatai threw the first touchdown pass of the season for the Midshipmen, 37 yards to Kai Puailoa-Rojas on a flea-flicker.

Then a couple big turnovers went Navy’s way. Mordecai was intercepted in the end zone, and later in the second quarter, he fumbled – and Diego Fagot returned that turnover 20 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

Navy never had a chance to get comfortable, though. Massey took the ensuing kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, and then Tre Siggers scored on a 2-yard run to tie it with 1:54 left in the half.

After Kerley’s catch in the end zone put the Mustangs ahead in the fourth, Navy turned the ball over on downs twice, the second time inside its own 20.

THE TAKEAWAY

SMU: The Mustangs struggled on third down, going 2 of 11, but they did enough to win. After giving up the long touchdown pass, the SMU defense kept Navy’s offense pretty much under control. The Midshipmen ran for 177 yards but needed 53 carries to do it.

“They hit us on the flea-flicker. Obviously that was a big play, got some momentum, and then the scoop for a touchdown,” Dykes said. “Other than that, they put one drive together and then kicked a field goal, so defensively, I thought we played incredible.”

Navy: The Midshipmen have made strides since losing their first two games of the season by a combined score of 72-10. Navy’s defense mostly hung tough against a dangerous offensive team, but after going up 21-7, the Midshipmen couldn’t move the ball consistently.

“For the most part, their strategy was to not let us get the edge,” Lavatai said. “I missed a couple of reads. I think I adjusted pretty well, but overall we have to execute better.”

PASS PROTECTION

Navy didn’t mount much of a pass rush against SMU, but the Midshipmen did became the first team with a sack against the Mustangs this season. That was on the play when Mordecai lost the ball and Navy ran it back for a touchdown.

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, specifically me,” Mordecai said. “That fumble and the interception could have easily been avoided.”

EJECTION

Navy cornerback Jamal Glenn was ejected for targeting in the second quarter, which didn’t help matters against Mordecai and the SMU offense.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It wasn’t easy, but SMU came away with the win on the road, and now the Mustangs have a chance to keep moving up in the poll.

UP NEXT

SMU: The Mustangs are off next weekend before an Oct. 21 home game against Tulane.

Navy: The Midshipmen have a short week. They play at Memphis on Thursday night.

Notre Dame to play Navy at MetLife Stadium in 2024

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Notre Dame and Navy will play their 2024 football game at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands sports complex.

The schools announced the agreement for the Oct. 26 game.

This will mark the eighth time the sports complex has hosted a Navy-Notre Dame game and the first since 2010, when Navy defeated the Irish 35-17.

The Navy-Notre Dame series was the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in college football – 93 consecutive years – before COVID-19 forced a cancellation in 2020. The two schools will play on Nov. 6 in South Bend, Indiana.

MetLife Stadium will also host this year’s Army-Navy game on Dec. 11.