- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

PHILADELPHIA — While his teammates celebrated a 34-6 victory over Army last season, Navy’s Josh Smith could only watch on a television screen.

Smith, the team’s leading tackler, came down with appendicitis a few days before the biggest game of the season. Despite his pleas, the team’s medical staff would not put off emergency surgery. So Smith watched the game from the team hotel.

“It felt great to go out there and celebrate,” Smith said after Navy’s 42-13 victory yesterday. “That’s what hurt the most last year, sitting in a hotel bed watching it. Then watching all my teammates, my buddies, my brothers celebrating without me after I had worked hard to get ready for the game and at the last minute couldn’t play.”

Smith made up for it with enough big plays to fill two rivalry games. With Navy starting to assert itself with a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, Smith picked off Zac Dahman’s pass and ran 67 yards for a touchdown.

Dahman was trying to avoid a sack and tried to dump the ball over Smith’s head to a safety valve, but Smith leaped to grab the pass.

“It was a great individual play,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “I think he flashed back to his old days in Attica, Indiana, as a running back. They weren’t going to catch him.”

Johnson had the right idea about Smith’s high school career. Smith scored an incredible 63 touchdowns and 449 points as a high school senior and also averaged 24 points a game in basketball. And he put his roundball skills to good use to corral the interception.

“I just jumped up to block the ball, and he threw it right to me,” Smith said. “Actually, I looked up the big [stadium TV screen] and saw 30 [Army running back Carlton Jones] coming and I knew he was fast, so I just kept running.”

Smith also caused havoc in the Army backfield with a sack and a stuff for big losses. Both times he came nearly untouched to the ball.

“We moved around a lot,” Smith said. I think [Dahman] looked at us and then we moved into something else, so he’d have to wait a few more seconds and re-read everything.

“I faked a lot in the first half, but then in the second half I came [on a blitz] a lot. The first few times they weren’t really prepared. We knew if we could get one-one with a back, they weren’t the best blockers.”

Smith led the team with 12 tackles, which comes as no a surprise. He will become only the second player in program history to lead the team in stops for three consecutive seasons.

The defensive touchdown was the Mids’ second in as many games. Two weeks ago, David Mahoney picked off Rutgers’ Ryan Hart and scored.

“Josh Smith’s interception was a really big play,” Johnson said. “You know, we went almost three full years without scoring a touchdown on defense or special teams and now that’s two in a row on defense. We’re kind of getting use to it. That was a great play — a real momentum changer.”

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