- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

PHILADELPHIA — Navy launched a second-quarter assault yesterday that Army couldn’t escape.

The Midshipmen reeled off 28 straight points in that period to win the 105th meeting between the service academies 42-13 before 67,882 at Lincoln Financial Field. With the victory, Navy tied the series at 49-49-7 and won the Commander In Chief’s Trophy outright for the second consecutive season.

“We didn’t want to see ‘tied’ on the Navy plate there [on the trophy],” said Navy fullback Kyle Eckel, a Philadelphia native. “I think that’s what happens when everyone splits the [service academy] games. We wanted to see Navy on there now and for a long time. Hopefully, we’ve set the road for the younger guys.”

Eckel churned out a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown for the Mids (9-2), who finished with nine regular-season wins for the first time in 41 years.

Eckel had a tough time finding room to rumble in the first quarter, but Aaron Polanco helped loosen up the Black Knights’ defense through the air. Polanco completed seven of 11 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

Navy threatened on its second possession, but Geoff Blumenfeld missed a 25-yard field goal. Polanco eventually sent the Mids ahead 7-0 on a 10-yard option keeper.

Eckel found a crack on the next drive and rumbled 23 yards for a 14-0 advantage. Then senior safety Josh Smith made the play of the day to put the Black Knights in a huge hole before they could regroup.

On fourth-and-12 from the Navy 32, Army quarterback Zac Dahman scrambled to his left and tried to short-arm a dump pass over Smith’s head. Smith leaped to intercept it and raced 67 yards for Mids’ second defensive touchdown in as many weeks.

Polanco capped the second-quarter scoring with a nifty play. Scrambled to his right, the quarterback faked as if he might run for the end zone before pulling up and zipping a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mick Yokitis.

“We hit a couple of big plays,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “They were changing defenses up a lot out there. Once we kind of got our feet under us, we were able to check certain plays with certain fronts, and we started to move the ball better.”

Navy’s defense had some trouble with Army tailback Carlton Jones, but otherwise put forth a stifling effort. Jones finished with 98 yards on 21 carries, but Dahman had only 62 passing yards in the first half.

Both teams entered the game among the nation’s least-penalized teams, but the Black Knights hampered themselves with miscues in key situations. Army was penalized for 65 yards, including two interference calls on Navy punt returns that gave the Mids great field position.

“As much as the score seems lopsided, I really felt like we had some chances,” first-year Army coach Bobby Ross said. “We just couldn’t convert in the critical down situations. You have to do that against a good football team.”

Linebacker Greg Washington, the nation’s leading tackler, made 15 stops for Army, a couple saving touchdowns. Washington also became the first player this season to stop Eckel for a loss.

Army had a chance to get back in the game early in the second half. The Black Knights scored just before intermission and forced a fumble on Navy’s opening possession. But Ross decided to go for a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Navy 11, and the kick was wide.

“That’s one of the keys for us,” Navy linebacker Bobby McClarin said. “We call it a ‘save’ when they start with the ball on our side of the 50-yard line. I think we were 2-for-3 today. We just try to keep them out of the end zone.”

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