- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

DURHAM, N.C. — It was far from aesthetic excellence, but Navy used the big play for its first win of the season.

Missed assignments, excessive penalties and poor tackling made for an ugly first half, but the Midshipmen had seven plays of 30 yards or more in a 28-21 win against Duke before an announced crowd of 15,246 at sparsely populated Wallace Wade Stadium.

“This game was so eerie,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said after his team’s first game in three weeks. “I was telling the guys [it was like] last year’s Tulane game [a 42-10 loss]. There was just no energy. You try to fight them and you try to challenge them but you have to give the kids credit. They found a way to sum it up enough in the second half to win the game.”

The biggest of the long plays came immediately after the Blue Devils (1-4) tied the score at 21 late in the fourth quarter. Lamar Owens kept the ball on a triple-option play to the right and cut back toward the left side of the field, racing for 52 yards to set up the game-winning score.

Owens, who capped the drive four plays later with a 2-yard run, said he actually missed the read on the option play. He should have left the ball in fullback Matt Hall’s stomach on the dive, but it certainly worked out for Navy (1-2).

Duke had one more chance — thanks in part to an excessive celebration penalty on Owens after the touchdown that forced Navy to kick from its own 20-yard line. The Blue Devils had the ball at midfield with 12 seconds left before hitting a 26-yard pass play to set up one final toss to the end zone. Navy linebacker David Mahoney got a hand on the pass at the goal line as the game ended.

Normally, it’s Navy’s triple-option attack that controls the pace of the game, but Duke’s offense put together several long, clock-eating drives. The Blue Devils nearly doubled up the Mids in plays (85 to 44) and time of possession (39:02 to 20:58). Navy’s lack of chances and an interception near the goal line helped keep the score tied at 7-7 after 30 minutes.

Still Navy rolled up 326 rushing yards and averaged a robust 9.3 yards per attempt. The Mids attacked Duke’s over-aggressiveness in the second half.

Jason Tomlinson reeled off a 46-yard reverse and Reggie Campbell ran 52 yards on a counter play where Owens faked a pitch to the other slotback. Matt Hall went 47 yards for a touchdown nearly untouched because he took the ball on a dive and cut slightly back to the left as he crossed the line of scrimmage.

“That’s kind of the way we play. It’s a different team [than last year],” Johnson said. “We’ve had a hard time being consistent, but we’ve hit some big plays.”

Owens played every offensive snap for the first time this season. He led the team with 106 yards, while four others had at least 43. He also threw for 87 yards and a score — the first of freshman receiver Tyree Barnes’ career on an option pass that was wide open.

Navy’s defense struggled at times with Duke’s ball-control offense. The Blue Devils had trouble turning long drives into points. They had drives of 15 and 10 plays in the second quarter but came away empty because of an interception and a missed field goal. Navy’s Rob Caldwell had 14 tackles, including three for a loss, despite missing time during the 15-play march because of a bloody nose.

“I think [this win] helps us out a lot,” Caldwell said. “We still did some things wrong, but we’re getting better. That’s the most important thing. We need to have our most improvement this week because we have Air Force coming up. That’s probably the biggest game this year.”

Johnson was irate about the officiating several times during the game. He chatted with a few of them during halftime and then sprinted more than 50 yards after the final whistle to catch them before they left the stadium.

“I was just telling them what a great job I thought they did,” Johnson smirked.

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