- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Navy’s dominating performance against Rutgers yesterday might end up having both programs singing the blues.

The Midshipmen rolled up 613 yards of offense and crushed the Scarlet Knights 54-21 before 33,615 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The beating ended Rutgers’ hopes of playing in a bowl for the second time in program history.

The impressive performance, coupled with Utah’s 52-21 rout of Brigham Young, positioned Navy to possibly receive an invitation to the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis, Tenn.

“You’re going to have to go a long way to find a better half than the one Navy played today,” said Richard Green, special assistant to the executive director of the Liberty Bowl. “I would say by Tuesday [there will be a decision]. I’ve got to get back and talk with Mr. [Steve] Ehrhart, who is the executive director of the bowl, and tell him what I learned here and what I saw.”

As Mountain West champion, Utah is contractually obligated to the Liberty Bowl, but Green said the bowl would release the Utes to accept a BCS berth. Utah must remain in the top six of the BCS standings, but their victory last night, along with seventh-ranked Michigan’s loss to Ohio State, makes it virtually impossible for the Utes to tumble in the BCS standings.

The payout at last year’s Liberty Bowl was $1.35 million per team — significantly more than the $750,000 offered by the Emerald Bowl, the San Francisco-based game that also could land the Midshipmen. Navy’s biggest competition for the Liberty Bowl spot might be WAC champion Boise State. Louisville, the Conference USA champion, will be the other team in the bowl game.

“I see a game where you might have to get out the adding machines,” Green said.

Navy had its most complete game of the season while racking up a season-high 476 rushing yards. Rutgers had all kinds of problems stopping the pitch man in the option offense in the first half. Seniors Frank Divis and Eric Roberts both averaged more than 10 yards a rush.

Roberts finished with 110 yards on five carries plus two receptions and scored a pair of touchdowns. Fullback Kyle Eckel scored on runs of 20 and 78 yards and finished with a team-high 143 yards.

Quarterback Aaron Polanco was sharp, completing four of seven passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. Rutgers made sure to hit Polanco early on option plays to prevent him from keeping the ball, but Polanco did add two short touchdown runs, giving him 12 for the season.

“You’re going to take some shots in this offense,” Polanco said. “I’ll take those all day if we can move the ball like we did today.”

The defense struggled against the pass early but caused four turnovers and scored a touchdown for the first time since 2000. Linebacker David Mahoney — who also had 10 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack — picked off Ryan Hart and returned the interception 18 yards for a score.

Even the second installment of the 12th Mid, John Reuland, was a success. With the Mids up 54-7, Reuland had a second chance to cover a kick and was credited with an assist — much to the delight of his brigade brethren.

Navy’s only significant mistakes in the first three quarters were a pair of blocked extra points, though Rutgers tacked on a pair of touchdowns late against Navy’s reserves. Coach Paul Johnson actually put Polanco and the first-team offense back in after Rutgers cut the lead to 54-21.

The day couldn’t have gone much better for the program with five bowl representatives on hand.

“We’ll make a decision this week,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. “We’ve been working toward today for a long time. To put it in Navy terms, our ship came in.”

Air Force 47, Colorado St. 17: Shaun Carney threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and the Falcons (5-6, 3-4 MWC) scored four touchdowns in the second half to rout the Rams (4-7, 2-5).

UAB 20, Army 14: Darrell Hackney completed 20 of 32 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Blazers (7-3, 5-2 C-USA) over the Black Knights (2-8, 2-6) in Army’s last game as part of Conference USA.

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