- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Navy needed only one play in overtime to answer Tulsa’s scoring drive.

Quarterback Brian Hampton lofted a pass to a wide-open O.J. Washington in the back of the end zone and a second overtime appeared to be a formality. Not so for Tulsa defensive back Nick Graham.

Graham rushed untouched off the right end and blocked Matt Harmon’s extra point try, giving the Golden Hurricane a 24-23 win yesterday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in the first overtime game in Navy’s history.

“I’ll have to watch the film, but if the ball comes off my foot it should go through the uprights,” said Harmon, a backup filling in for injured starter Joey Bullen for the second time in three games. “It is my fault it didn’t go in.”

Either team could have won the game in regulation. The Mids (3-1) ruined a pair of potential touchdown drives in the fourth quarter with penalties. With the score knotted 17-17, Navy drove to the Tulsa 41 and picked up a first down on a screen pass to fullback Adam Ballard, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty and the Mids eventually had to punt.

On the previous possession Navy faced a third-and-4 at the Tulsa 15, but slotback Reggie Campbell went in motion — as a slotback does on almost every Navy offensive snap — and he was called for a false start.

The Mids lost two yards on third-and-9 and were forced to kick a field goal. Navy coach Paul Johnson and his staff were irate about the call and spent several minutes voicing their displeasure.

“We do it on every play. [The official] said it was a sudden start,” Johnson said. “When it is third-and-4 on the [15], I guess we need to stop.”

The Golden Hurricane (3-1) drove into the red zone on each of their first two possessions of the game but missed a field goal and were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Tulsa had one final chance before regulation, but questionable clock management and Navy’s soft zone defense kept the Golden Hurricane from mounting a drive.

Tulsa tied the game at 17 with a 29-yard field goal with 6:13 left in the fourth quarter, but the play clock appeared to have reached zero before the snap. Johnson wanted the play reviewed and a delay of game called, but the play was not reviewable.

“It didn’t appear to be — it was a play clock violation,” Johnson said. “They didn’t have an explanation. I don’t think any of them were watching.”

Regardless of the officiating, the Mids offense lacked its typical rhythm and efficiency. Navy nearly lost the ball on its first offensive possession as Hampton’s toss went awry and ended up a 7-yard loss.

Tulsa emphasized limiting the slotbacks, but Johnson said there were instances when Hampton could have pitched the ball and didn’t. The senior signal-caller finished the game with 118 yards on 30 carries and Ballard had 87 on 16 attempts.

When Hampton did get the ball to the slots, they were effective. Sophomore Shun White scored on a 26-yard run to open the scoring. Campbell did not have a carry, but the unit finished with 64 yards on just four carries.

Hampton also missed another big play in the passing game, short-arming a throw when wideout Jason Tomlinson was running unmarked down the middle of the field. He finished the game 6-for-11 for 73 yards, including the 25-yarder to Washington in overtime and also an underthrown interception in the first quarter.

Tulsa’s balanced offense racked up 444 yards of total offense. Paul Smith was 24-for-36 passing for 285 yards and three touchdowns, and the Golden Hurricane averaged 5.3 yards a carry on 30 rushing attempts.

Despite the sluggish play at times on both sides of the ball, it was still a game Navy could have won. The Mids missed a chance to move to 4-0 for the third time in 28 seasons and now face back-to-back road contests at Connecticut and Air Force.

“I don’t think I want to play [overtime] again,” senior linebacker Rob Caldwell said. “I’d rather win the game in four quarters and not have to go to the next one.”

Notes: North Texas is the lone remaining team in Division I-A that has yet to play an overtime game in its program’s history. … Navy honored its 1996 team at halftime. That group finished the season 9-3 and defeated California in the Aloha Bowl, the program’s first bowl appearance in 15 years.

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