Niumatalolo, in his 12th full season helming the program in Annapolis, earned his ninth victory in the rivalry game, making him the winningest coach in series history.
Niumatalolo gave Perry the keys and confidence to run the offense. Perry used every moment he had during the offseason studying Navy’s playbook to run it to perfection.
The result was the swift turnaround of a program that looked stagnant just a year ago.
“No one likes what happened last season, and I can speak on behalf of the whole team: There’s no other guy we’d want to be playing for,” senior center Ford Higgins said. “The way [Niumatalolo] approached this offseason was something we could all get behind so easily, the way he came in with high energy bringing in new people. It’s something that was contagious. We are the men of Ken.”
But on Saturday, it was Perry who put on a show.
Army (5-8) looked good at the start of the game outgained the Navy 75-8 in the first quarter. In the other three, the Mids outgained Army 388-73.
Injuries plagued the Black Knights. Christian Anderson was the program’s first quarterback since 1979 to make his first career start in the Army-Navy game. He was playing behind an offensive line that hasn’t spent too much time playing together. Army held the ball for just 15:24 in the final three quarters.
“I couldn’t be happier to see Malcolm Perry graduate,” Army Coach Jeff Monken said. “He is a terrific player. He ran through us today; there wasn’t much we could do about it. I’m disappointed in today’s loss. I’m disappointed in this season. There are really not many words to say.”
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr., led Army with 56 rushing yards and one touchdown. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards.
After both offenses stalled with a three-and-out, Army put together a 78-yard drive in 18 plays for a score which ate almost 11 minutes of clock and punched it in from five yards out.
That would be the only time that Black Knights hit the paydirt.
Perry would answer immediately with a 55 run up Army’s sideline for a touchdown after he juked a few defenders and took advantage of a smash block from fullback Carothers to find room on the edge.
Perry’s second big play was a 44-yard sprint that put the Mids on the Black Knights 17-yard line. Two plays later, he initiated Navy’s version of the Eagles Philly Special when he pitched the ball to wideout Chance Warren, who threw a one-yard scoring pass to Carothers. The trick play, which came six seconds before halftime with the Mids receiving the ball to start the third quarter, gave the Navy a 14-7 lead and they never looked back.
“I just wanted to make sure I was in bounds and try to make a play on the ball,” Carothers said. “I knew, either way, we were going to get points on that possession, so I just tried to give myself the best chance possible.”
Carothers scored again on a five-yard run with 4:53 left in the third quarter after the back plowed through 14-yard sprint gain, Perry added an 18-yard run to get Navy to the Army 6 yard line. The pair combined again to get the Mids into field goal range at the beginning of the fourth quarter, scoring again on a 37-yard kick from Nichols before the Black Knights even had a first down in the second half.
The Black Knights couldn’t move the ball offensively against the Mids attacking defensive fronts and their exotic blitz packages. Perry and the Midshipmen’s defense were the keys to the game.