ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — It was no surprise that Navy stuck to its tried-and-true game plan of running their opponents into submission on the ground. Everything else surrounding that game plan did end up being a surprise, from the change at quarterback — then having to change that plan due to injury — to a defense that got after the quarterback better than any Midshipmen team had ever done.
Quarterback Tai Lavatai threw for a touchdown while steering the Midshipmen offense to 331 yards on the ground, helping to lead Navy to a 27-24 victory over the North Texas Mean Green inside Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Navy’s defense was in the North Texas backfield all game, recording a school-record eight sacks, including one on the Mean Green’s final drive of the game to thwart their last effort at moving into position for a game-tying field goal.
Lavatai, a senior, had started under center for the Midshipmen in every game be had participated in until today, when sophomore quarterback Blake Horvath got the nod to start the game at quarterback. Late in the first half, however, Horvath left the game with a left hand injury and Lavatai returned to helm the Navy offense. On two consecutive plays, Lavatai converted a third-and-8 with a 20-yard run up the middle and then connected with Nathan Kent on. 26-yard touchdown pass to give Navy a 13-10 lead with 48 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The pass was one of four completed by Lavatai on eight attempts — and the first completion of the day to that point for Navy — with the score giving the Midshipmen the lead for good.
Sophomore fullback Alex Tecza had two rushing touchdowns, on a 39-yard run up the middle early in the second quarter for Navy’s first points and lead of the game, and a 21-yard jaunt for a 27-17 Midshipmen lead. Tecza’s second score came on the drive immediately after Chandler Rogers threw an 18-yard touchdown to Ja’Mori Maclin to reduce the Midshipmen’s lead to three early in the fourth quarter. Ayo Adeyi ran for a 45-yard touchdown later in the quarter to keep the Mean Green in the game, down 27-24 with 5:31 remaining.
Navy’s defense, however, was able to hold the Mean Green at bay late in the game, recording three of their octet of sacks in the final stanza. (Five of the Midshipmen’s eight sacks came in the second half.)
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s contest, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 10 pictures in total.