College Football

Navy Upsets 17th Ranked Central Florida

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UCF receiver Xavier Townsend completes a five-yard pass play in the first quarter of Saturday’s game against Navy at the Bounce House. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Navy Midshipman running back Daba Fofana rushed for 114 yards and safety John Marshall recorded four sacks in a 17-14 win over the University of Central Florida Knights in front of an announced crowd of 44,813 at the FBC Mortgage Stadium, better known as the “Bounce House,” in Orlando on Saturday.

Entering the game, UCF was ranked 17th in the nation and was a heavy favorite. The Knights led the American Athletic Conference with 249.5 rushing yards per game, while Navy was right behind them in second place with 243.7 rushing yards per game. This was the fourth ever meeting between the teams.

Immediately after receiving the opening kickoff, Navy went to work. On the seventh consecutive rushing play in the possession, Fofana broke a run open for a 46-yard gain to the UCF 6-yard line. Four plays later, quarterback Xavier Arline scampered into the end zone for the game’s first score. Bijan Nichols extra point was good to give Navy the 7-0 lead with 8:20 remaining in the opening quarter.

UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee completed three passes in their first possession, but the Knights only advanced 19 yards on five plays, taking only 2:55 off the clock, before they were forced to punt.

Navy didn’t fare much better on its second possession. However, on 3rd down and 10 yards to go from their own 27 yard line, Arline threw a bomb to receiver Jayden Umbarger, which was broken up by UCF cornerback Davante Brown. If completed, Umbarger would have had an easy march into the end zone, but the incomplete pass would become Navy’s only pass attempt in the entire game.

The Knights went on a long drive of their own on the next possession. UCF began the drive with good field position, from their own 41 yard line, and with just two passes and two rushes, had 2nd down and 5 yards to go from the Navy 14 when the quarter ended.

Navy’s defense got tough and kept UCF running backs R.J. Harvey and Isaiah Bowser out of the end zone on the next four plays. A 21-yard Colton Boomer field goal with 12:30 left in the half gave the Knights their first score of the day.

Arline was sacked in back-to-back plays, which forced a three and out.

Navy fullback Daba Fofana receives a handoff from quarterback Xavier Arline during Saturday’s game against UCF at the Bounce House. Fofana had 20 rushes for 114 yards on the day. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

The Knights were able to advance the ball downfield when they took over after the punt. Plumlee completed a pass to receiver Javon Baker for a gain of 37-yards, setting up a 1st and 10 from the Navy 18. But the Midshipmen red zone defense held tough again and kept the Knights out of the end zone. UCF settled for a 31-yard field goal by Boomer to cut the deficit to one, 7-6 with 8:27 left in the half.

Midshipmen running back Maquel Haywood fumbled the kickoff at the nine-yard line, recovered it, and still managed to advance the ball to the Navy 16 yard-line. With 1st and 10 on their own 31, Fofana carried the ball to the line of scrimmage, bounced outside and then gained 20 yards before being brought down by UCF defensive back Koby Perry. On the next play, Fofana rushed for another six yards before being brought down at the UCF 43.

Fofana, Haywood, Arline and running back Anton Hall Jr., took turns running the ball for the first 12 plays of the possession. That set up an eight-yard rush around the left end by Vincent Terrell II for a touchdown. Ahmad Bradley made the key block that allowed the score. Following the extra point by Nichols, the Midshipmen led 4-6 with 1:33 left in the half. Navy ran 13 plays for 84 yards and took 6:50 off the clock.

UCF tried to respond with a quick attack on their last possession of the first half. Starting from their 16-yard line, Plumlee was sacked on the first play for a two yard loss. After an incomplete pass, Plumlee connected with Harvey on two passes to advance the ball 22 yards to the UCF 36 with just 28 seconds left in the half. Then he hit receiver Ryan O’Keefe for a 14-yard gain to bring the ball to midfield where the Knights took their last timeout of the half with just 12 seconds on the clock. Plumlee threw deep as time expired, but Midshipmen cornerback Mbiti Williams Jr. intercepted the pass at the Navy 14 and returned it to the Navy 45-yard line before being brought down by UCF tight end Alec Holler.

During their two first half trips to the red zone, the Navy Midshipmen came away with two touchdowns, while the UCF Knights scored two field goals during their two first half trips to the red zone. It was a 14-6 Navy lead at the half.

UCF receiver Javon Baker attempts to break out of a tackle during Saturday’s game against Navy at the Bounce House. Baker had six receptions for 101 yards on the day. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine.

Mikey Keene replaced Plumlee as quarterback when the second half resumed and by the time the drive was complete, they tied Navy. A 28-yard touchdown pass to Javon Baker and a successful two-point conversion tied the game at 14-14 with 13:25 left in the third quarter. The touchdown capped a five play 75-yard drive in the first 1:35 of the second half.

The Knights defense kicked in and forced Navy to a four-yard three-and-out possession, which forced a punt on 4th and 6. However, two plays later John Marshall sacked Keene for a four yard loss, but the ball popped out and was recovered by Navy linebacker Colin Ramos at the Knights 34-yard line.

Navy ran three rushing plays, two to Hall and one to Terrell, but were held to 4th and 4 on the UCF 28. Nichols made a 45-yard field goal with 8:32 remaining in the third quarter to give the Midshipmen the 17-14 lead.

That would become the game’s final score. Each team punted twice during the remainder of the third quarter, and each punted once during their first possession of the fourth quarter. UCF got as close to the Navy 43-yard line midway through the fourth quarter on a nine play, 37-yard drive that took three minutes off the clock, but turned the ball over on downs with 5:54 left in regulation. Navy chewed up the clock on an 11-play, 33-yard drive of their own until time expired.

Navy dominated the game on the ground with 63 rushing attempts for 248 yards. Fofana rushed 20 times for 114 yards to lead the Midshipmen. Navy also won the time of possession game 39:36 to 20:24.

Plumlee and Keene combined went 19-for-33 with 230 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception in the effort. Isaiah Bowser had 10 carries for 64 yards, and R.J. Harvey added in 7 carries and 44 yards for the Knights. Javon Baker had 6 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, and Ryan O’Keefe hauled in six more receptions and 78 yards for UCF. Xavier Arline only attempted one pass in the game for Navy.

Navy running back Vincent Terrell II crosses the goal line on an eight-yard touchdown run with 1:33 remaining in the half during Saturday’s contest against UCF at the Bounce House in Orlando, Florida. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

“What a great team effort,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. “If we stay the course, we’ve got a chance to win, got a chance to be a good program. I’m just grateful we’re able to turn the corner against a good team on the road.”

UCF head coach Gus Malzahn felt bad for the seniors who have now played their final home game. “Really tough loss, real disappointed for our guys,” said Malzahn. “This was our seniors’ last home game and everything that went with that. We didn’t get it done. We’ve got to live with that. We’ve got to put that behind us when we show up tomorrow and do everything we can to win a conference championship.”

Navy’s Marshall had a dominating performance with his four sacks.

“We knew it would be a tough game coming in. We knew Plumlee was really dynamic with his legs but that he was not as capable a thrower as 13 was, Mikey Keene,” said Marshall. “The mentality that this guy is probably not going to get out of the pocket much allowed us to put a lot of pressure on him. Two different ballplayers and I think we were able to get to both effectively.”

Ramos was amazed at the fumble that Marshall, his teammate, forced, that he was able to recover.

“I just happened to be at a good place at the right time. I saw him strip the ball. It comes flying right at me and I just picked it up. I maybe could have ran a little further but (was) tripped up. But it was a great play by John,” said Ramos.

UCF defensive tackle Anthony Montalvo knows that both teams could have played better.

“I feel like we did a decent job. Obviously there’s always correction. Nobody’s perfect even on their (Navy’s) end. They’re technically sound but there are still mistakes that they made, there are still mistakes that we made. They just made less mistakes than us, and that’s the reason they won,” said Montalvo.

UCF (8-3) visits the University of South Florida Bulls (1-10) on Nov. 26, while Navy (4-7) is off until they play Army (4-6) for the Army-Navy game at Philadelphia on Dec. 10.

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