Navy seniors lead the way in home finale

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Mids clinch winning record for ninth time in 10 years

ANNAPOLIS -- Senior Day has extra significance at Navy, where its graduates advance to battle of another kind. Perhaps that is why the Midshipmen traditionally rise in their final game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

With contributions from seniors well-known and otherwise, Navy won its 10th straight home finale on Saturday before 31,004. With senior slotback Gee Gee Greene propelling the offense, senior linebacker Keegan Wetzel leading the defense, and senior John O'Boyle making a big play on special teams, Navy subdued Texas State 21-10.

Greene, who rushed 14 times for 71 yards and caught two passes for 38 yards, scored on a 10-yard run in the fourth quarter. Wetzel combined with senior defensive end Wes Henderson on a key third down stop on former Navy back Marcus Curry (11 carries, 64 yards).

O'Boyle's key contribution came on the second half kickoff when he forced a fumble which was recovered by sophomore James Britton, setting up a 16-yard touchdown run by sophomore Noah Copeland. O'Boyle, a reserve wideout, entered the game with one career reception for two yards.

With the Texas State defense focused on sensational freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds (10 carries, 50 yards), Navy got its best work this season from its fullbacks.

Copeland carried 17 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns while freshman Chris Swain added 45 yards on seven carries. Junior slotback Darius Staten contributed 68 yards on seven rushes.

Also contributing on defense were freshman cornerback Kwazel Bertrand (seven tackles), who tackled holder Shaun Rutherford for a 10-yard loss on a fake field goal try, and sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Drake and sophomore cornerback Parrish Gaines, who both batted down fourth down passes, ending Bobcat drives in the fourth quarter.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl-bound Navy (7-4) gets the next two Saturdays off before playing Army (2-9) for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Two weeks ago, the Black Knights pulled off a stunning upset of Air Force, 41-21, ending its 13-game losing streak against service academy teams.

On Saturday, Navy rediscovered the value of establishing the fullback - the first option in their triple option offense. On the Mids' second possession, they ripped off consecutive runs of 9, 10, 13, 12, 14, and 15 yards, alternating gives to the fullback and pitches to slotbacks Staten and Geoffrey Whiteside. Copeland's 15-yard dash gave Navy a 7-0 lead.

After surrendering 597 yards and 41 points in a loss at Troy the previous week, the Navy defense was stellar, especially when Texas State (3-7) threatened. The unit was bolstered by alternating inside linebackers Matt Warrick (nine tackles), Brye French (eight tackles), and Cody Peterson (seven tackles).

After last year's uncharacteristically sloppy 5-7 season, it was a satisfying victory for Navy as it clinched a winning record for the ninth time in the last 10 years.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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