ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Coach Ken Niumatalolo was confident Malcolm Perry could provide a spark after Navy played listlessly over the past couple of games.
The versatile sophomore rewarded him with a breakout performance.
Perry ran for 282 yards with four touchdowns in his first start at quarterback and backup kicker J.R. Osborn hit an 18-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired to give the Midshipmen a 43-40 victory over SMU on Saturday.
“Emotional game against a good SMU team that is playing really, really well,” Niumatalolo said. “Our kids found a way to win. Just really proud of them.”
Perry was originally recruited as a quarterback, but converted to slotback in the spring. Starting quarterback Zach Abey was active after suffering a shoulder injury last week against Temple, but Perry got the nod to run the triple-option offense and that proved to be a wise decision for Navy (6-3, 4-3 American Athletic Conference).
Perry had the third most rushing yards in school history before leaving late in the fourth quarter with an ankle sprain. His status is uncertain.
“I felt we needed a spark,” Niumatalolo said about starting Perry. “It was my decision.”
SMU quarterback Ben Hicks threw a 29-yard touchdown to Courtland Sutton and then completed another pass to Trey Quinn for a 2-point conversion that tied the game, 40-40, with 3:32 remaining to play. Sutton had seven receptions for 123 yards with a pair of scores.
Garret Lewis entered for the injured Perry and handed the ball to fullback Anthony Gargiulo, who managed 50 yards on two carries to the Mustangs’ 9-yard line that eventually set up the game-winning kick by Osborn, who is filling in for the injured Bennett Moehring (ankle).
“Tonight, my number was called,” Osborn said. “On the last kick, I just had to go out and make it.”
Gargiulo finished with a career-high 145 yards on 15 carries and had the game’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run. The Midshipmen snapped a three-game losing streak and became bowl-eligible for the sixth consecutive season.
The Mustangs (6-4, 3-3) struggled against the Midshipmen’s running attack, allowing 559 yards.
Perry gave Navy a 27-11 lead with a 92-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter_the second longest run in school history.
Trailing 34-11 at the half, SMU got back in the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hicks to Sutton and a 3-yard touchdown run by Xavier Jones early in the third quarter. Jones finished with 106 yards on 18 carries.
SMU did play much better against Navy after losing 75-31 last season in Dallas.
“Our culture was going to show up in the second half,” SMU coach Chad Morris said. “One way or another, it was going to show up. I challenged them. I said I was very disappointed, especially after scoring 75 on us a year ago… I am proud of our fight and proud of how our guys battled back.”
SMU: The Mustangs are already bowl-eligible and the future looks bright with sophomore Ben Hicks at quarterback. However, this loss likely ends SMU’s shot for an AAC West Division crown.
Navy: The Midshipmen qualified for a bowl game for the 14th time in the past 15 years. When Navy’s offense is clicking, they are difficult for any opponent to stop.
Navy won the Gansz Trophy for the sixth straight time. Navy and SMU jointly established the award in 2009 to honor a coach, Frank Gansz, who had ties to both programs. Gansz played center and linebacker at Navy and graduated from the academy in 1960. Gansz later spent four years as an assistant for the Midshipmen. He was also as an assistant at SMU when he died on April 27, 2009.
SMU: The Mustangs play another road game at Memphis, which sits atop the AAC’s West Division.
Navy: The Midshipmen travel to South Bend, Ind., for their annual matchup against Notre Dame. Navy won last year’s game 28-27 and are 13-76-1 all-time against the Irish.
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