Navy quarterback Zach Abey brought the crowd to its feet when he ran for 53 yards in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati Sept. 23.
The Midshipmen appeared to be headed for a record-setting day on the ground. However, with the 42-32 victory in hand, Navy took a knee, settling for 569 rushing yards, 3 yards short of the record set in 2007 against North Texas.
Nonetheless, it was another impressive performance by the Midshipmen's triple-option offense, which has been giving opponents fits for years. The Bearcats, who had not played Navy since 1956, had no answers.
"People don't see us very often, so it's a great advantage for us because you can practice against yourselves, but this is what we do for a living," Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "This is what our program has been doing for decades."
Navy improved to 3-0, including a 2-0 mark in the American Athletic Conference. This week, the Midshipmen will look to keep that momentum going against Tulsa, which is playing its conference opener. Navy leads the all-time series, 3-1, including a 42-40 victory last year in Annapolis, Md.
Abey has been effective leading the offense and is becoming a dual threat. He ran for 128 yards against the Bearcats. Abey also threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Carmona.
Navy is averaging 393 rushing yards per game and has scored a touchdown on the ground in 65 consecutive games. Abey credited the scout team in practice for helping keep the offense sharp against Cincinnati.
"We were fortunate that they came out in what we worked against all week," said Abey, who leads the team with 471 rushing yards and four touchdowns. "We saw the same looks as we did all week in practice, so everyone knew what they had to do."
Tulsa (1-3) also has a solid running attack, led by D'Angelo Brewer, who has 578 rushing yards on 114 carries. Brewer is ranked sixth nationally in rushing yards per game (144.5) and 19th in rushing touchdowns (five). Quarterback Chad President has completed 57 of 102 passes for 677 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
On the other side of the ball, the Golden Hurricane are effective forcing turnovers, an area in which Navy has struggled some this season. Tulsa ranks eighth in defensive touchdowns with two and is 15th with four fumble recoveries.
"We've played some pretty good offenses up to this point. I think our defense has played well at times," Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery said in the AAC conference call this week. "We've just given up too many explosive plays."
Niumatalolo expects another hard-fought game. With a victory, the Midshipmen can improve to 4-0 for just the third time in 38 years.
"Tulsa is a really, really good football team led by really good coaches," Niumatalolo said. "This is going to be a tough game. Going on the road makes it even tougher."
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