Smizik: Undermanned Navy tops Pitt, 24-21

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In terms of talent, Navy should not be able to compete with Pitt or almost any other team that plays in a BCS conference. The Naval Academy might somewhat lower its academic standards for athletes, but it cannot recruit and/or accept most of the players who fill the lineups of teams from major conferences.

But that hasn't stopped Navy from winning against better talent and they did it again today and once against it was Pitt on the losing side.

Pitt football almost guarantees a somewhat ridiculous loss every season -- be it Ohio U., Youngstown State, Temple or Navy. This time it was the undermanned Midshipman, who used a fluke touchdown to stay in the game in the first half, and then simply outmanned the bigger stronger and more heavily recruited Panthers to forge 24-21 win on a field goal as time expired.

The Navy team that lost to Western Kentucky, Toledo and by 28 points to Duke -- a team Pitt beat -- rose up in the final 25 minutes of the game and badly outplayed the Panthers.

The Midshipmen took over the game in the second half. After their offense had been mostly stagnant in the first half -- except for a 58-yard double-ricochet touchdown pass -- they dominated Pitt when the game was on the line.

The 16-play, 91-yard touchdown drive, which began in the third quarter and ended early in the fourth and gave them a 14-13 lead, came out of nowhere. At no point in the game had they showed such a potent offense.

After Pitt came back to take the lead, 21-14, on a touchdown and two-point conversation, Navy really showed its mettle and its dominance.

It forged a 10-play, 71-yard drive to tie the game and if that were not enough, stopped Pitt on a three-and-out on the ensuing kickoff.

With the help of a 20-yard punt, the Middies started their possession in Pitt territory and methodically, with an eye on the clock, used 11 plays to move the ball to the 13. From there, kicker Nick Sloan, who helped lose the Toledo game with a missed extra point in overtime, drove home the game-winning field goal.

Pitt dropped to 4-3 and now faces the most difficult part of its schedule in the next five weeks -- at Georgia Tech, home against North Carolina and Notre Dame, at Syracuse and at home against Miami.

As well as Pitt stopped Navy’s triple option in the first half -- which it will also face next week at Georgia Tech -- it got manhandled in the second half. Navy finished with 220 rushing yards. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds was superb and carried 21 times for 93 yards.

The running game that destroyed Old Dominion last week made occasional appearances for the Panthers but overall was a disappointment with 135 yards on 38 carries. Isaac Bennett, who ran for 240 yards against ODU, had 77 on 22 carries.

Quarterback Tom Savage had a good day, completing 20 of 27 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. But on Pitt’s final possession, he was sacked once and forced to run for a short game on another down.


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