ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Two quarterbacks put on one heck of a show for Navy in the Military Bowl.
Backup Zach Abey scored five touchdowns, starter Malcolm Perry ran for 114 yards and two scores and the Midshipmen rolled to a surprisingly easy 49-7 victory over Virginia on Thursday.
After Virginia’s Joe Reed took the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, the Midshipmen (7-6) got two TDs apiece from Perry and Abey in taking a 28-7 halftime lead.
Perry left in the third quarter with a foot injury, leaving Abey to score on runs of 5 and 20 yards to make it 42-7 in a game Navy entered as a 1½-point favorite.
“Malcolm did a masterful job. The kid’s phenomenal, man,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He brings another dimension to our offense. To Zach’s credit, he came in there and played really, really well.”
The Midshipmen rolled up a Military Bowl-record 452 yards rushing, including 101 by Chris High and 88 by Abey, who began the season as the starter before losing the job.
“That’s the best we’ve played all year,” Niumatalolo said. “We put it together on both sides of the ball.”
Going back and forth with Perry and Abey might be the way to go in 2018.
“They’re both really good football players. I’ve got to find a way to use them both,” Niumatalolo said. “Just what you saw today is probably what you’re going to see next year.”
After scoring on a 1-yard run with 11:11 remaining, Abey sat down after becoming the fifth player in FBS history to rush for five TDs in a bowl game.
“We did what we were supposed to do,” Perry said. “It all starts up front. The guys were really physical. We played Navy football today.”
Playing in their first bowl since 2011, the Cavaliers (6-7) could not contain Navy’s triple option and had no success moving the ball.
“I think coach Niumatalolo had his team very well prepared,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “Clearly, I didn’t have our team prepared to perform to their true potential, offensively, defensively or special teams.”
Seeking its first winning season in six years, Virginia instead absorbed its sixth loss in seven games.
“The team worked really hard to get to this point, and that’s an accomplishment,” Mendenhall said. “I don’t think it takes the edge off (the season), but it certainly takes some off because it’s never fun to not play well and to lose the game. But it’s also reflective of exactly where we are.”
They’re currently in the second tier of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and at least on this day not nearly as good as Navy.
“They just outplayed us,” Virginia free safety Quin Blanding said. “That’s the bottom line. They came ready to play and we didn’t.”
Virginia senior Kurt Benkert came in with a school-record 3,062 yards passing this season, along with 25 touchdown passes. In this one, he went 15 for 34 for 133 yards and an interception, and the Cavaliers finished with a season-low 175 yards in offense.
“It was windy and it was cold,” Benkert said. “It was hard to get into a rhythm, and we never really found our stride.”
After Reed went the distance with the opening kickoff, Navy responded with a 69-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Abey. The Midshipmen then forced a three-and-out, and Perry finished an eight-play drive with a 22-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead.
Perry scored from 19 yards out and Abey concluded the first-half scoring with a 1-yard TD.
By then, Reed’s kickoff return was irrelevant.
“It’s nothing we haven’t seen all year. We just knew we had to respond,” Abey said.
Navy attempted only one pass, a toss by Abey in the third quarter. It fell incomplete.
The Cavaliers tripled their win total of a year ago and ended their six-year bowl drought, but now they’ve got this defeat to think about during the offseason.
“It might be the most valuable game of the year, in terms of now having the opportunity to reassess what we did, and reframing and addressing weaknesses in our program,” Mendenhall said.
The Midshipmen salvaged a disappointing season in which they started 5-0 before losing six of the next seven, including 14-13 to Army. Navy also discovered just how good Perry can be at QB, with Abey available when needed.
Camping World Bowl
No. 17 Oklahoma State 30, No. 22 Virginia Tech 21
ORLANDO, Fla. — They started playing football at Oklahoma State 116 years ago, and never in that span had there been a run of three consecutive 10-win seasons. Until now.
Mason Rudolph threw for 351 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his way to winning game MVP honors, James Washington had a long touchdown grab and became Oklahoma State’s career receiving yards leader, and the 17th-ranked Cowboys beat No. 22 Virginia Tech 30-21 in the Camping World Bowl on Thursday night.
“It’s cool. It speaks a lot about the senior class, about the leadership on both sides of the ball,” Rudolph said. “It’s a great achievement for us.”
Washington caught five passes for 126 yards, giving him 4,472 for his career and passing Rashaun Woods for the school mark. Justice Hill ran for 120 yards and another score for the Cowboys (10-3).
“A really good win for our organization,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Defensively, we gave up a lot of rushing yards but we were able to make some stops and force some turnovers. For Oklahoma State, really in the end, that’s what it comes down to.”
Josh Jackson ran for two scores and threw for another for the Hokies (9-4), including a rush that got Virginia Tech within 27-21 with 5:40 remaining. Deshawn McClease ran for 124 yards, a Virginia Tech season-best, but the Hokies were hurt by two turnovers in Oklahoma State territory.
“We had a plan and we executed well at times,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “I don’t really remember Oklahoma State making very many, if any, mistakes. And we made a handful, just enough to kind of keep us from pulling the thing off. That’s not to say that Oklahoma State doesn’t deserve credit for winning the game. They do.”
Hill came through with perhaps the play of the night. Facing a third-and-11 with 3:30 left, Hill took a handoff, went left, waited for a lane to open — and broke loose for a 31-yard gain down to the Hokies’ 18. Matt Ammendola’s 38-yard field goal with 2:34 left put the Cowboys up by nine, essentially sealing the outcome.
“Hats off to them,” said Virginia Tech defensive lineman Ricky Walker, who said the Hokies expected a run on that key late third down. “They made a good call and they executed it.”
Virginia Tech actually outgained the high-octane Cowboys, 518 yards to 492.
A pair of big missed Hokie opportunities helped Oklahoma State take a 13-7 lead at the break. An 18-play, 10-minute drive that got to the Oklahoma State 1 resulted in no points when the Hokies fumbled a snap away. And after the Cowboys took the lead late in the half, Jackson had a wide-open Henri Murphy down the middle for what would have been a 54-yard score.
But the pass was overthrown, the Hokies never led again, and Rudolph and Washington got the winning ending they sought.
“Just a fun college experience,” Rudolph said. “It’s been fun.”
Rudolph ended his college career with no fewer than 52 school records. His two touchdown throws gave him 37 on the season, tying Brandon Weeden’s school mark. And he came into the game needing 175 yards to break Weeden’s season passing record, eclipsing that in the third quarter.
Hokies kicker Joey Slye came up with a highlight in his college finale, making a big tackle on a third-quarter kickoff and celebrating by flexing his biceps as he skipped to the sideline. He ended his career as the Hokies’ all-time leader in field goals and points.
Oklahoma State cornerback Rodarius Williams got shaken up twice — both after collisions with teammates. He and defensive end Jordan Brailford crashed into one another in the first quarter on a play where they were pursuing Jackson, and Williams went knee-to-helmet with fellow cornerback A.J. Green in coverage during the third quarter.
Ryan Howard, who hit 382 home runs in 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, was at the game and cheering for Oklahoma State — even giving Cowboys defensive tackle Enoch Smith a Twitter shoutout.