Midshipmen pull away in the second half and head to the Houston Bowl on a roll.
By Wire services
Published December 7, 2003
PHILADELPHIA - Navy is heading to a bowl game. Army is facing an uncertain future.
Kyle Eckel ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns and Eric Roberts scored two TDs, leading Navy to a 34-6 victory Saturday in the 104th meeting between the service academies.
Army became the first team to finish 0-13 in major college history. The Black Knights have lost 15 straight, the nation's longest losing streak, and 24 of 25. Army, which has lost four of the past five against Navy, leads the overall series 49-48-7.
"The record doesn't matter," Army senior linebacker Ryan Kent said. "Just to be part of the team and be named captain, it's a great honor. I'm disappointed, but still it's a source of pride for me."
Navy (8-4), coming off a 2-10 season, is heading to the Houston Bowl on Dec. 30, its first bowl appearance since 1996.
Army kept it close early, but fell apart in the second half. Navy scored 27 consecutive points, pulling away on TD runs of 12 yards and 16 yards by Eckel in the fourth quarter.
"There's a good team in there in those kids. I couldn't get it out of them," Army interim coach John Mumford said. "They need confidence. They need to win. They are a great group of young men. It's been an honor to work with them."
Navy quarterback Craig Candeto had 58 yards rushing to go over 1,000 for the season. Candeto and Eckel, who has 1,178 yards rushing, became the first tandem in Navy history to each surpass 1,000 yards in the same season. Navy had 359 yards rushing.
Army's Zac Dahman threw for 115 yards and two interceptions.
Navy took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards to take a 20-6 lead. Roberts ran in from the 2 for his second TD. Two plays earlier, Roberts made a tumbling, one-handed catch on a 20-yard pass for a first down at Army's 5.
Eckel's 16-yard TD run made it 27-6 early in the fourth and later he had a 12-yard TD run.
The game had added importance this season because of the war in Iraq. It was the first time the game was played at the new Lincoln Financial Field, and it will be in Philadelphia four times from 2004-08. The 2007 game is in Baltimore.
"This game is important anyway, but (the war) gives it a little extra," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "Last night at dinner we had a flag sent to us that flew over the airport in Baghdad. That they thought enough to do that, it tells you the military overseas and everywhere can stop for three, four hours and it's like being home."
Navy took a 7-0 lead on its first possession as Roberts scored on a 1-yard TD run. Army cut it to 7-6 on a 1-yard run by Carlton Jones in the second quarter. The Black Knights botched the extra point when the snap was mishandled and holder Wesley Willard was tackled well short of the end zone.
Army's scoring drive was set up by Navy's failed fake punt.
The victory gave Navy the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, awarded annually to the team with the best record in games between the three service academies, for the first time since 1981.
"It's huge," Candeto said. "It's something none of us have experienced."