Service Academy Roundup- Week 9

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Call him “Admiral Perry.” Call him “Malcolm in the Middle of the action.”

Call him Commodore Comeback.

Whatever label or name you want to apply, Navy football is witnessing the finest hour for a gifted quarterback who has avoided injury long enough to shine.

Malcolm Perry is deft and elusive and valiant. He has an endless appetite for battle and throws his body into the fray. Just one problem: That body has been vulnerable to injury. Perry’s in-and-out reality, going from the field of play to the bench and back onto the gridiron, has created a stop-start quality which has interfered with his rhythm. More broadly, that reality has interfered with his evolution as a quarterback.

Any follower of Navy football knows that after the majestic career of Keenan Reynolds, capped by his soaring 2015 season which deserved (but was denied) an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, Navy quarterbacks have encountered brutal injury luck.

It started with Tago Smith. It flowed to Will Worth. These treacherous waters flowed to Perry.

Yes, Navy’s offensive line was bad last year, and it has come back strong this year, one of the central reasons Navy has returned to its prosperous ways. A line which executes its blocks and unlocks the powers of the triple option is a cornerstone element of winning football in Annapolis. Yet, Malcolm Perry had to stay the course, too.

He had to keep the faith – in his teammates and himself.

He had to evolve as a downfield passer.

He had to absorb all the close-game heartbreaks Navy endured one season ago and not merely RESOLVE to get things right in 2019… but finish the job.

Perry did that in the huge game against Air Force which has positioned Navy to reclaim the Commander In Chief’s Trophy, if it can beat Army in December.

By golly, Perry did it again on Saturday against Tulane.

With Navy hemorrhaging belief and energy in the face of a tidal surge from the Green Wave, Perry stood up in the midst of the tumult and insisted that no, Navy would not lose this game. It would not lose a contest in which it led 24-0. It would not allow Tulane to deliver yet another stinging loss to Navy after last year’s Green Wave victory in New Orleans, a 29-28 nail-biter. It would not allow Tulane to enter November in contention for the AAC West title.

No, Perry’s multiple fourth-down conversions stopped Tulane’s surge, which had tied the game at 31. Perry established the 38-31 lead Navy needed to avoid losing this game in regulation.

Then, Perry’s three big runs on the game-winning drive in the final minute set up freshman Bijan Nichols’ onion-rich 48-yard field goal for a triumph which keeps Navy in the AAC West hunt. Navy knows that either SMU or Memphis will lose on November 2. The Midshipmen know that if they can beat SMU, their chances of winning the division will be very good.

Malcolm was in the middle of it all. He parried – or is it Perry’d – Tulane’s thrusts. He has Navy back where it belongs, with only one loss entering the final full month of this football season.

Yes, Navy’s defense played an excellent first quarter and came up with a huge pick-six just before halftime. Yes, Ivin Jasper called a perfect first quarter in which every button he pushed became a great play. Yet, at the end, Navy teetered on the brink of disaster. Malcolm Perry rescued his team.

This is what a Naval leader looks like on the gridiron. No. 10 is a perfect 10 when it really counts in 2019.

Navy goes to Connecticut this upcoming Friday night, and then gets a needed – and deserved – week of rest before the home stretch.

Elsewhere in the world of academy football, Army’s downward slide continued with a 34-29 loss to San Jose State in Michie Stadium. Army’s defense simply hasn’t replicated the formula of 2018.

Air Force thumped Utah State in a very impressive performance. Air Force gained 254 of the game’s first 300 yards, pulverizing one of its foremost contenders in the Mountain West Mountain Division. Air Force is in very good shape to get second place in the Mountain Division, and if it gets some help from Boise State’s opponents, the division title is not completely out of the question.

Air Force and Army now prepare for an upcoming Saturday clash in Colorado Springs, the second Commander In Chief’s Trophy game of the season. Air Force couldn’t beat Navy, but it has to like its chances versus Army. If the Falcons win and Army beats Navy in December, the CIC Trophy will be shared for the fifth time (1974, 1976, 1980, 1993).

Army will need to win this game to have a realistic shot at a bowl bid. Air Force will need to win this game if it wants to have a 10-win season. This game is big beyond the CIC Trophy… but when two academy teams play, bragging rights and CIC Trophy considerations dwarf everything else.

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