2:00 PM ET, October 11, 2003
Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Navy Midshipmen are proving they know how to take over a game and play keepaway.
Craig Candeto ran for two touchdowns, threw for two others and even recovered an onside kick, leading Navy's comeback in a 37-27 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Navy (4-2) trailed 17-14 at halftime but used the nation's top-ranked rushing offense to take control in the second half by scoring on each of five possessions and holding the ball for 21 minutes, 30 seconds.
"Offensively, right now we have a little swagger," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "We think we're supposed to score when we get the ball, and we've played the way we needed to play. I know we scored every time we had the ball in the second half ... That's a pretty good way to play."
Navy held the ball for nearly 37 minutes overall by running for 342 of their 502 yards. The Midshipmen now have won consecutive games for the first time since November 1999, and it was their first victory over a Southeastern Conference team since 1966 when they also beat Vanderbilt.
Candeto said the Midshipmen wanted to avoid a letdown after upsetting then-No. 25 Air Force last week.
"This was a big game for us to see how we would respond. We came out and played well. The guys were ready," Candeto said.
Vanderbilt (1-6) has lost five straight games.
"We just got whipped," Vandy coach Bobby Johnson said. "We didn't play well. They broke a lot of tackles. We only made them punt twice. When that happens, you can't have any success."
Navy sealed the victory when Vanderbilt couldn't handle a short kickoff while trailing 27-20 with 4:52 left. Nick Getter fumbled after being hit at the Vandy 30, and Shalimar Brazier recovered for the Midshipmen.
Candeto found Jason Tomlinson four plays later for a 16-yard TD toss and a 34-20 lead.
Vanderbilt pulled to 34-27 with a 65-yard drive capped by a 10-yard TD pass from Jay Cutler to Erik Davis. But Candeto ended the Commodores' rally by recovering their onside kick attempt with 1:30 remaining.
Rolfs put the finishing touch on the victory with his third field goal of the day, a 33-yarder with 24 seconds left. By then, the Midshipmen were too much for the Commodores.
"I was gassed," Vandy linebacker Otis Washington said.
Candeto was 9-of-15 for 160 yards passing, and he carried 22 times for 69 yards, including TD runs of 2 and 3 yards. Kyle Eckel had 115 yards on 20 carries.
Paul Johnson said Candeto deserved plenty of credit for how the offense dominated.
"We asked him to check to different fronts, and he played tough. He threw the ball great," the Navy coach said.
The Commodores scored 17 straight points for their halftime lead. But they now have lost 10 straight games against Division I-A opponents and have only five victories in their last 32 games against major college teams.
This is Navy's best start since 1996 when the Midshipmen went 9-3 and won a bowl game, and the victory keeps the team on track for its first winning record since going 7-4 in 1997.
They opened the game by scoring on their first two possessions. Navy ran on nine of 10 plays in the first drive, which was capped by Candeto scoring on fourth-and-2. The second drive ended with Candeto hitting Amir Jenkins on a 43-yard TD toss for a 14-0 lead.
Then the Commodores finally settled down on both offense and defense. Tolga Ertugrul got Vandy on the board with a 25-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter.
Kwane Doster, last season's SEC freshman of the year, had a season-high 72 yards rushing for Vanderbilt, but he only had one carry in the second half.