4:30 PM ET, December 30, 2004
Navy Memorial Stadium, ANNAPOLIS, MD
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Aaron Polanco noticed New Mexico's defense overloading the outside snap after snap, so Navy's quarterback kept the ball and ran all day.
In his final game, Polanco embarrassed the nation's eighth-best rush defense.
He ran for three touchdowns and passed for another, and Navy capped the academy's best season in 99 years with a 34-19 win over New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl on Thursday.
Polanco did just about everything else, too.
"I guess that's the way it worked out for me,'' he said. "The line played their hearts out.''
Polanco scored on runs of 14, 1 and 27 yards and completed a 61-yard touchdown pass to Corey Dryden, the longest of the season by Polanco and the first career score by Dryden. The Midshipmen didn't have a turnover, and their defense was also impressive, despite the rain-soaked field at SBC Park.
The unit forced two first-half turnovers that led to TDs and staged a goal-line stand late in the third quarter. Then Navy kept the ball for the next 14 minutes, 26 seconds -- reeling off 26 plays on the drive -- and held New Mexico to only six plays in the fourth quarter.
The Midshipmen (10-2) tied for the most wins in school history, last accomplished when Navy went 10-1-1 in 1905. It was a fitting end for the Mids, some of whom will head off to war in the coming year. Less than two months ago, Navy's players dealt with the death of former teammate JP Blecksmith in a military operation in Fallujah, Iraq.
"With what's going on in the world, there's just a bond. You witnessed that today,'' said Paul Johnson, Navy's third-year coach, who has turned around a program that went 1-20 in the two years before he arrived.
"This team will go down in the annals as a very special team. I said after the game that I'm so happy for these players. They've seen the bottom of the barrel and now found success. Any time you can see hard work rewarded it makes your job worthwhile.''
Polanco, who will head to flight school next summer, finished the season with 16 rushing touchdowns, a record by a quarterback this year. Temple's Walter Washington ran for 15. Polanco gained a Navy bowl record 136 yards on the ground for his fourth 100-yard rushing game and threw for 101 yards. He even caught a 17-yard pass from Frank Divis to set up his second TD -- and his two receptions were most by any Navy player.
New Mexico quarterback Kole McKamey had nearly as big a day after the Lobos (7-5) lost star tailback DonTrell Moore to a severe left knee injury late in the first quarter that will require surgery within the next 10 days.
McKamey threw for 207 yards and also rushed for 138, the first Lobos player to accomplish the feat since Graham Leigh in 1997. But McKamey had two interceptions and only had a few chances down the stretch.
"I've never heard of a 14-minute drive,'' Lobos coach Rocky Long said. "The strange thing is, we weren't playing bad defense.''
Being part of such a long drive is something players on both sides will remember. Those on the field were exhausted, and those watching also became tired.
"The drive to eat up the whole fourth quarter was huge. It was a great way to play defense,'' Johnson said.
Moore, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons and came in averaging 108.3 yards per game, was carted off the field after catching a shovel pass and taking a hard hit from cornerback Vaughn Kelley that caused Moore to fumble with 3:52 left in the first quarter.
Linebacker Lane Jackson pounced on the ball for his first fumble recovery this year, and Polanco scored five plays later. Jackson also made an interception as time expired in the first half.
The loss of Moore put additional pressure on McKamey.
"It was big,'' the quarterback said. "DonTrell is so multitalented. He can run and catch the ball out of the backfield.''
Navy built a 21-7 lead eight seconds into the second quarter on Polanco's 61-yard touchdown pass to Dryden.
The Lobos couldn't stop Navy's impressive triple-option offense. The Midshipmen snapped New Mexico's five-game winning streak and kept the Lobos from their first bowl victory in 43 years.
New Mexico lost in the Las Vegas Bowl the past two years and hasn't won a postseason game since beating Western Michigan 28-12 in the 1961 Aviation Bowl. The Lobos had won 11 straight games when they scored first.
The game's first punt didn't come until 1:01 before halftime.
When New Mexico kicker Wes Zunker missed a PAT in the second quarter, he had his streak of 46 straight conversions snapped one shy of the school record.
|3rd Down Conversions||8-11||8-14|
|4th Down Conversions||0-2||2-2|
|TD||7:31||LOGAN HALL 17 YD PASS FROM KOLE MCKAMEY (WES ZUNKER KICK)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 66 yards.
|TD||5:01||AARON POLANCO 14 YD RUN (GEOFF BLUMENFELD KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||2:01||AARON POLANCO 1 YD RUN (GEOFF BLUMENFELD KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 22 yards.
|TD||14:52||COREY DRYDEN 61 YD PASS FROM AARON POLANCO (GEOFF BLUMENFELD KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 72 yards.
|TD||13:13||RODNEY FERGUSON 4 YD RUN (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 88 yards.
|FG||9:19||GEOFF BLUMENFELD 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||3:36||KOLE MCKAMEY 3 YD RUN (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||7:01||AARON POLANCO 27 YD RUN (GEOFF BLUMENFELD KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 75 yards.
|FG||2:15||GEOFF BLUMENFELD 22 YD FG|
Drive info: 26 plays, 94 yards.