ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Virginia Cavaliers started off with a bang in the 10th anniversary Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, benefiting the USO. The rest of the game, however, belonged to the Navy Midshipmen.
Starting quarterback Malcolm Perry rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with an injury, but Navy’s other quarterback Zach Abey finished with 88 yards rushing and a Military Bowl-record five touchdowns to lead the Midshipmen to a 49-7 victory over Virginia on Thursday before a soldout crowd of 35,921 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
It was the largest margin of victory in Military Bowl history and the third Military Bowl in four years played before a capacity crowd.
“To me, this was a momentum-changing win for our program,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said.
On a cold but sunny day that started with the largest Military Bowl Parade yet, 13 Medal of Honor Recipients joined Command Sergeant Major John Troxell, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the pregame coin toss.
Miss D.C. Briana Kinsey sang the Star Spangled Banner, then Virginia jumped out to a 7-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game when Joe Reed returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
But just like Navy’s last appearance in the Military Bowl in 2015, after allowing a game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown, the Midshipmen took over.
Abey came off the bench for a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, sandwiched around 19- and 22-yard touchdown runs by Perry and Navy led 28-7 at halftime.
The Midshipmen (7-6) then lengthened the lead in the second half. After Perry was injured on the first drive of the third quarter, Abey took over all the snaps under center and Navy didn’t miss a beat. Abey scored on runs on 5, 20 and 1 yard as the Midshipmen built a 49-7 lead. Abey was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Navy set several bowl records in the victory, including most rushing attempts (76), most yards rushing (452), fewest passing attempts (1), fewest completions/passing yards (0) and fewest points allowed (7).
“That’s the best we’ve played all year,” Niumatalolo said. “We put it together on both sides of the ball. … The last time we played in this bowl game we had the exact same thing happen to open the game. Our kids didn’t panic. I’m proud of our seniors and proud of our team.”
Virginia (6-7) struggled on both sides of the ball, finishing with just 175 yards of total offense as Navy held the ball for 42 minutes.
“Thanks to the Military Bowl for the exciting week we had,” Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert said. “I had a blast.”