Abey leads Navy past Tulsa 37-29
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
By TODD KARPOVICH
Abey did not complain after being moved to wide receiver prior to the season, despite leading the team in rushing and touchdowns as a quarterback last season.
Abey took the change in stride and Gargiulo joked he wouldn't be surprised to see him playing center.
When coach Ken Niumatalolo needed a spark, he let Abey retake control of the offense as the starting quarterback. The senior came up big in his final home game.
Abey ran for 128 yards with a pair of touchdowns and Navy snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 37-29 victory over Tulsa on Saturday.
"I thought Zach played a great game," Niumatalolo said. "I'm really proud of him. I thought Zach played tremendous."
The teams entered the game tied for last in the West Division of the American Athletic Conference.
The Midshipmen (3-8, 2-5 AAC) were able to distance themselves behind Abey, who was making his third straight start at quarterback and was effective running the triple-option attack.
"We ran the Navy offense," Abey said. "We executed in every way. We played physical. We got after those guys and it showed. Everyone did their job."
Navy amassed 389 yards on the ground and sent the Golden Hurricane (2-9, 1-6) to their ninth loss in 10 games.
Navy slotback Malcolm Perry broke a 52-yard scamper early in third quarter that set up a short field goal by Bennett Moehring and increased its lead to 30-16. That run pushed Perry over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season.
Navy fullback Mike Martin had a critical fumble that led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Tulsa running back Corey Taylor early in the fourth quarter. Midshipmen defensive end Jarvis Polu blocked the extra point to keep the deficit at eight points.
Trey Walker answered on the ensuing possession when he took a pitch from Abey and ran 33 yards down the near sideline for a TD and a 37-22 lead.
Tulsa showed some life on a Taylor's third touchdown of the game with 4:46 remaining. However, Navy picked up a couple of first downs to seal the win.
"I think Navy's record is similar to ours," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. "They played a tough schedule. They have been in a lot of close games and the ball just has not bounced their way. I thought (Abey) was back to his old form and he made some big plays."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Boomer was 19 of 28 for 206 passing yards with an interception for Tulsa.
Navy fullback Nelson Smith had a pair of first-half touchdowns that provided a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter.
"Playing Navy is tough," Tulsa safety Manny Bunch said. "They have a lot of great athletes. You are not used to seeing that type of offense they run."
Navy linebacker Austin Talbert-Loving was penalized for targeting on a kickoff return early in the second quarter and was ejected. Tulsa safety McKinley Whitfield was called for the same infraction with just under 11 minutes left in the game.
TURNOVERS AID NAVY
Navy has forced 20 turnovers in 11 games. Over the last six years, the Midshipmen are 32-6 when they win the turnover battle.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane have played mostly tough this season, losing five games by nine points or less. Tulsa can continue to build around sophomore running backs Shamari Brooks and Taylor, both of whom have helped carry the offense this year.
Navy: The Midshipmen have one more game to accrue added momentum before the regular-season finale against archrival Army on Dec. 8. Navy will face a stern challenge against the Black Knights, who are 9-2 and have won the past two meetings. A victory would help Navy salvage something from an overall disappointing season.
Tulsa: Closes out the regular season against SMU on Saturday.
Navy: Travels to Tulane Saturday for the final conference game.
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Updated November 17, 2018