Annapolis, Md.—Sophomore fullback Daba Fofana rushed for a career-high 159 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense forced four turnovers to lead Navy (2-3, 2-1 in the American Athletic Conference) to a 53-21 rout of Tulsa (2-4, 0- 2) in front of 30,658 fans at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The 53 points scored by the Mids equaled their total number of points scored in the first four games.
“I am just proud of our young men to bounce back like that after a devastating loss,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. “We showed a lot of grit and resolve, because that’s a good football team we just beat. They played Cincinnati tough; they played Ole Miss tough; this is a great team win.”
The Navy defense set the tone on the first drive of the game, forcing a Tulsa three-and-out. The Mids had allowed a touchdown on the first drive of the game in Navy’s three losses this year and forced a punt on the first drive in the win over East Carolina.
Navy took a 3-0 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Daniel Davies with 5:10 left in the first quarter. Fofana had a 20-yard run on the drive to set up the field goal.
After the Navy defense forced a third Tulsa punt in the first quarter, freshman wide receiver Nathan Kent electrified the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium crowd by taking a reverse 70 yards for a touchdown on his first career play to give the Mids a 10-0 lead.
A Davis Brin 22-yard touchdown pass cut the Navy lead to three with 43 seconds left in the first quarter, but that was as close as Tulsa would get the rest of the day as the Fofana show was about to begin.
Fofana would score all three of his touchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 47, 15 and 11 yards, as the Mids played their best quarter of football all year.
“I thought Daba played really well,” said Niumatalolo. “He’s a great young man. When I think of a Naval Academy football player, I think of Daba. He’s a really good student, plays the cello, just a great all-around young man. Things haven’t been going too good for him, but he stayed at it, kept working, kept his mouth quiet and just grinded. That’s who we are. We don’t make excuses, don’t complain, just keep coming to work and that’s what he did.”
Navy tacked on a safety when Brin was called for intentional grounding in the end zone thanks to pressure up the middle from linebacker Will Harbourwhile Davies added a career-long 46-yard field goal.
The 26 points scored by Navy in the second quarter were more points than it had scored in a game in the first four contests, as the Mids took a 36-14 lead into the locker room at the half.
Navy put the game away on the first drive of the third quarter when Rayuan Lane ran for 28 yards and a first down on a fake punt and then two plays later slot back Kai Puailoa-Rojas threw a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to the quarterback Tai Lavatai to give Navy a 43-14 lead.
Junior slot back Vincent Terrell Jr. capped off the best game of his career (17 carries for 93 yards) with a three-yard touchdown run with 3:52 left in the game to make the final score 53-21.
Navy rushed for a season-high 455 yards, while holding Tulsa to 25 yards on the ground.
Colin Ramos, Nicholas Straw and Elias Larry had interceptions for Navy, while Lane recovered a fumble. Junior corner Willie Collins Vmaking his first career start, led the Mids with seven tackles.
“The offense played well, the defense played well, the special teams played well. It feels great to finally get on track offensively,” said Niumatalolo.
Navy will travel to Dallas next week to take on SMU in a game that will be televised nationally by ESPN at 7:30 PM (ET).