Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Navy: 2014 Poinsettia Bowl Champions

Any blooper reel of the 2014 bowl season will be centered around the fourth quarter of Navy's 17-16 win over San Diego State.
The final 15 minutes of the game featured four turnovers, an incredibly confusing officiating sequence, an odd choice to go for it on fourth down and a missed game-winning field goal that ultimately gave Navy the victory.
Let's start with the missed field goal. After Austin Grebe put Navy up by a point with 1:27 left, San Diego State got into Navy territory after QB Quinn Kaehler hit WR Eric Judge for a 32-yard gain (Judge was ruled to have fumbled on the play – the fifth turnover of the fourth quarter – but the fumble was overturned). Four plays later, an incomplete pass set up a 34-yard field goal attempt for Donny Hageman, who was 3-3 on field goals throughout the game.
But on his fourth attempt, Hageman simply pushed it way right from the left hash. Navy got the ball back with 20 seconds to go and SDSU only had one timeout. The game was over.
Now on to the confusing officiating. On Navy's go-ahead drive, the Midshipmen went for it on fourth-and-one with 3:43 left at the San Diego State 44. The call was a fullback dive to Chris Swain, who rumbled for 13 yards and fumbled after he tumbled to the ground at the 31. While the play was being blown dead, SDSU's Damontae Kazee instinctively picked up the ball. As Navy's Jamir Tillman attempted to tackle him, Tillman grabbed Kazee's facemask.
A flag was thrown and after Swain was ruled to be down by contact before the fumble, the facemask was assessed against SDSU. While Swain's non-fumble was being reviewed, the officials gathered together and it was apparent from the TV cameras that one official was saying the penalty was against Navy.
After the review, which didn't overturn the fumble that the ground clearly caused, Navy was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a facemask foul that happened on a tackle that officially didn't happen. Snce the ball was blown dead on the field and via the review, Kazee's recovery meant nothing. However, the penalty was marked off and instead of having first down at the 31, Navy had a first down two yards behind where the fourth-and-one play took place.
Grebe's field goal happened six plays later.
The Navy drive was set up by a fumble by SDSU's Donnel Pumphrey with just under six minutes left. That turnover was the seventh of the game and the fourth turnover in six fourth quarter possessions. Navy had four fumbles, including two in the final quarter, and SDSU's other turnover of the final period came via an interception.
And while the seven turnovers aren't the highest tally of the young bowl season as the Miami Beach Bowl had nine, at least the Miami Beach Bowl was a pointsapalooza. The Poinsettia Bowl was a slog. SDSU started with the ball inside Navy territory after three of the Midshipmen's fumbles. Two drives turned into field goals.
The third, which ended with 8:45 left in the fourth quarter, ended on downs. With the Aztecs leading 16-14, SDSU coach Rocky Long head-scratchingly eschewed a 29-yard field goal attempt that potentially would have given the team a five-point lead and made Grebe's field goal late in the game a non-entity.
On fourth-and-five from the 12, San Diego State passed the ball instead of kicking the field goal. Kaehler's pass fell incomplete and Navy had the ball back still down two.
With the win, the Midshipmen finish the season 8-5. San Diego State ends 2014 at 7-6.
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