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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Football

Offense sails to victory over Navy on Senior Day


Quarterback D’Eriq King’s ability to run the ball and throw to his receivers proved the perfect foil to the Navy Midshipmen on Senior Day, as the Cougars won 24-14. | Richard Fletcher/The Cougar

The Cougars overcame a halftime deficit and two turnovers to beat the Navy Midshipmen 24-14 at TDECU Stadium on Friday. The team ended its regular season with a 7-4 record, making it bowl eligible for the fifth straight season and in second place in the American Athletic Conference West Division.

The Cougars’ Senior Day was dominated by senior receivers Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar. The two had eight receptions each and combined for 240 receiving yards. Bonner started the action for the Cougars when he and quarterback D’Eriq King connected on back-to-back passes for 56 yards in the first quarter, putting them in the red zone. King capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run, his seventh of the year.

But the next quarter and a half was controlled by the Midshipmen. Navy featured nine different runners in their ground game, recording more than 100 yards in the first half and over 200 for the entire game.

Their ability to run the ball and force the Cougars to punt kept the Midshipmen in comfortable control of the game. The Cougars entered halftime down 7-14, but the story of this game is the points Navy left on the field.

In addition to missing a field goal attempt on the opening drive, Navy forced two fumbles against the Cougars, each time putting them in the red zone. But the Midshipmen weren’t able to convert the turnovers to points.

The first time, Houston linebacker Matthew Adams stopped them on 4th down at the 2-yard line. The second time, junior defensive end Jerard Carter and senior defensive end Nick Thurman combined for a sack, forcing them to punt.

Ironically, the Midshipmen left 17 points off the board, and the Cougars went on to score 17 straight. King took advantage of the opportunities created by his defense, finding his wide receivers for several big plays.

Bonner left the game with an injury, but Dunbar did not miss a step. On consecutive drives, he had catches of over 30 yards, which put the Cougars either in or just outside the red zone.

The first catch, which went for 34 yards, set up King’s second rushing TD of the day, which tied the game at 14. On the next drive, Dunbar took a reception 61 yards to the end zone, putting the Cougars up 21-14 and giving Dunbar 10 touchdowns as a Cougar.

A field goal by junior kicker Caden Novikoff put the team up by 10, and the defense managed to keep the Midshipmen off the field long enough for King and the offense to run out the clock.

Sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver and senior linebacker D’Juan Hines lead the Cougars’ defense. They combined for 25 total tackles and six tackles for a loss. Oliver ended the day with two sacks as well, both forcing punts from the Navy offense.

The Cougars have now won two straight at TDECU Stadium. As Memphis and UCF battle at the AAC Championship on Dec. 2, Cougar fans will be waiting on a possible bowl game invitation for the Cougars.

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