Navy 24, SMU 17
Ken Niumatalolo celebrated on the sideline more than some of his players did late in Saturday's game against SMU.
Navy's coach had good reason to be happy. The Midshipmen still have a shot to play in their ninth consecutive bowl game.
Quarterback Kriss Proctor rushed for 107 yards and John Howell scored the go-ahead touchdown to keep the Midshipmen - who didn't complete a pass all game - in bowl contention with a 24-17 victory over SMU.
After SMU got within 24-17 with 3:40 left, the Midshipmen ran out the clock with the help of Gee Gee Greene's 8-yard run on third-and-6. Greene went airborne on the play, which had Niumatalolo jumping up and down on the sideline.
Navy (4-6) is guaranteed a spot in the Military Bowl if it can beat San Jose State and Army.
''We continue to fight, scratch and claw,'' Niumatalolo said. ''That's Navy football.''
Navy rushed for 335 yards in what served as a preview of sorts if the two teams wind up in the Big East.
The Midshipmen also beat SMU in 2008 without attempting a pass.
On Saturday, Proctor only threw two passes and one of them was intercepted.
''I love it,'' Proctor joked. ''I didn't complete a pass. I threw a pick. I guess that counts as a completion.''
Zach Line rushed for 135 yards, his eighth 100-yard effort this season, and Cole Beasley scored two touchdowns, including a 2-yard run that got SMU within 24-17.
SMU (6-4) lost its third in four games, while Navy has won five straight against SMU and eight of nine overall.
''It's about discipline and turning the ball over,'' Beasley said. ''We had some stupid penalties and turnovers.''
The teams are connected by late coach Frank Gansz and have a trophy in his honor. After playing center and linebacker for Navy from 1957-59, Gansz coached for 38 seasons - 24 in the NFL and 14 in college, including for Navy and SMU.
Navy's Alex Teich rushed for 90 yards and Greene added 67 yards on the ground.
SMU scored on its opening drive of the second half, tying the game 10-10 on J.J. McDermott's 7-yard touchdown pass to Beasley.
Navy responded on its next drive to take the lead for good. Howell finished off a 78-yard march with a 1-yard run, giving the Midshipmen a 17-10 advantage with 5:17 remaining in the third.
SMU had a chance to tie things late in the third when Chris Banjo recovered Matt Aiken's muffed punt at the Navy 25. The Mustangs couldn't take advantage of the miscue and didn't gain a first down on the ensuing possession as McDermott's fourth-down pass was knocked away.
After the failed fourth-down attempt, Mike Stukel's 5-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter gave Navy a 24-10 lead.
Navy's bid for a bowl appearance took a hit when it lost six in a row before beating Troy last weekend. The Midshipmen need six victories to play in the Military Bowl.
''That's this season's goal,'' Proctor said. ''That's what it all boils down to.''
Navy scored on its opening drive on Jon Teague's 39-yard field goal.
Chris Ferguson intercepted McDermott to set up Navy's first touchdown of the game. Greene capped a 56-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run to give Navy a 10-0 advantage.
SMU drove deep into Navy territory on their final two drives of the first half without scoring a touchdown.
David Sperry intercepted McDermott in the end zone with five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
After driving to the Navy 11, SMU's drive stalled and Chase Hover kicked a 28-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
Former President George W. Bush and wife Laura attended the game and participated in the pregame coin toss with captains from both teams.