Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai, top center, runs the ball in...

Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai, top center, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Army, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J.  Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

The pride and pageantry that is the Army-Navy football rivalry returned to the familiar confines of an NFL stadium Saturday.

One year after the two teams played in front of only midshipmen and cadets at Army’s Michie Stadium in West Point (no fans were allowed), they found themselves in front of 82,282 fans at MetLife Stadium, the largest crowd at a college football game in the 11-year history of the stadium.

And they saw an upset worthy of that history as Navy beat Army, 17-13. Navy (4-8) stopped Army (8-4) on a fourth-and-3 from the Navy 48 with 1:31 left to seal the win.

"This is what everything in our program is about, to beat those guys at football,’’ Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "After this, we’ll serve together. But on this day, we have one goal, and that’s to crush Army."

Navy has won two of the last three meetings and leads 62-53-7 in the all-time series.

Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Carlinos Acie rushed for 34 yards on nine carries and Isaac Ruoss gained 33 yards on nine carries. Navy outgained Army 278-232, built a 196-124 rushing edge and shut out Army in the second half.

Army controlled most of the first half, taking a 13-7 lead into halftime. But Navy changed the narrative on the first drive of the third quarter, marching 74 yards and taking a 14-13 lead on Lavatai’s 2-yard touchdown run and Bijan Nichols’ extra point.

The touchdown was set up by a 26-yard run by Chance Warren on a fourth-and-4 from the Army 28-yard line, a play that produced a shift in momentum.

"I knew my options were limited in this game,’’ Warren said. "I was thankful to the coaches just trusting me with the ball to make a play like that regardless of the opportunity."

Nichols extended the Navy lead to 17-13 with a 43-yard field goal with 6:10 left in the game. That capped a 15-play drive that ate up 8:56 and included a fake punt on fourth-and-1 that was not a called play.

"Sometimes it’s good to be lucky,’’ Niumatalolo said. "We had a miscommunication there, but players have to make plays. I didn’t know we were going to do it either."

Early on, the game had all the makings of a high-scoring affair. Army scored two minutes into the first quarter when quarterback Christian Anderson juked a defender and ran 56 yards for a touchdown. Navy answered on its first drive, an 11-play, 83-yard clinic that ended in an 8-yard touchdown run by Lavatai that tied the score with 7:22 left in the first quarter.

Arline hurts hamstring. Navy quarterback and former Shoreham-Wading River star Xavier Arline left the game early in the first quarter with a pulled hamstring. Arline, a sophomore who started last year’s Army-Navy game, rushed for 10 yards on Navy’s third offensive play and reached for his hamstring shortly after going down. He was visibly angry walking off the field.

Arline, who played football, basketball and lacrosse for Shoreham-Wading River, played in seven of Navy’s 12 games. He threw for 142 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns.


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.