Navy 29, Vanderbilt 26
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)—Aaron Polanco and Navy overcame kicking mistakes and a strong Vanderbilt defense to remain undefeated.
Polanco threw for a career-high 176 yards and ran for 84, including a 22-yard touchdown, as Navy beat Vanderbilt 29-26 on Saturday.
Navy improved to 4-0 for the first time since the Midshipmen opened the 1979 season with six straight wins. Vanderbilt fell to 0-3.
“It feels great to be 4-0, it was a lot of hard work,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “I never felt safe out there.”
Navy’s win came despite a poor kicking game. The Midshipmen missed two first-quarter field goal attempts, had a punt blocked and had another go for 12 yards.
But Navy’s offense rolled up 366 yards and had two second-half scoring drives to take the lead after falling behind in the third quarter.
Tied 14-14 at the half, Navy fell behind 19-14 early in the third quarter on a safety and a field goal.
Vanderbilt’s Norva Mckenzie blocked Eric Shuey’s punt, which rolled out of the end zone for a safety. Vanderbilt then finished a short drive with a 44-yard field goal by Patrick Johnson to take a five-point lead.
Navy then drove 74 yards in 10 plays, with Frank Divils scoring from the 5. Kyle Eckel added a two-point conversion run to put Navy up 22-19 midway through the third quarter.
The Midshipmen went ahead 29-19 on Polanco’s 22-yard run, which capped a 68-yard drive. Vanderbilt closed to within 29-26 with 2:30 to play on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Marlon White.
After a scoreless first quarter, Vanderbilt scored on the second play of the second quarter on an 8-yard pass from Cutler to Brandon Smith to break a string of six scoreless quarters by the Navy defense.
Navy scored on its next two possessions to go ahead 14-7. A 45-yard pass over the middle from Polanco to Nelson capped a six-play drive, and a 2-yard run by Trey Hines ended a 41-yard drive that was set up by Jeremy Chase’s recovery of a Vanderbilt fumble.
Vanderbilt tied the game with 19 seconds left in the half on a 1-yard, fourth-down sneak by Cutler, capping a 79-yard drive.
Vanderbilt held Navy to 190 yards rushing, well below an average of 310 yards per game—which ranked sixth in the nation.