EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—There are parts of the 2002 football season that Navy would probably like to forget. Yesterday, however, the Midshipmen put on a record-setting performance at Giants Stadium they'll want to savor forever.
Led by junior quarterback Craig Candeto, who rushed for six touchdowns and threw for one, Navy routed rival Army, 58-12, in front of 78,672 in what will go down as one of the most decisive victories in the 103-game series.
Navy's 58 points were the most in the game's history, and the 46-point margin was the second largest in the series, behind a 51-0 Navy win in 1973. The Mids' 508 yards of total offense and 421 rushing yards are also records in the series.
Candeto, who didn't even play in the fourth quarter, rushed for 103 yards on just 18 carries. His six touchdowns were the most by one player in the series.
"It felt a lot like a dream out there," Candeto said. "It just humbles me to think about it. There have been so many great players to play in this game, for me to be able to have that record, I'm really at a loss for words."
In the end, Army (1-11) was the one left speechless. The Black Knights turned two good kickoff returns by William White into two first-half field goals, but that was essentially it until a late 36-yard touchdown catch by Aaron Alexander.
Meanwhile, Navy (2-10) scored touchdowns on eight consecutive possessions to open the game, as Candeto, Michael Brimage (10 carries for 84 yards), Tony Lane (five carries for 65 yards), Bryce McDonald (10 carries for 63 yards) and Eric Roberts (six for 35 yards) steamrollered through the Black Knights' defense with relative ease.
"I don't think any of us could have dreamed that the game could have gone in that direction," Army coach Todd Berry said. "You don't ever expect that to happen. I've been around the game for a while. This has to be the toughest one I've ever experienced."
Berry had every reason to think the game would be close, if for no other reason than history. Seven times in the past 10 years, the Army-Navy game has been decided by five points or fewer, but it was clear early on that would not be the case this time.
Candeto scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter, then added three touchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 1, 42 and 7 yards. Candeto hit Lane over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown with 10:43 left in the third to put Navy up 44-6, then capped off his career day with a 1-yard run exactly five minutes later.
"Who says this game has to come down to one or two points?" Candeto said. "I'm sure we gave Coach Johnson a few less gray hairs today than normal."
Candeto's performance overshadowed the play of Navy's defense, which had its best day of the season. The Mids forced two turnovers, held the Black Knights to 241 total yards (the fewest Navy has given up all season), and sacked Reggie Nevels four times.
"People were running to the ball and getting after it," Navy safety Michawn Yuvienco said. "We didn't have many breakdowns in coverage, and everybody tackled well."
Even still, Yuvienco acknowledged that most of the team simply sat back and watched Candeto, the maestro of Navy's triple-option attack. "In the locker room, we call him Candy Man," Yuvienco said, "The reason is, when he takes off running, he's sweeter than candy."
Candeto was also as cool as ice cream, taking time in the huddle to joke with his teammates, soak up the atmosphere at Giants Stadium and occasionally sneak a peak at the spirit spots on the JumboTron.
(Each year, Army and Navy put together dueling comedy sketches poking fun at each other.) Candeto even shrugged off the fact that his jersey was covered in blood after the game, which appeared to be the result of several cuts on his arms and hands.
"I wish I could say it was Army's blood," Candeto said with a laugh. "But I'm pretty sure it's mine. That's OK. ... I'd be lying if I said I didn't take a little extra pleasure in beating Army like this. It feels really special."