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Navy pounds Virginia, 49-7, to win 2017 Military Bowl

Dec 28, 2017 08:56PM ● By Jake Russell
By Jake Russell

Less than three weeks after their disappointing 14-13 loss against Army, the Navy Midshipmen wanted to end their 2017 season on a high note. On their home turf at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the blue and gold did just that at Thursday's Military Bowl, pounding the Virginia Cavaliers, 49-7.

In a season in which they started 5-0, the Mids closed the regular season on a shocking 1-6 stretch. In almost a mirror image of a season, the Cavaliers started 5-1 and closed their regular season 1-5 but still clinched their first bowl game in six years.

Virginia (6-7) opened the game with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. That was all the offense the Cavs would muster on a freezing cold afternoon in Annapolis.

As they had done in the 2015 Military Bowl against Pittsburgh, Navy started the game off by allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown. Also as they had done in the 2015 Military Bowl, the Midshipmen took the game over the rest of the way.

Navy (7-6) controlled every aspect of the game, gaining 452 yards to Virginia's 175. The Midshipmen also possessed the ball for 42 minutes and had 24 first downs to the Cavaliers' 11.

On the way to claiming the Military Bowl MVP trophy, quarterback Zach Abey became the fifth player in history to rush for five touchdowns in a bowl game, joining Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (1988), Toledo's Kareem Hunt (2015), Baylor's Terrance Ganaway (2011) and Michigan's Neil Snow (1902).

The Midshipmen only attempted one pass, resulting in a third-quarter incompletion. The lack of passing led to Navy setting Military Bowl records with 76 rushes and 452 yards on the ground.

"To me, this was a momentum changing game for our program because we just came off a game against Army, that I'm still trying to get over," Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "That [Army] loss was the worst I've had in my 20 years of coaching. That game has been hard to get over so we knew that this game was huge, not only to send our seniors out in the right way, but to propel us into the offseason. It will give our players confidence. For us to beat a really good team like that and to do it that convincingly is really going to help us going into the offseason."

For those already looking forward to the 2018 season, Navy opens its season at Hawaii on September 1.

Past Military Bowl coverage:

2016: Wake Forest wins Military Bowl by topping No. 24 Temple, 34-26
2015: Navy ends historic season with 44-28 Military Bowl win over Pittsburgh
2014: Virginia Tech Beats Cincinnati in 2014 Military Bowl
2013: Maryland, Marshall Take Annapolis by Storm in Military Bowl