BYU rolls past Navy 55-3 in major college football season-opener with no fans

BYU rolls past Navy 55-3 in major college football
season-opener with no fans 1

BYU
players celebrate in an empty Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. |
Tommy Gilligan/AP

Tyler Allgeier ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and the
Cougars put the clamps on Navy’s usually potent triple option
Monday night inside an eerily empty stadium at the Naval
Academy.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — BYU coach Kalani Sitake did a fine job of
keeping his players safe from COVID-19 while getting them ready to
open a new football season.

Ken Niumatalolo wished he could have done the same thing at
Navy.

Tyler Allgeier ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and the
Cougars put the clamps on Navy’s usually potent triple option in
a season-opening 55-3 rout Monday night inside an eerily empty
stadium at the Naval Academy.

BYU scored touchdowns on each of its first two possessions, led
31-0 at halftime and coasted to its most lopsided victory since a
70-6 blowout of Wagner in October 2015.

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“We knew we had to be physical up front, tackle well and block
well on offense,” Sitake said. “All of camp, our offense was
doing this — and it made our defense better.”

Niumatalolo, on the other hand, put most of his emphasis in camp
at doing whatever it took to keep his players safe from the
coronavirus. That approach proved costly in the opener.

“Boy, that game was 1,000 percent my fault,” Niumatalolo
said. “Obviously, we weren’t prepared. One team was playing
football. There’s nobody to blame but myself. I erred on the side
of trying to keep our guys safe. I’d say it’s the worst Navy
football game we ever played.”

Also, the weirdest.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event had none of the
pageantry and atmosphere usually associated with a football game at
Navy. There were no lavish tailgates in the parking lot, no flyover
before the opening kickoff, the Brigade of Midshipmen was not
allowed in the stadium and the 34,000 seats remained vacant due to
restrictions ordered by the state of Maryland.

It took some doing to make this game happen. The Midshipmen were
originally scheduled to open against Notre Dame and the Cougars
were supposed to play Utah, but both those games got scrapped. So
the athletic directors of Navy and BYU arranged this matchup, which
marked the first time since 1989 these schools played each
other.

With no one in the stands and no cheerleaders on the sideline,
all the noise was made by the players — especially those in front
of the Cougars bench. The offense yelled when the defense
repeatedly stuffed Navy’s bid to move the ball, and the defense
roared as Allgeier, Lopini Katoa and quarterback Zach Wilson moved
downfield at will.

Allgeier averaged 9.4 yards per carry, Katoa ran for 80 yards
and scored twice, and Wilson went 13 for 18 for 232 yards with two
touchdowns before leaving in the third quarter.

Navy went 11-2 last year and led the nation in rushing,
averaging 360.5 yards per game with Malcolm Perry running the
offense. Perry is now with the Dolphins, and his successor at
quarterback, senior Dalen Morris, rushed for two yards on seven
carries before being pulled with the score 38-0.

“We challenged our team to be physical and I’m glad that
showed up,” Sitake said. “It was just a great thing to see as a
head coach.”

BYU finished with 580 yards and Navy could muster only 149 —
the second-lowest total in Niumatalolo’s 13 years at the school.
It was also the team’s most lopsided defeat under his
direction.

“You ever see us play like that before? You hope that it
doesn’t turn out like that, but there was a lot of concern,”
Niumatalolo said. “The last time we tackled anybody was the bowl
game, nine months ago. I made a decision on the safety side of it,
and we were weren’t prepared.”

The contrast in the teams was demonstrated during the first two
series. Navy ran three times before punting, and on the Cougars’
first play, Wilson launched long pass to Gunner Romney that fell
incomplete.

That loosened up the Navy defense, which offered little
resistance during a seven-play, 74-yard drive that ended on a
34-yard run by Allgeier.

After another three and out by the Midshipmen, Katoa ran for a
39-yard TD for a 14-0 lead.

The 31-0 deficit at halftime was Navy’s largest at home since
trailing by the same score against Connecticut in 2002.

THE TAKEAWAY

BYU: The Cougars were adept running the ball, efficient passing
and dominant defensively. It was almost a flawless performance, one
that bodes well for a team looking to sweep an eight-game schedule
that includes North Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western
Kentucky.

Navy: Niumatalolo must find a way to keep his players safe while
working on tackling, blocking and other such fundamentals. The
Midshipmen has thus far avoided a major coronavirus scare, but
they’re not playing football very well.

UP NEXT

BYU faces another service academy, Army, on the road Sept.
19.

Navy opens play in the American Athletic Conference at Tulane on
Sept. 19.

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