Clearly, as predicted both teams actually cared about playing this game. This was definitely a game worth watching as well as attending. A reported paid attendance of just over 50,000 watched a typical workman like Navy performance. Navy’s quarterback set the record for the most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback with 2,017 yards. With this in mind we present the Liberty Bowl review.
Liberty Bowl Review
The first half was very competitive, despite the fact that Navy controlled time of possession. Missed opportunities by Navy and a big special teams play by Kansas State kept the game closer than it might have otherwise been at the break.
The first half went pretty much as expected for Navy. The Midshipmen controlled ball possession with the normal ground attack. Surprisingly Navy had success through the air, including a 27-yard touchdown pass from Malcolm Perry to running back Keoni-Kordell Makekau with 9:31 to go in the first half. Navy also missed some early opportunities to widen the gap early on. Navy, despite controlling virtually every aspect of the game found themselves trailing 7-3 early in the second quarter after a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Wildcats Phillip Brooks.
So many times, those early missed opportunities come back to haunt a team. Even though, the Midshipmen dominated the first half they found themselves in a 10-10 tie at halftime.
The Wildcats found themselves in the same position as many Navy foes have this year at halftime. Navy dominated the time of possession, limiting possessions of the opponent. To the Wildcats credit they were able to limit Navy to only 10 first half points. Kansas State didn’t have many offensive highlights the first half. The Wildcats received a big boost from special teams with the 66-yard punt return for a touchdown. The offense was able to muster a much needed 39-yard field goal with 2:27 left in the first half.
The third quarter was marked by missed opportunities by both teams. Navy had a long run down to the Wildcats two-yard line negated by a holding penalty. While contrarily, Kansas State had a drive deep into Navy territory thwarted by penalties and busted plays.
While Navy only had the single score in the third quarter, they limited Kansas State to a single possession. The Wildcats were limited to only three second half possessions.
Once again Navy missed opportunities to add to the score in the fourth quarter, missing a 39-yard field goal. Bijan Nichols was able to redeem himself with a game winning 23-yard kick with :02 remaining in the game.
Just as was the case in the first half, the Wildcats were extremely limited in number of possessions. Kansas State was able to score a touchdown on one of only three second half possessions. While Navy was only able to muster 10 second half points, the Wildcats were not able to consistently stop the Navy ground attack.
As far a keys to victory, turn overs, time of possession, penalties, the Wildcats only won the battle of fewest penalties seven to five.
Not unlike the first half, Navy missed opportunities to widen the scoring margin. A few key penalties kept Navy from putting this game away early. In contrast, it took a late game championship like drive and a gutsy fourth and three 41-yard halfback pass from running back C.J. Williams to fellow running back Chance Warren down to the Kansas State five-yard line.
Perry was able to run the Navy ground attack to perfection. Navy rushed for 323 yards; Perry accounted for 213 of those yards. Perry was also five of seven passing for 57 yards and a touchdown. Without question, Perry was the difference maker and was voted the player of the game.
The Final Word
Navy dominated almost every aspect of the game. The biggest area of control for the Midshipmen was time of possession. Navy won the time of possession 36:31 to 23:29.
To the credit of Kansas State, they battled all day in a game that Navy should have dominated by double digits. Without a doubt that credit goes to first year Wildcat head coach Chris Klieman. The future appears bright in Manhattan.