TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Few people who watched the game would agree, but Malcolm Perry thought he didn't play well Saturday night.
Perry rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries to lead Navy to a 45-17 victory over Tulsa, but was still critical of his own performance.
"As far as executing the offense, seeing things clearly, making the right reads, just a little too much indecision," Perry said. "I wasn't too happy with my performance, but of course we got the win. I thought the offense as a whole played really well, so I'm happy about that, but overall, my personal play, I wasn't too pleased."
Jamale Carothers, Nelson Smith and C.J. Williams also scored rushing touchdowns for Navy (4-1, 2-1 American), which outscored Tulsa 21-0 in the second quarter to take control of the game. The Midshipmen snapped a 14-game losing streak in contests played outside of Annapolis, a stretch that dated back to their previous trip to Tulsa, a 31-21 victory on Sept. 30, 2017.
"I thought he did a lot of good things, he's leading our offense well," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said of Perry. "He's playing well, our defense is playing well, a lot of good things happening. That's how you get to 4-1. It's a great win for our football program, to come on the road. Tulsa's a good football team. I thought our defense played phenomenal. I'm really proud of our guys. It was a great team win."
Navy entered the day leading the nation in rushing with an average of 312 yards per game and added to that total in this one, gaining 388 yards on the ground. Out of 63 overall offensive plays, the Midshipmen ran the ball 58 times.
Zach Smith threw for 254 yards and a touchdown for Tulsa (2-4, 0-2), which lost its fifth straight game to Navy. JuanCarlos Santana had nine receptions for 98 yards.
"We let it get away from us in the first half. We had opportunities to make plays and didn't execute and get it done," Smith said. "That's on me, on us as an offense and the team as a whole."
Navy: The Midshipmen's defense entered the day ranked 13th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 90.3 yards per contest, and allowed Tulsa just 25 yards on the ground through the first half and 69 overall, 50 of which came on one drive early in the third quarter. Navy also ranked 12th in total defense before the game, allowing an average of 277 yards, and Tulsa gained just 99 in the first half and 174 through the first three quarters before ending up with 323 overall, adding more in the fourth quarter with the game already out of reach.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane had several missed opportunities in the first quarter that might have made a difference. On their first possession, Jacob Rainey's 30-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright for Tulsa's fourth straight missed field goal attempt (three by Rainey). Then on Tulsa's third drive, after Rainey did connect on a career-long 41-yard field goal, it looked like Smith connected with Sam Crawford for a 98-yard touchdown pass. But following a lengthy review, the play ended up being called back when it was determined that Crawford stepped out of bounds before making the catch.
Even though it came late in the first quarter, it completely changed the direction of the contest. Leading 3-0 and backed up on its own 2-yard line, Tulsa appeared to have scored a touchdown when Smith hit Crawford with a 98-yard pass. After the play was nullified by the video review that showed Crawford stepping out of bounds before the catch, momentum swung Navy's way. Tulsa ended up punting, giving Navy a short field with the ball at the Golden Hurricane 48, and five plays later, Perry scored on a 29-yard run. The Midshipmen went on to score on each of their next three possessions while Tulsa had just three first downs and 47 yards of offense in the second quarter. Navy entered halftime with a commanding 28-3 advantage. "You got to be good and lucky, it's always the case," Niumatalolo said of the wiped out Tulsa touchdown. "The ball's got to bounce your way and that was big for us."
"We knew it was going to be a really tough ball game coming in, they're very talented," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said of Navy. "We had opportunities early in the game to really try to establish something, get a lead, but this game kind of got away from us a little bit. And when you're playing someone like Navy, you get down and it makes it very difficult to come back with the way they are doing things and controlling the tempo."
Navy returns home to Annapolis on Saturday to take on USF.
Tulsa goes on the road to face No. 25 Cincinnati on Saturday.