There's No Quit in Navy
SAN DIEGO - There was a time when Air Force ruled the roost among service academy football programs. In fact, it was earlier this decade. That was before Paul Johnson came to Annapolis and turned Navy into a premiere non-BCS conference program. Johnson may not have been on the sideline Thursday at Qualcomm Stadium, but the players that won 17 games the last two seasons, dominated the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and beat Notre Dame were. And they fought until the bitter end.
Utah built a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of the Poinsettia Bowl. Twice, in fact. Quitting would have been easy. Then again, the Naval Academy isn't about easy.
The Mids battled back from both deficits and made Utah play all 60 minutes to get its win, even having a shot at tying the game despite trailing by 10 with under three minutes to go.
Fitting that it was the Midshipmen seniors who played such an integral role in the dogfight. Zerbin Singleton earned the praise of interim head coach Ken Nuimatalolo, who said praised his heart throughout these four seasons.
Singleton recovered an onside kick that gave Navy a chance to tie with a minute left, literally seconds after receiving a touchdown pass from Kaipo-Noa Keahuke-Enhada to bring the score to 35-32.
Though the Mids were unable to force overtime, the legacy this team established remains strong: win or lose.
Nuimatalolo said he wished the departing seniors could have exited with victory. The sentiment was obviously one shared throughout the Navy lockerroom.
Linebacker Ross Pospisil said: "I couldn't be more proud of our defense. I'm so privileged to be able to step out on the field with these guys."
The cammeraderie Pospisil spoke of is the essence of Navy sports -- and the Academy as a whole. Sure, there was disappointment over the loss, but no team knows better that the winning and losing of college sports isn't necessarily what matters.
"There's no NFL for these guys," Nuimatalolo said. "They are going on to serve our country."
Perhaps that's why a Navy team doesn't quit.