Before the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego State coach Rocky Long had a bold prediction.
"If you're a football purist, this will be the best game you've ever seen," he proclaimed.
Unless purists love supremely sloppy play, Long's words didn't come to fruition.
Navy beat San Diego State 17-16 in a game that featured seven turnovers, a highly questionable fourth-down decision, poor clock management, and a throw that hit a referee in the head. To say the least, it wasn't pretty. Here's the rundown:
How the game was won: Four combined turnovers marred the fourth quarter. In fact, Navy fumbled the ball four times over the course of the game, but they still found a way to win. That's because San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey coughed up a football of his own with 5:54 remaining to set Navy up for a 10-play, 47-yard drive that ended with the game-winning Austin Grebe 24-yard field goal. After rushing for only 75 yards in the first half, the Midshipmen's triple-option ripped off 179 yards on the ground in the second half. That proved to be enough to overcome their sloppy play, especially since San Diego State played an ugly game, too.
Game ball goes to: Navy fullback Chris Swain was a bruiser to be reckoned with. He rushed only eight times, but racked up 72 yards on those carries for an average of 9.0 yards per touch. Swain rumbled for 13 yards on one of the biggest plays of the game, a fourth-down conversion from the Aztecs' 44-yard line on the Midshipmen's game-winning drive. "Tank" may be an Army term, but it aptly describes the 6-foot-1, 245-pound load that is Swain.
It was over when: San Diego State kicker Donny Hageman missed the potential go-ahead field goal from 34 yards out with only 20 seconds left. This followed an icing timeout -- the strategy worked this time! -- from the Navy sideline. The Aztecs' eight-play, 63-yard drive went to waste, though it must be noted that their clock management before the field goal wasn't superb: Two runs out of bounds and an incomplete pass actually left unnecessary time on the clock. But that ended up being irrelevant.
Stat of the game: Seven turnovers. The game was played in perfect, dry San Diego weather, but the Midshipmen couldn't seem to hold onto the football, and the Aztecs didn't fare much better. Navy overcame a four-fumble performance thanks in large part to the fact that they intercepted San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler twice. They also forced and recovered the aforementioned Pumphrey fumble at just the right time.
Best play: San Diego State slowed the triple-option in the first half, but Navy found room to roam down the stretch. Ryan Williams-Jenkins ripped off this clutch 28-yard run to put the Midshipmen in perfect position for the game-winning field goal.