Navy prevails over San Diego State in mistake-ridden 2014 Poinsettia Bowl, 17-16

December 24, 2014

San Diego -- Navy (8-5) defeated San Diego State, 17-16, in an error-filled game Tuesday night at the 2014 Poinsettia Bowl in front of 33,077 fans who witnessed the Midshipmen turn the ball over four times and the Aztecs cough it up three times.  The game's outcome was ultimately decided on yet another mistake, when San Diego State (7-6) kicker Donny Hageman missed a 34-yard field goal in the final 20 seconds.

The 10th Annual Poinsettia Bowl kicked off on a lovely San Diego night with jets flying overhead, but almost immediately the game lost all of its artistic beauty when a turnover party ensued.

Aztec quarterback Quinn Kaehler started the giveaway trend on the opening drive by throwing an interception to Navy linebacker Daniel Gonzales who returned it 29 yards to the San Diego State 42. From there, the Midshipmen used a 10-play drive to get on the board first when quarterback Keenan Reynolds punched it in from 1 yard out to give Navy a 7-0 lead.

After a 57-yard kickoff return by Rashaad Penny, San Diego State answered 2 minutes later with a Donnel Pumphrey 5-yard touchdown run off the right-side to tie the game at 7 apiece.

The turnover fest continued on the next Navy drive when Aztec defensive lineman Jon Sanchez forced a fumble on a 2nd-and-4 run by Reynolds.  Cody Galen recovered the fumble for the Aztecs in excellent field position at the Navy 31, but San Diego State was not able to move the ball much and had to settle for a Hageman 43-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead.

After a Midshipmen punt, the Aztecs drove to the Navy 20, but stalled again and had to settle for a 37-yard Hageman field goal and a 13-7 second quarter lead.  With the make, Hageman set the Aztecs single-season field goal record with 19.

In the second half, Navy responded with a 13-play, 92-yard march in which the Midshipmen piled up all 92 of their yards on the ground.  Navy culminated the drive with another touchdown run by Reynolds, this one from 6 yards out, to give the Midshipmen a 14-13 lead with 8:28 remaining in the third quarter.  It was Reynolds' 23rd rushing touchdown of the season and also gave him 64 for his career, the most by any quarterback in NCAA history.

The ensuing Aztec drive stalled, but a muffed punt by Navy's DeBrandon Sanders gave San Diego State new life at the Midshipmen 18-yard line.  However, the Aztecs had trouble moving the ball yet again and settled for another Hageman field goal, this time from 30 yards, for a 16-14 lead.

In the fourth quarter, the Aztecs continued to attack the Midshipmen through the air, but also continued to be plagued by dropped balls and inaccurate throws.

San Diego State caught another break when they recovered a fumble by Navy running back Ryan Williams-Jenkins at the Navy 41-yard line. However, much to the chagrin of Aztec fans, San Diego State was not able to take advantage, as Kaehler's 3rd-and-11 throw went through his intended receiver's hands and ended up in the arms of Navy safety George Jamison for another interception.

The comedy of errors continued when Navy returned the favor on a bad snap exchange between Reynolds and his center. Derek Largent recovered for the Aztecs, setting them up at their own 48-yard line.  It was the Aztec's fourth fumble recovery of the night, and the Midshipmen’s 17th lost fumble of the season.

The Aztecs drove to the Navy 12 yard line, but in a highly questionable coaching decision, elected to call a pass play on 4th-and-5 rather than kick a short field goal.  Kaehler's pass fell incomplete and the Aztecs wasted another opportunity to put points on the board.

On San Diego State’s next possession, Pumphrey coughed up the ball on a controversial call, but it stood upon review.  Navy was able to take advantage of Aztecs' third turnover of the night, turning it into a go-ahead 24-yard Austin Grebe field goal to take a 17-16 lead with 1:27 left in the game.

The Aztecs responded and moved the ball efficiently all the way to the Navy 17 for a 34-yard field goal attempt.  After converting on three other field goal attempts that evening, Hageman's last attempt went wide right, giving Navy the win.

DJ Pumphrey ended up with 112 rushing yards on 21 carries in the loss, his 10th game of the season with 100-plus yards.  He also set a new Aztec single-season rushing record with 1,867 yards.

By Lazaro Cruz
Contributing Writer for

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