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Navy wins home opener, QB Tago Smith injured

Posted at 5:38 PM, Sep 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 17:57:06-04

Navy pulled a quarterback out of the stands on Saturday, finding an unlikely replacement for injured starter Tago Smith in a 52-16 victory over Fordham in the season opener.

Freshman Malcolm Perry was told to suit up and take over after Smith was lost to a knee injury early in the second quarter. Perry, who started the junior varsity game on Friday after being sick most of the week, put together a 90-yard-drive in the fourth quarter that led to a 23-yard field goal.

"It wasn't planned for me to even dress today," said Perry, who ran for 32 yards on seven carries but did not attempt a pass. "I came here with the rest of the brigade. I was just watching the game and Tago went down. The coaches got me out of the stands and got me dressed. It felt good. Playing the JV game the prior day helped a lot. It was a good experience."

RELATED: Navy senior ready for role as quarterback

 The Midshipmen were playing their first game without record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for 88 touchdowns as a four-year starter. After serving for three years as Reynolds' backup, Smith ran Navy's triple-option offense flawlessly until he was injured on a 22-yard run with 14:17 left in the half. Smith's status is uncertain.

 He's just a great kid," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about Smith. "He really symbolizes who we are, hasn't said (anything) for three years and came to work every day. He didn't complain, didn't get better. What he did in the first half, didn't surprise me. We knew the guy was a good football player. We just feel bad for a kid who has waited his turn."

In just over one quarter of work, Smith rushed for 97 yards on 10 carries with a pair of touchdowns. Senior Will Worth entered and was also effective, scoring on a 7-yard run that gave the Midshipmen a 28-10 lead. He also threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Toneo Gulley.

See Also: Navy entering season trying to replace legend Keenan Reynolds

Junior fullback Chris High had 176 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns, including a 70-yard scamper, in his first career start for Navy. It was the most rushing yards by a Navy fullback since 2010.

"I just knew with the help of my line, the play-calling and my supporting cast, that anything was possible" High said.

Kevin Anderson completed 26 of 45 passes for 302 yards with a touchdown for the Rams.

Chase Edmonds, the 2015 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, finished with 70 yards on 18 carries for Fordham, ranked No. 20 in the NCAA FCS Coaches poll.

"To win this game and have success, we would have to execute at a high level," Fordham coach Andrew Breiner said. "All three phases of the game -- offense, special teams and defense -- we did not execute at a high enough level. We'll turn on the tape and we are going to see some close calls. We're going to see some chances for big plays on the offensive side of the ball that we just didn't make. If we do that, I think it's a different football game."

THE TAKEAWAY

FORDHAM: The Rams fell short of earning their third win in four years over an NCAA FBS opponent. Still, Fordham showed some burst on offense with Edmonds in the backfield and Anderson behind center. This type of game should help battle-test them for conference play and a potential run in the FCS playoffs.

NAVY: The Midshipmen's triple-option attack did not miss a beat with Smith under center, but his status is uncertain after suffering the knee injury. Worth was a solid replacement, but Perry and sophomore Zach Abey could also get more opportunities.

UP NEXT

FORDHAM: The Rams open at home next Saturday against Elizabeth City State in a non-conference matchup.

NAVY: The Midshipmen host Connecticut in their American Athletic Conference opener next Saturday.

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