ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Quarterback Zach Abey amassed 240 total yards with a touchdown, leading Navy past Tulane 23-21 in the American Athletic Conference opener Saturday.
Abey was coming off a record-setting performance last week against Florida Atlantic when he ran for 235 yards -- the most-ever for a quarterback in the the AAC. He was the difference again with 108 yards on 29 carries. Abey also completed 4 of 12 passes for 132 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown throw to Tyler Carmona.
Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks, a junior college transfer, took a hard hit in the second quarter and did not return with an undisclosed injury. Sophomore Johnathan Brantley, however, provided a spark off the bench and scored his first career touchdown with a 3-yard run in the second quarter.
The Green Wave (1-1, 0-1) cut the margin to 23-21 on a 1-yard dive by Dontrell Hilliard and a two-point conversion with 12:56 left in the game. Tulane, however, failed to convert a pair of key fourth downs late in the game to extend drives.
Brantley completed five of eight passes for 58 yards. He also ran for 73 yards on nine carries with the score.
The game was a battle of two teams that have a similar offense.
Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo ran the triple-option as a quarterback at Hawaii and was later an assistant under coach Paul Johnson, who ran the same system. Tulane’s Willie Fritz has used the zone option throughout his 24-year coaching career.
On this day, Navy was more successful moving the ball, out-gaining the Green Wave 326 to 262.
Tulane was looking to open the season with two straight wins for the first time since 2002.
Tulane: The Green Wave has looked more comfortable running the zone option under Fritz, who is in his second year. One of the keys is the arrival of Banks, who transferred from Independence Community College in Kansas. While his status for the next game is uncertain, Brantley showed he can be a capable backup.
Navy: The junior Abey has been overall solid running the offense, but he must do a better job protecting the ball. Abey has been involved in all four of the team’s turnovers in the opening two games -- two fumbles, an interception and a bad exchange with the center. That’s an area the Mids will look to improve over the next several games.
Navy: The Midshipmen host Cincinnati in their second AAC game on Sept. 23. Navy leads the all-time series 2-0.