ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Malcolm Perry marched into the stadium wearing his Navy dress whites. Plucked from the stands at halftime, he wound up in a much different uniform.
From question mark to quarterback, Perry quickly became the buzz of college football.
Navy found an unlikely replacement after starter Tago Smith was injured Saturday, with Perry running seven times for 30 yards in a 52-16 win over Fordham.
“It wasn’t planned for me to even dress today,” Perry said. “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,” he said.
Listed down on the depth chart, Perry had been sick most of the week. The freshman was OK to play in the junior varsity game Friday.
But with Smith and backup Will Worth all set, Perry was held out. That let him enter the stadium with the traditional “Brigade of the Midshipmen.”
Perry was sitting with his classmates when Smith went down with a knee injury in the second quarter.
Perry made his debut with 38 seconds left in the third quarter. He later put together a 90-yard drive in the fourth quarter that led to a field goal. He didn’t throw a pass.
“I thought he did really well for a guy that wasn’t supposed to suit up,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He was in the brigade, so went and got him.”
“He had been sick all week, too, and didn’t take any reps. So, we tried to keep things really simple for him,” he said. “It’s not the scenario you want. But we had to do what we had to do.”
Smith served for three years as a backup to record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds before getting this chance to start.
Smith flawlessly ran Navy’s triple-option offense flawlessly until he was hurt on a 22-yard run with 14:17 left in the half.
In just over one quarter, Smith ran for 97 yards on 10 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
Smith’s status was uncertain following the game. Niumatalolo was overcome with emotion when talking about the injury.
“He’s just a great kid,” he said. “He really symbolizes who we are, hasn’t said (anything) for three years and came to work every day,” he said.
“He didn’t complain, didn’t get bitter. 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,” he said.
Worth, a senior, took over and 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.
Junior fullback Chris High ran for 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.
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.
“All three phases of the game — offense, special teams and defense — we did not execute at a high enough level,” coach Andrew Breiner said.
FORDHAM: The Rams fell short of their third win in four years over an NCAA FBS opponent. Still, they showed some burst on offense with Edmonds in the backfield and Anderson behind center. This type of game should help test them for conference play and a potential run in the FCS playoffs.
NAVY: The Midshipmen didn’t miss a beat with Smith, but his status is now uncertain. Worth was a solid replacement, but Perry and sophomore Zach Abey could also get more opportunities.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Navy has not lost at home since Sept. 27, 2014, against Western Kentucky. The Midshipmen have an 11-game home winning streak, their longest since 1953-64 when Navy won 21 straight.
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.