NEW ORLEANS — Will Worth is getting a pretty good handle on this late-game heroics stuff.
A week after Navy’s quarterback scored the winning touchdown on a late, 1-yard run against Connecticut in his first start, he did the same thing in a 21-14 American Athletic Conference victory against Tulane on Saturday night.
The winner against Connecticut came with 3:08 left in a 28-24 victory and the winner against Tulane came with 2:57 left, capping a performance in which he had 111 yards rushing on 26 carries.
“The offense had confidence that we could move the ball and we just had to finish the drive,” Worth said. “It was great to see that the o-line was pushing, everyone just really gave everything they had for that last drive and it showed.”
Worth, a senior thrust into the starting lineup when Tago Smith suffered a torn right ACL in the season opener against Fordham, had eight carries for 58 yards on the winning 10-play, 72-yard drive. He threw a two-point conversion pass to Toneo Gulley for a 21-14 lead.
“It was a back-alley fight,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They punch us, we punch them, they punch us, we punch them… “Fortunately, at the end, we found a way to win that game.”
Tulane’s Andrew DiRocco missed wide left on a 45-yard field goal attempt with 7:39 left in the game, setting up Navy’s winning drive.
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how Navy wins games, just how they did it,” Green Wave first-year coach Willie Fritz said. “They grind it out. They’ve got a winning culture there, and that’s what we want to have.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Navy (3-0, 2-0 American) drove 94 yards on 15 plays and took a 7-0 lead on Chris High’s 6-yard touchdown run. The 15 plays were the most by the Midshipmen on a possession this season.
Tulane (1-2, 0-1) responded with an 8-play (all runs), 75-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown from Josh Rounds. He had five carries for 52 yards on the drive.
Shawn White had 4-yard touchdown run, but Bennett Moehring missed the extra point and Navy led 13-7.
The Green Wave responded with a 76-yard drive that ended with 36-yard touchdown run by Dontrell Hilliard with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
Worth and Gulley were the headliners, but the depth of Navy’s rushing attack was significant. Gulley had 80 yards rushing, but High (51 yards) and White (6 yards) scored the touchdowns that set the stage for Worth’s heroics.
The Midshipmen nearly did themselves in with two fumbles, but the Green Wave failed to capitalize. Tre Walker’s fumbled ended the first drive of the second half at the Tulane 30 and Worth’s fumble stopped another drive at the Tulane 34 early in the fourth quarter. Tulane, which did not commit a turnover, punted after the first recovery and missed a field goal after the second.
Navy: The Midshipmen strengthened their position in the AAC with a road win as Worth continued to show growth. He not only ran for more than 100 yards and scored the winning touchdown, but he showed poise throughout the winning drive.
Tulane: The Green Wave narrowly lost what would have been an uplifting win in Fritz’s first AAC game. Freshman Johnathan Brantley had his moments in his first start, but he’ll need to show more consistency as a passer going forward. He completed 3 of 12 for 21 yards.
Navy: The Midshipmen have an open date next week before visiting Air Force on Oct. 1 in their first game in this season’s Commander-In-Chief Trophy series. Air Force leads the series 28-20, but Navy won last season’s meeting 33-11.
Tulane: The Green Wave conclude a three-game home-stand when they host Louisiana-Lafayette next Saturday. Tulane leads the series 21-6, but the Ragin’ Cajuns prevailed in the last meeting, 24-21, in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in 2013 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org