Navy 34, New Mexico 19

Thursday, December 30th 2004, 8:29 pm
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Aaron Polanco ran for three touchdowns and passed for another, and Navy capped the academy's best season in 99 years with a 34-19 win over New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl on Thursday.

Polanco scored on runs of 14, 1 and 27 yards and completed a 61-yard touchdown pass to Corey Dryden, the longest of the season by Polanco and the first career score by Dryden. The Midshipmen's defense was impressive, too, despite the rain-soaked field at SBC Park.

The unit forced two first-half turnovers that led to TDs and staged a goal-line stand late in the third quarter. Then Navy kept the ball for the next 14 minutes, 26 seconds, and held New Mexico to only seven plays in the fourth quarter.

The Midshipmen (10-2) tied for the most wins in school history, last accomplished when Navy went 10-1-1 in 1905. It was a fitting end for the Mids, some of whom will head off to war in the coming year. Only two months ago, Navy's players dealt with the death of former teammate JP Blecksmith in a military operation in Fallujah, Iraq.

Polanco finished the season with 16 rushing touchdowns, a record by a quarterback this year. Temple's Walter Washington ran for 15. Polanco gained a Navy bowl record 136 yards on the ground for his fourth 100-yard rushing game and threw for 101 yards. He even caught a 17-yard pass from Frank Divis to set up his second TD _ and his two receptions were most by any Navy player.

New Mexico quarterback Kole McKamey had nearly as big a day after the Lobos (7-5) lost star tailback DonTrell Moore to a left knee injury late in the first quarter.

McKamey threw for 207 yards and also rushed for 138, the first Lobos player to accomplish the feat since Graham Leigh in 1997. But McKamey had two interceptions.

Moore, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons and came in averaging 108.3 yards per game, was carted off the field after catching a shovel pass and taking a hard hit from cornerback Vaughn Kelley that caused Moore to fumble with 3:52 left in the first quarter.

Linebacker Lane Jackson pounced on the ball for his first fumble recovery this year, and Polanco scored five plays later. Jackson also made an interception as time expired in the first half.

Navy built a 21-7 lead eight seconds into the second quarter on Polanco's 61-yard touchdown pass to Dryden.

The Lobos couldn't stop Navy's impressive triple-option offense. The Midshipmen snapped New Mexico's five-game winning streak and kept the Lobos from their first bowl victory in 43 years.

New Mexico lost in the Las Vegas Bowl the past two years and hasn't won a postseason game since beating Western Michigan 28-12 in the 1961 Aviation Bowl. The Lobos had won 11 straight games when they scored first.

The game's first punt didn't come until 1:01 before halftime.