Navy instructs QB to fall at 1-yard line instead of scoring go-ahead touchdown

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo made a gutsy coaching decision against SMU. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Navy utilized a very bold strategy at the end of its game against SMU that would have faced a ton of scrutiny if it didn’t work out.

The Midshipmen led SMU 34-11 at halftime, but the Mustangs stormed all the way back to tie things up, 40-40, with 3:32 to play. On the ensuing drive, Navy went right down the field and had a first and goal from the 9 with 1:24 remaining.

At that point, SMU had just one timeout and opted not to use it after Navy moved three yards to the 6. Navy let the clock tick down to around 42 seconds and snapped it. Quarterback Garret Lewis had a clear path to the end zone for what would have been the go-ahead score, but Lewis, under instruction from the coaching staff, fell to the turf at the 1.

(via CBS Sports Network)

You see, Navy’s coaches wanted to let the clock run all the way down. With the way SMU was moving the ball and scoring points in the second half, Ken Niumatalolo did not want the Mustangs to touch the ball again, so Lewis was instructed not to score to take as much time off the clock as possible.

(via CBS Sports Network)

The head coach was very pleased with Lewis’ execution:

(via CBS Sports Network)

At that point, SMU called its final timeout and after no gain on third down, the Midshipmen brought out the field goal unit. With the clock kicking down, J.R. Osborn came on and knocked through the game-winner from just 18 yards out as time expired.

But here’s what made the strategy even riskier. Bennett Moehring, Navy’s top kicker, was sidelined for the game with an ankle injury. Punter Owen White handled the extra points, but Osborn was the one sent out to kick the field goal.

It was his first career attempt.

Luckily for Niumatalolo, who admitted after the game he may have overthought the situation, the sophomore knocked it right through and the Midshipmen emerged with a 43-40 win.

The win clinched bowl eligibility for Navy, who improved to 6-3 (4-3 AAC) on the year. SMU dropped to 6-4 (3-3 AAC).

– – – – – – –

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!