12:00 PM ET, December 7, 2002
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- While close games have been a tradition in the annual Army-Navy game, Midshipmen quarterback Craig Candeto made sure there was nothing traditional about Saturday's game.
Candeto set a school record and tied a national mark with six rushing touchdowns, and he passed for another to lead Navy past Army 58-12 in one of the more lopsided of the 103 meetings between the service academies.
Candeto tied the Division I-A record for most rushing TDs by a quarterback, set by Air Force's Dee Dowis against San Diego State to open the 1989 season. Candeto scored on three 1-yard runs and from 42, 7 and 3 yards.
"It's pretty special,'' Candeto said. "It humbles me to know there are so many great players that have played throughout this tradition. For me to have this record, I'm really at a loss for words.''
His performance gave the Midshipmen (2-10) a triumphant end to an otherwise forgettable season, in which they'd lost 10 straight before Saturday.
Navy's point total was the most in the game's history, and the 46-point margin was the second-largest in the series, behind a 51-0 Navy win in 1973.
The teams usually don't score much at all when they play each other. Before Saturday, Navy averaged 13.7 points in the game, while Army averaged 12.8.
Navy's 508 yards of total offense and 421 rushing yards are a game record, and Candeto's touchdowns and point total were the most by a player in the series.
"I couldn't be prouder of our team,'' said Navy coach Paul Johnson, who became the first coach of either school to win in his debut of this game since Navy's Gary Tranquill in 1982. "They came out and played with heart and focus.''
Although the game paired two 1-10 teams, the meaning of Army-Navy goes far beyond football. Last year's game was unusually emotional following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and this year's matchup took on added importance because of a possible war with Iraq.
Before the game started, a videotaped message of President George W. Bush was shown, in which he thanked the Army and Navy players for their service.
"I'm proud of every Cadet and Midshipman,'' Bush said. "You are devoted to serving your country and your fellow citizens. You will join the finest military in the world, and throughout your careers, you will keep the peace and defend freedom.''
Candeto echoed Bush's sentiments.
"We're not just playing for the Academy,'' Candeto said. "We're playing for all the people who have fought and died for our freedoms. It's bigger than us. We're playing on a field for people who are fighting overseas for us.
"Football is small in the whole realm of things. It makes you play that makes harder. It's about service and duty.''
Although Army still leads the series 49-47-7, the Black Knights (1-11) had trouble coming to grips with such an embarrassing loss.
"I'm hurt -- embarrassed as a matter of fact,'' said Army quarterback Reggie Nevels, who went 15-of-27 for 171 yards with a touchdown pass. "Losing a game like that has great impact on my pride. Losing a rivalry game like that to anybody hurts pretty bad.''
The Midshipmen gained a season-best 421 yards on the ground. Candeto had only 103 of those yards on 18 carries, but he helped Navy dominate from the start.
The junior only needed the first half to tie the touchdown record with a pair of 1-yard runs, a 42-yard run and a 7-yarder just before halftime.
He set the record with a 3-yard run on the first possession of the third quarter, but he wasn't done scoring. Candeto connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tony Lane less than three minutes later to continue the rout.
Candeto added a 1-yard run for his seventh score of the day. Candeto scored 36 points before being pulled with three minutes left in the third quarter. He finished the season with 16 rushing touchdowns, tied for second on the school single-season list with Chris McCoy (1996).
"Craig did a great job,'' Johnson said. "The way we did the game plan, when we got down to do the goal line, we had most of our stuff for Craig to carry the ball.''
His point total was the second-highest by a Navy player, behind Bill Ingram's 38 points against Villanova in 1917.
Navy, which scored on its first eight possessions, improved to 3-1 when this game is played at Giants Stadium. New Jersey officials are trying to bring more games in the series to the stadium; the contract to host the game expires after next year's contest, to be played in Philadelphia.
Things started poorly for Army and continued to get worse throughout the game. The Black Knights lost 5 yards on their opening possession, and they couldn't stop Candeto or the Midshipmen.
"It's a difficult day for all of us,'' Army coach Todd Berry said. "I don't think any of us could have dreamed that the game could have gone in that direction.''
The win helped ease some of the heartbreak Navy has felt this season. In its last game, Navy lost 30-27 to Wake Forest when the Demon Deacons scored with 53 seconds remaining. Against Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish rallied for 15 points in the final 4:28 to win 30-23.
The game was played on the 61st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
During the prisoner exchange ritual, which is the transfer of semester exchange students, Navy representatives taking part in the ceremony spelled out "Let's Roll'' -- in tribute of the now-famous phrase Todd Beamer said from a phone aboard hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.