By Julie Glass
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.
Navy found an unlikely replacement after starter Tago Smith was injured yesterday, with Perry running seven times for 30 yards in a 52-16 win over Fordham at Annapolis.
“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.