The No. 23 Navy Midshipmen matched a program record Tuesday by securing their 11th win of the season with a 20-17 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2019 Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee.
Kicker Bijan Nichols delivered the game-winning 23-yard field goal with two seconds left.
Navy, which also won 11 games in 2015, bounced back from its first losing season since 2011 last year to put together one of the best campaigns in the program's storied history capped by beating rival Army and the bowl triumph. It's now won five of its last six bowl games dating back to 2013.
Kansas State delivered one of the biggest upsets of the 2019 season when it shocked the fifth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, who went on to earn a College Football Playoff berth. The Wildcats' loss on New Year's Eve dropped their final record to 8-5.
Notable Game Stats
QB Malcolm Perry (Navy): 5-of-7 passing, 57 yards, 1 TD; 213 rushing yards
QB Skylar Thompson (KSU): 10-of-14 passing, 124 yards; rushing TD
WR Keoni-Kordell Makekau (Navy): 27 receiving yards, TD
WR Chance Warren (Navy): 20 rushing yards, TD
WR Phillip Brooks (KSU): 66-yard punt return TD
LB Diego Fagot (Navy): 7 tackles, 2 sacks
LB Elijah Sullivan (KSU): 11 tackles
Malcolm Perry's NFL Journey May Start in Taysom Hill Role
Hill is listed as a quarterback on the New Orleans Saints' roster, but he plays a wide-ranging role that includes playing just about every position on offense in addition to snaps on special teams. He's a playmaker who can create serious matchup issues for opposing defenses.
Perry (5'9'', 190 pounds) isn't going to match the physicality of Hill (6'2", 221 pounds), but his athleticism and ability to make plays in a variety of ways will make the Navy QB an intriguing option in the latter rounds of the 2020 NFL draft in April.
He's not ready to play quarterback on a full-time basis at the next level—he entered Tuesday's game with just 106 career pass attempts in college—but his arm is a threat. His 27-yard touchdown pass to Keoni-Kordell Makekau in the second quarter was perfectly placed between two defenders.
Whether he can develop into a legitimate candidate for an NFL starting job over time is uncertain. In the short term, his arm is another factor opponents would be forced to game-plan for each week.
Perry is also a tremendous runner who averaged over seven yards per carry during his collegiate career and possesses the small-area quickness to shine in the role of slot receiver.
The bottom line is he's probably not ready to handle any exclusive role at the next level. The closest would be running back, but his lack of size would prevent him from being a three-down workhorse.
That said, he'll be a worthwhile flier in the draft who could slot into a roster much like Hill. A king of gadget plays who can make an immediate impact with his arm, legs or hands.
Even if it's only 10 or 12 snaps per game, his production has the potential to exceed the average mid- to late-round selection.
Chris Klieman Proving Capable of Building on Bill Snyder Foundation
Replacing a legend is a task coaches sometimes shy away from. Snyder definitely earned that legend label during his time at K-State, and his retirement following the 2018 season after 27 years across two stints with the school left a lot of questions about the future of the program.
Chris Klieman, who was hired last December after leading North Dakota State to four FCS national championships in five years, has proved over the past year he's capable of carrying on the legacy.
The upset over the Sooners was the first significant sign of the 52-year-old Iowa native's readiness for a Power Five job.
Kansas State's victory over previously undefeated OU was no fluke. It was the better team for a vast majority of that game and led by 25 early in the fourth quarter. The Sooners forged a comeback to make it a single-score loss, but the game wasn't as closely contested as the 48-41 final score would suggest.
The Wildcats went on to beat the 23rd-ranked Iowa State Cyclones in their regular-season finale.
Tuesday was no different from the perspective of building confidence in the coaching staff. Creating a game plan to slow down a Navy offense that led the nation in rushing yards per game (363.7) isn't easy. KSU did it for the better part of three quarters before its defense started to run out of steam.
All told, Kansas State didn't get the result it wanted in the bowl game, but the future of the program remains bright under the guidance of Klieman.