SAN FRANCISCO (Ticker) -- Navy's defense made a huge stand and then the offense made an even bigger statement.
A goal-line stand late in the third quarter was followed by a 26-play scoring drive as Navy completed its first 10-win season in nearly a century with a 34-19 victory over New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl.
"It was a great way to play defense," Navy coach Paul Johnson joked. "I even kidded our players that I was disappointed that we only got three out of that drive. What was strange was that we really weren't ripping off big plays, it was just a matter of getting first downs when we needed them."
The Midshipmen (10-2) posted their first 10-win season since 1905 and recorded their first bowl win since defeating California in the 1996 Aloha Bowl. Navy was leading 31-19 when it turned away New Mexico inside the 1-yard line on fourth down.
"That fourth down play was big for us," Navy cornerback Vaughn Kelley said. "When I saw the receiver going in motion I knew the run was coming my way. It was just a matter of hitting him high, and keeping them out of the end zone."
Kelley finished with eight tackles, one forced fumble, and was named the Emerald Bowl defensive MVP.
On the ensuing drive, the Midshipmen covered 94 yards in 14:26 during a possession that spanned the third and fourth quarters.
"I've never seen a drive like that," New Mexico coach Rocky Long said. "In fact it wasn't even as if we were playing bad defense. I think they're average gain was 3.6 yards, we just couldn't make them punt."
It was a fitting way for Navy to cap the win as it dominated New Mexico on the ground all day.
The Lobos entered the game with the nation's eighth-ranked rushing defense, allowing 93.7 yards per game. In this one, the Midshipmen gashed the Lobos' defense for 269 yards rushing, led by quarterback Aaron Polanco, who rushed for 133 yards on 26 carries and a Navy bowl-record three touchdowns.
"Our offense is built on running the ball no matter who we're playing," Polanco said. "It was our offensive line that made it happen on that drive. We're not as big as those guys but we made it happen with toughness and heart. We knew they were getting tired and we just kept on them until the end of the game."
In the first half, Navy scored on each of its first four possessions and held a 24-19 lead at the break.
Polanco had a pair of TD runs in the first quarter and threw a 61-yard scoring strike to Corey Dryden on the first play of the second quarter.
Polanco ended his career at Navy on a high note by being named offensive MVP of the game.
"It probably won't sink in until next semester when the team starts conditioning again that this was my last game," Polanco said. It was a great way to go out, I'm honored to have played at this school."
Kole McKamey had a strong all-around game for New Mexico (7-5), but did most of his damage in the first half. He finished 13-of-21 for 173 yards and a TD and was intercepted twice. McKarney also was New Mexico's leading rusher with 135 yards and a TD on 16 carries.
"We knew that he would get his yards," Navy safety Josh Smith said. "We knew that if we could stop him from making the big play, our defense would be successful."
"It was difficult to stay on the bench for that long," McKamey said of Navy's drive. "We were cold, stiff and frustrated. It was a sure fire way to keep us from scoring."