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ANNAPOLIS, Md. After losing for the third time in four games, having his offense shut down and enduring his first shutout as Navy head coach, Ken Niumatalolo still couldn't blame the effort of his team for a sluggish performance.
Austin Lopez kicked four field goals to complement a strong defensive effort as San Jose State blanked Navy 12-0 on Saturday, marking the first time in six years that the Midshipmen have been shut out.
"They kicked our butts, they played a really good game," said Niumatalolo. "As bad as I feel for myself, no one feels worse than the young men in our locker room. They worked hard for this game, busted their butts all week and sacrificed a lot."
Lopez's kicks came from 29, 19, 32 and 43 yards as the Spartans failed to score a touchdown despite gaining 388 yards against the Navy defense.
Lopez, a freshman, is now 9 for 9 on field goal attempts this season. The 43-yard field goal matched his season-long.
The 4-1 start by the Spartans is the best since their 2006 New Mexico Bowl team opened the season with a loss followed by four wins in a row.
"Our kids played extremely hard. They just kept relentlessly fighting and I am so proud of their effort," said San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre. "The Navy games I have been in before were high-scoring. I would have settled for 3-0. I don't care about the score, I just care about the W's"
The last time Navy opened the season 1-3 was in 2002 when the Midshipmen finished 2-10 for the season.
David Fales completed 29 of 34 passes for 280 yards for San Jose State as Ryan Otten (94 yards) and Kyle Mann (62 yards) each had eight catches. Still, the Spartans needed to turn to their defense to shut down Navy's triple option offense.
The Midshipmen gained just 144 yards, their fewest since Nov. 16, 2002, when they gained only 82. Trey Miller led Navy with 28 yards on 14 carries and completed 4 of 9 passes for 41 yards before he was replaced by freshman Keenan Reynolds in the fourth quarter.
"We weren't doing anything on offense. We needed to make a change," Miller said of being benched for his backup.
Navy moved the ball on only its first and last possessions, totaling 75 yards. For the rest of the night, it gained 69 yards on seven possessions, and picked up just four first downs.
Navy's only real scoring chance came on its opening drive when it drove 66 yards to the San Jose State 9, where Miller fumbled and the Spartans' Travis Johnson recovered the ball. On its next five possessions, Navy gained just 28 yards.
"I think we were a little discombobulated out there," said Niumatalolo. "I thought we were on track on the first drive. The first drive stalled us and we never bounced back.
Navy has now scored 58 points in its four games, 41 coming in a rout of Virginia Military Institute last week.
"We had some opportunities," said Niaumatalolo. "We have to find a way to score points."
Navy turned the ball over twice, and has 12 turnovers so far this season.
"We are not a team that turns the ball over a lot," said tailback Bo Snelson. "It is not characteristic of us. But that has become a problem this year."
The Spartans were without their top tackler from the last two seasons, Keith Smith. His replacement, Josh Fasavalu, led the team with nine tackles and recovered the fumble on Navy's first drive. Ranked fourth in the nation in sacks coming into the game, San Jose State had five sacks. David Ogburn Jr. also had a second-half interception for the Spartans. Johnson had three tackles for a loss, extending his string for that distinction to 11 games.
San Jose State led 3-0 at the break after Lopez's 29-yard field goal with 10:48 left in in the half. The kick followed an 11-play, 68-yard drive by the Spartans.
Lopez also kicked a 19-yard field goal following a 73-yard Spartans drive that lasted 7 minutes, 8 seconds to start the second half. He kicked his last two field goals in the fourth quarter to cap drives of 58 and 19 yards.