"I think it was a turning point in our season," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "That was a devastating game for us. We had a hard time bouncing back from that one. To lose the way we did made it even harder. It's hard enough to lose to our rival, much less the way we did."
It wasn't just the ending that bothered Niumatalolo.
"Last year, I thought we were a little too amped up, too emotional," Niumatalolo said. "I take blame for that. I think our whole offseason stuff was about getting the trophy back. Our guys were probably too tight at the beginning. We just have to relax and play. Football is an emotional game, but you still have to be able to control yourself."
Navy senior linebacker Brye French said the Midshipmen were so determined to get the Commander-in-Chief's trophy back that they didn't keep an even keel last year.
"I think maybe we built the game up too big. There might have been too much pressure," French said. "Of course it's a big game, everybody knows that, but last year we worried more about the outside factors instead of just worrying about the team. That's something we've been working on this week."
Last year's loss still drives him.
"Seeing guys crying and upset in the locker room was rough," French said. "Something clicked in my mind. I want to be part of getting this thing back. I want to provide some leadership for the guys so we can get the trophy back. Our freshman year, we had that ring. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.
"You look at the older guys before us, they have four (rings). It's tough only having one. It's even harder that some of the younger guys don't know what that's like, the success of Navy football in the past."
AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg contributed from Annapolis, Md.
Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton