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Navy 40 ... at WKU 14

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Posted Sep 10, 2011


Week 2 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Navy at WKU

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 2 - Navy at Western Kentucky

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Sept. 10 Navy 40 ... at WKU 14
CFN Analysis: COMING

(AP) BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Navy had plenty to be excited about after a fairly easy -- and eye-catching -- 40-14 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday night.

There were four scoring plays of more than 40 yards, the Midshipmen physically dominated Western Kentucky, sending the larger Hilltoppers to their 16th straight home loss, and coach Ken Niumatalolo reached a milestone in his brief career.

But instead of emerging from the locker room with a smile, Niumatalolo was choked up as he met with reporters and wiped away tears because of the loss of senior running back Aaron Santiago to a broken right forearm.

"He's just a great, great kid," Niumatalolo said after setting the mark for most career wins through four seasons at Navy with 29. "To be honest with you, I was in a daze in the second half. To lose a guy like that ..."

Santiago was one of four players to score touchdowns as the Midshipmen (2-0) jumped out to an easy halftime lead with a dazzling array of big plays. His 4-yard scoring run late in the second quarter to make it 27-7 essentially put the game out of reach. But a short time later Santiago broke his arm, likely ending his season.

"Coach is real passionate," running back John Howell said. "He's a coach that all he cares about is his players and to see (Santiago) like that is upsetting."

The Midshipmen (2-0) proved they have playmakers who can step in against the Hilltoppers (0-2), starting with Howell.

He ripped off a 50-yard touchdown run on the game's fifth play during a quick, violent downpour that hit with the kickoff. And early in the second half he scored on a weaving, 57-yard run that gave Navy a 26-point lead.

Howell pretty much saw the same thing after taking the pitch on each run.

"There was literally no one there," he said.

And when the Hilltoppers focused on the run, quarterback Kriss Proctor floated scoring passes of 44 yards to Matt Aiken and 27 yards to Brandon Turner over a hard-biting defense to give the Midshipmen a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.

It wasn't perfect in sloppy conditions, but Navy's triple option was nevertheless dominating. Asked what was working against his defense, which gave up 410 yards rushing and 510 total, Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart had a simple answer: "Everything."

"You see it on film and I think you take it for granted until you see it for real. It's top-notch."

WKU's Bobby Rainey became the sixth Hilltoppers running back to reach 3,000 yards rushing in his career while leading a brief first-half rally, scoring from 13 yards on the next drive. But Santiago answered by capping off Navy's fifth quick-strike scoring drive of five or fewer plays in the first half.

It was Rainey's seventh straight 100-yard rushing game -- he finished with 131 -- and he can tie the school record next week against Indiana State.

The Hilltoppers' inability to come up with any other offense besides Rainey did them in again, however. Rainey was mostly hemmed in when the game was close except on WKU's first scoring drive when he rushed for 50 of the Hilltoppers' 71 yards, then tightroped down the left sideline before a scoring dive that just caught the pylon. He added a 1-yard scoring dive late in the third quarter.

WKU had just 26 yards passing in the first half, however, and quarterback Kawaun Jakes was 7 of 12 for 51 yards. He had an interception and a fumble, giving him six turnovers in two games, and was pulled early in the second half for backup Brandon Doughty. The Hilltoppers finished with 277 yards of total offense.

Meanwhile, Navy had little trouble diversifying its offense, alternating a dominating option attack led by fullback Alex Teich with Proctor's timely passes. Teich finished with 102 yards on 15 carries, and his 38-yard run late in the second quarter set up Santiago's score.

Howell finished with 113 yards rushing and Proctor, who entered the game with 12 career passes, completed 3 of 6 for 100 yards in the first half and attempted only one more in the second half. He was held below 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career as a starter, though.

He played sleight of hand to give the Midshipmen their quick early lead with those deceptive play-action fakes. On his pass to Aiken, Proctor got two defenders to bite and had his choice of receivers running free behind the WKU defense, which held Kentucky to 190 yards a week earlier. His second fake allowed Turner to slip 10 yards behind the Hilltoppers for an easy score. "The second time we weren't sure what to expect," Howell said, "and they went for it again."

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Navy (1-0) at Western Kentucky (0-1) Sept. 10, 7:00, mtn.

Here’s The Deal … Western Kentucky is good, or at least it’s improving in a big hurry, while Navy is probably as good as ever, even in a bit of a rebuilding season.

The Hilltoppers gave Kentucky all sorts of problems last week in a 14-3 loss, and while the offense had problems and there were several major problems, the defense did a whale of a job and showed enough to suggest that head coach Willie Taggart really has turned things around in just a year. Beating Navy would be a major marking point for the program after moving up to the FCS ranks a few years ago, and with Indiana State and Arkansas State up next at home, a 3-1 start is possible with an upset.

But Navy is humming.

It was supposed to take a little while for the Midshipmen to sharpen up, and it turned out the offense needed fewer than two minutes as quarterback Kriss Proctor tore off a 75-yard dash on the first drive of the game. Delaware is a strong FCS team and Navy ripped it to shreds tearing off 391 yards in a 40-17 laugher. Everything worked for the Navy attack, but it’ll be tested by a very fast, very athletic WKU defense, and then the real fun comes with a date at South Carolina followed up by the Air Force showdown. If the team is good enough to win either of those two games, it needs to be good enough to beat the Hilltoppers like a drum.

Why Navy Might Win: The WKU offense is very, very spotty. Everything revolves around star running back Bobby Rainey, and even though he grinded out a tough 105-yard day against Kentucky, the offense didn’t go anywhere because QB Kawaun Jakes completed just 9-of-27 passes for 93 yards with four picks. There’s no pop or explosion in the Hilltopper attack, and if Navy gets up early like it did against Delaware, there will be several major problems trying to come back. The Midshipmen wants WKU to throw the ball as much as possible, and a two score lead might make that happen.

The defense didn’t work against Robert Griffin and Baylor, while allowing 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground to Terrance Ganaway, but it won’t have to worry about a passing game this week. Air Force might be effective through the air, but it’s not going to throw for 414 yards and six touchdowns like Baylor did. Tank Carder and the TCU defensive front can focus solely on slowing down the Falcon ground game, and if the secondary gets burned once in a while, it gets burned. If Air Force can’t run the ball, it can’t win.

Why WKU Might Win: The defense might be much, much better than originally thought. Kentucky is an SEC team with SEC talent, and it didn’t go anywhere coming up with just 97 yards through the air, with most of the yards coming on two plays, with three picks. The UK ground game didn’t go anywhere, either, gaining 93 yards and a touchdown. Again, this is a minor bowl-worthy SEC team that got shut down cold. The defensive front seven was active and productive, making big plays behind the line and bringing the pressure all game long. It’s possible the WKU defensive front can stop the Navy running game before it can get started.

What To Watch Out For: Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan had a huge game against WKU with 13 tackles, but Hilltopper linebacker Andrew Jackson was just as active and just as disruptive with 12 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss, and he should come up with double digit stops this week. The sophomore got in a little bit of work late last year, but there was nothing there to suggest that he was on the verge of being one of the best new defenders in college football. At 6-1 and 255 pounds, he’s big, thick, and very, very active.

/ Jackson will spend all game long trying to keep Kriss Proctor in check, who was brilliant in his first game as the full-time starter in place of Ricky Dobbs. He completed 4-of-7 passes for 46 yards and a score with a pick, and he set the tone for the Delaware game, and maybe the season, with a 75-yard touchdown run on the way to a 176-yard day with three scores. Ten different players ran the ball, but only Teich, with 14 carries, and Proctor, with 22 runs, carries the ball more than six times.

What Will Happen: Navy will struggle more than it did against Delaware, but it’ll be Navy. It’ll control the clock, it’ll control the tempo, and it’ll keep the WKU offense off the field. The Hilltoppers won’t be effective enough early, and they won’t be good enough late, to overcome an early Midshipmen lead.

CFN Prediction: Navy 27 … Western Kentucky 14
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Navy -10   O/U: 53

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