CFN Take: Navy Rally Falls Short To Rutgers
Navy Midshipmen 2014 ... Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
Sept. 20 Rutgers 31, at Navy 24
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 Ohio State L 34-17
Sep. 6 at Temple W 31-24
Sep. 13 at Texas State W 35-21
Sep. 20 Rutgers L 31-24
Sep. 27 WKU
Oct. 4 at Air Force
Oct. 11 VMI
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 San Jose State
Nov. 1 Notre Dame (Balt.)
Nov. 8 OPEN DATE
Nov. 15 Georgia Southern
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE
Nov. 28 at South Alabama
Dec. 6 OPEN DATE
Dec. 13 Army (Baltimore)
And You Care Because … After nearly letting a double-digit lead slip away, Rutgers used a goal-line stand in the waning moments to hold off Navy in Annapolis. The Scarlet Knights overcame an injury to leading rusher Paul James by getting 186 combined rushing yards from Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples. The Midshipmen twice pulled to within a touchdown in the second half, but a couple of key sacks of Keenan Reynolds preserved the win for Rutgers.
What Else? Goodwin ran for a workmanlike 104 yards and a score on 26 carries. Even more impressive, though, was the fact that he was one of the Rutgers’ starting cornerbacks in the opener.
- In a rarity, Navy QB Keenan Reynolds was more effective as a passer than a runner. He was 12-of-22 for an uncharacteristic 231 yards and a touchdown to Brendan Dudeck.
- It’s not often that an opponent outgains Navy on the ground, but that’s what Rutgers accomplished Saturday. The Knights outgained the Mids, 284-171, while keeping Reynolds in check.
- Rutgers got a huge day from its defense, including nine tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles. DE David Milewski got in on two of those sacks and one of the forced fumbles.
Game Rating: B
Sept. 13 Navy 35, at Texas State 21
And You Care Because … Navy kept the machine rolling without star QB Keenan Reynolds, who sat out with a knee injury suffered against Temple. The Midshipmen got out to a 28-0 first half lead helped by two touchdown runs from Tago Smith and a six-yard pass to Brendan Dudeck. Smith hooked up with Jamir Tillman from 67 yards out to squash the Texas State scoring threat after the Bobcats had scored 14 straight points on one-yard runs from Tyler Jones and Robert Lowe.
What Else? Navy QB Tago Smith completed 5-of-7 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and ran 27 times for 85 yards and two scores.
- Texas State committed 11 penalties for 125 yards
- Navy RB Noah Copeland ran 11 times for 116 yards
- Texas State completed 24-of-36 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran 19 times for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Game Rating: C
Sept. 6 Navy 31, at Temple 24
And You Care Because … Navy survived after cranking up a 31-14 lead helped by Keenan Reynolds touchdown runs from 48 and three yards out, and scoring plays seven yards away by Geoffrey Whiteside and a 24-yard dash from DeBrandon Sanders. Temple kept fighting, with an Austin Jones field goal and a 13-yard Jalen Fitzpatrick touchdown catch making it a seven-point game, but Navy held on. The Midshipmen ran for 487 yards and held on to the ball for over 36 minutes – Reynolds ran 21 times for 173 yards and two scores.
Game Rating: B
Aug. 30 Ohio State 34, Navy 17 in Baltimore
And You Care Because … It was a dogfight for Ohio State down 14-13 in the third quarter, but J.T. Barrett connected with Devin Smith for an 80-yard touchdown to open things up, and then the running game went to work. Ezekiel Elliott ran for a ten-yard score and Michael Thomas caught a nine-yard touchdown pass to help the Buckeyes pull away, but it took a while.
What Else? Call this the sigh-of-relief game. No, no one on Navy makes the Ohio State two-deep, and yes, with one of the best defensive lines in America, the Buckeyes should’ve won this game in a walk, but Navy is always a quirky team to get past. Survive and advance – Ohio State did just that.
- So how was J.T. Barrett? 12-of-15 for 226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and while he’ll never run like Braxton Miller, he led the team with 50 yards on nine carries. The Buckeyes came up with 194 yards and used a variety of options, but the ground game didn’t take control until late.
- Navy needed to be perfect, and wasn’t. The running game cranked up 370 yards, but it didn’t take total control of the game and there weren’t any big pass plays to open things up. QB Keenan Reynolds was held in check, running 23 times for 42 yards with a score, and his misread led to a 61-yard fumble recovery for a score from OSU’s Darron Lee.
- It’s almost as if Ohio State just needed to get through this landmine. Watch out for a much sharper effort next week against Virginia Tech.
Game Rating: B
Navy has the same pieces, the same issues and the same type of personnel every single year – you know what you’re getting.
No, there will never be a Jameis Winston at quarterback, and no, the offensive line isn’t going to be full of first round draft choices, but the program has the system down, it works to various degrees, and when the offense is on, Navy can throw a scare into almost anyone.
After slipping a bit in 2011 going 5-7, head coach Ken Niumatalolo put the call out that team and the program had to get even tougher and most physical. There were the same types of players and the same restrictions, but at the very least, he threw down the challenge that something had to change, and it did.
This isn’t that hard. Navy doesn’t have the bulk, the talent, or the bodies, so the offense has to control the clock, go on long marches to keep the defense off the field, and it can’t get behind. It’s a devastatingly precise attack when all the parts are working right, but that only really ends up happening against the okay-to-mediocre teams.
Why did Navy go 5-7 in 2011? It lost two of the could’ve-gone-either-way, 50/50 games against East Carolina and Southern Miss, both by three. A little bit of luck and help makes it a 7-5 year. In 2012, there was a bad loss to Troy, but the other four defeats came to Notre Dame, Penn State, a San Jose State team that went 11-2, and Arizona State.
But something new happened last year that might change Navy’s preordained annual destiny of beat the bums, lose to the stars, beat Army. There was a misfire against Western Kentucky and a shootout loss to Toledo, but there was a nice win over Indiana that ultimately cost the Hoosiers a bowl game. A win over Pitt, an epic shootout win over San Jose State, and a bowl victory over Middle Tennessee started to show that the potential is there to do really big things.
Last year’s team was good, this one is a lot better.
QB Keenan Reynolds will get all the hype and publicity, but the success will come from an O line that was relatively stable throughout last year and now gets everyone back. The defense will never stop anyone cold, but the secondary has the experience to be a plus, and the defensive front gets back enough options to be solid.
But none of that would matter if Navy was playing in the SEC West. Navy doesn’t play in the SEC West.
Forget about beating Ohio State in the opener, but that’s it. There isn’t another game on the schedule – including Notre Dame on November 1st in Landover – that the Midshipmen can’t win. Of course, that all depends on injuries and keeping Reynolds in one piece, but there’s reason to get excited. There’s cause to think big. And if, but some chance, the offense can rise up on August 30th and shock the world against Ohio State, Navy could be the story of the 2014 season.
What to watch for on offense:
Can other options take the pressure off of Reynolds? The junior quarterback is only 5-11 and 185 pounds, and while he’s quick enough and slippery enough to avoid the big hits, he’s not built to run the ball 300 times again. The big plays and production might come from the big plays on the outside, but they’re set up by the jab – the hammering of the fullback to suck everyone in. Noah Copeland missed a bulk of the second half of last year hurt, and while the offense survived and kept on rolling, the more he and Chris Swain can be established, the better. DeBrandon Sanders and Geoffrey Whiteside are home run hitters who need to be set up, but it’ll be better if someone other the Reynolds has to be the one to do it.
What to watch for on defense:
The inside linebackers have to shine. There’s good enough size on the front three to be able to hold its own against the run, and the secondary could be terrific with safety Parrish Gaines and corner Brendon Clements leading the way, but now the inside linebackers have to come through. Navy always finds good hitters who can pile up decent stats, but this year’s defense has to replace the top two tacklers, Cody Peterson and D.J. Sargenti. These two combined for 252 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss with Peterson coming up with double-digit stops nine times. Chris Johnson and Jordan Drake will be good on the outside, and now the spotlight will be on James Britton and Don Pearson. If they’re great, this could be the best defense in the Niumatalolo era.
The team will be far better if … there's a pass rush. Is it possible to generate any sort of pressure on opposing quarterbacks? The Navy D doesn’t get too much from the 3-4, and it’s a problem. The secondary is going to be fine, but it gave up too many big plays and the Midshipmen managed to beat two of the big-bombing teams – Indiana and San Jose State – but there were problems against the pass over the second half of the season and it started with the mediocre pass rush. But how? The defense traditionally doesn’t fly into the backfield, and it’s not going to spend too much time sitting on quarterbacks’ heads, but there’s enough speed and quickness on the outside to manufacture more production. If the secondary is a wee bit better – and it should be – the front seven can take more chances.
There are only four games outside of the state of Maryland – Navy can work with this. It’s going to take a few upsets to get to ten wins, but it’s manageable as long as the Midshipmen can avoid the quirky landmines like Texas State and South Alabama on the road. Opening up against Ohio State in Baltimore probably won’t be fun, but there isn’t another game on the schedule that isn’t winnable. The lone road games are against Temple, Texas State, Air Force and South Alabama, and the Temple game in Philadelphia will have a home crowd. Rutgers has to come to Annapolis and the Notre Dame game is in Landover, and there’s only one true road game – South Alabama – after October 4th.
Best offensive player:
Junior QB Keenan Reynolds. If you want to put him in the MVP category, go ahead. Navy has no problems finding quick quarterbacks who can get to the outside, serve as an extra running back and make the offense go, but it’s not a cookie-cutter position. Reynolds showed off a magical quality at times last year, all but taking the team on his back in the phenomenal win over San Jose State, and he proved he could handle a big workload. However, when he wasn’t able to be a huge part of the offense, the machine broke down. He only ran the ball six times for 23 yards and a score against WKU in a loss, and he ran just 16 times for 31 yards against Duke.
Best defensive player:
Senior FS Parrish Gaines. Expected to have a good year after a terrific sophomore season, he came through with a consistently terrific season as the last line of defense against the run while tying for the team lead with three picks. He won’t have to do it all with corners Brendon Clements, Kwazel Bertrand and Myer Krah good veterans, and there are plenty of safety options to fill in the gaps, but it’s Gaines who’ll have to be the quarterback of the secondary again.
Key player to a successful season:
Junior NG Bernard Sarra. The run defense wasn’t bad, and it can’t get gouged – that’s up to the big guys in the middle to handle the work. While Sarra will never get into the backfield, and he’s not going to swallow up everything inside, at 6-1 and 303 pounds he’s a true anchor for everything else to work around. With 6-4, 305-pound sophomore Patrick Forrestal behind him, there’s a chance for a good rotation to keep everyone fresh – Sarra was beaten on last year and missed three games – but when he was right, he showed he could be a difference-maker, coming up with a season-high six tackles against Middle Tennessee.
The season will be a success if …
it's a ten-win season. With 15 returning starters, along with all the specialists and 51 total lettermen, there are veterans, there’s depth, and there’s even a little star power. If Navy beats the teams it’s supposed to, and if it can take advantage of all the home games, a nine-win regular season is possible with a
Poinsettia Bowl win possibly needed to make it the first ten-win campaign since 2009. Assume losses to Ohio State and Notre Dame – if either one of those is a win, the prospects for the season change – and throw in the out-of-the-blue, the-other-D-figured-it-out loss to a South Alabama or a Rutgers, but there’s reason to shoot for big things.
Key game: Sept. 20 vs. Rutgers. If the team is as good as
expected, there shouldn't be problems on the road against Temple and Texas
State, but if there's a hiccup, it'll be 1-2 - assuming a loss to Ohio State to
start the season - making the game against the new Big Tener vital to avoid a
disastrous start to the season. It's the home opener with a run of four games in
Annapolis in the next six, and with three of the four November games away from
home, owning home is a must.
2014 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 70 for 657 yards - Navy (No. 1
in the nation) 34 for 282 yards
- Fumbles: Navy 775 attempts, 16 fumbles, six losses -
Opponents 511 attempts, 18 fumbles, nine losses
- First Quarter Scoring: Navy 65 - Opponents 32
- 2014 Navy Preview -
What You Need To Know & Top Players