First Look: Navy
In what will be a battle of very different looking offenses, Navy’s deceptively explosive triple-option against East Carolina’s methodical air-raid attack, the Pirates will hope to leave Annapolis with a much-needed win in their first American Athletic Conference game of the season on Sep. 19. Despite having not seen Navy since 2011 — a thrilling 38-35 road victory for ECU — the Pirates have a less than stellar track record in recent run ins with the Midshipmen. In fact, the past three times the two teams squared off, Navy’s triple-option rushing attack amassed 1,317 yards and put up a combined 197 points. Yes, Navy is averaging 65.6 points per game against ECU dating back to 2010 when the Midshipmen trounced the Pirates and left the Dowdy-Ficklen faithful with a disconcerting “76” in the guest column of the scoreboard. In their last season as an Independent in 2014, Navy finished with an 8-5 record culminated by a victory over San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl. Outside of that, however, the team failed to pick up any signature wins, except perhaps the 17-10 victory over rival Army on the last week of the season. Temple stands as feasibly Navy’s most impressive win of a season ago but thorough losses to National Champion Ohio State and Notre Dame serve as just another reminder that even a dangerous underdog team like Navy can be figured out. What makes Navy so dangerous is it’s utilization of the rarely used triple-option and what makes the wheels on the dated offense turn is senior quarterback and team captain Keenan Reynolds. Since becoming Navy’s starting quarterback in 2012, Reynolds has cemented his name in Midshipmen lure. A 21-11 record, combined with his numerous school and national records are living proof of the growing legend of Reynolds. To encapsulate just a few of his impressive records, his 64 touchdowns are the most by a quarterback in NCAA history, he has the third most career rushing yards in Navy history and has the most points by a quarterback in NCAA history. In short, when looking at who the most dangerous player will be on the field for either team, look no further than the 5-foot-11 signal caller dawning the blue and gold. Reynolds’ 23 touchdowns and 1,191 rushing yards last season were by the far the most of any Midshipmen. The second leading rusher, Noah Copeland, accounted for 952 yards and five touchdowns but has since graduated, leaving a sizeable hole for Navy to fill. There is no shortage of capable, experienced backs, however. Seniors Demond Brown, DeBrandon Sanders and Chris Swain are all penciled in as starters on the Navy depth chart and could comprise the most experienced backfield in the conference. The three senior rushers combined for 1,289 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns a season ago and should have no problem picking up where Copeland left off. The Navy offense returns its biggest weapon in Reynolds but on the other side of the ball, the Midshipmen, lead by seventh year head coach Ken Niumatalolo, will be without the services of its best defensive player from last season, linebacker Jordan Drake. As a senior last season, Drake led the Navy defensive corps with 109 total tackles and two forced fumbles. The defensive departures don’t stop there. Outside linebackers Chris Johnson and Obi Uzome and their 122 combined tackles are also gone. Navy’s holes on the defense will need to be answered if they want to slow down ECU’s pass-heavy offensive attack. The matchup between the two very different offenses will be an exciting one to watch and the team that forces the most turnovers seems to have the best chance of winning. Head-to-head history tilts heavily in favor of the AAC’s newest member but it’s a history that the Pirates hope won’t soon repeat itself.
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