Head-to-head: Navy vs. SMU

Navy returns home to face SMU after three consecutive road games. Last week Navy defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons with a thrilling last minute 28-27 come from behind victory. SMU beat Tulsa 21-18 to improve their conference record to 3-0. Last year Navy had a huge road comeback win 38-35 against the Mustangs in overtime.

The winner of the game will receive the Gansz Trophy which was created to honor former Navy player Frank Gansz who coached at both schools.

Navy rushing offense
SMU rushing defense
Navy enters the game ranked tenth in the nation in rushing yards. Navy ran for 274 and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Ricky Dobbs carried 22 times for 100 yards and scored two touchdowns. Dobbs looked a lot like his old self as he broke his longest run (41 yards) of the year. Aaron Santiago, after being limited by a hamstring injury most of the season, showed his speed. Santiago ran six times for 66 yards. Santiago's six-yard run on fourth-and-1 kept final game winning drive alive. Slot backs Gee Gee Greene (8.1 yards per carry) and Andre Byrd (7.5 yards per carry) continue to produce big plays when given the ball. Both fullbacks were injuried against Wake Forest. Vince Murray left with a sprained left knee. Murray, who rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game against SMU, will miss the game. Alexander Teich battled with a sore shoulder to carry 10 times for 43 yards before being knocked out with a concussion will play. Delvin Diggs (one carry for 1 yard) will back up Teich at 'B' back. SMU's 3-4 defense ranks 30th in the nation allowing 115 yards a game. It is a huge improvement over last year. The strength of the Mustangs is their linebackers. Inside linebacker Taylor Reed is active, runs well and leads team with 53 tackles. Fellow inside linebacker Pete Fleps is close behind with 51 tackles. Ja'Gared Davis is a playmaking outside linebacker. Davis has posted 44 tackles, 13 tackles for loss with a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Up front SMU has two huge defensive ends in Taylor Thompson (6-6, 280) and Margus Hunt (6-8, 272). The Mustangs did a good job against the Mids running game in the first half last year before being wore down in second half.  
Navy passing offense
SMU passing defense
Ricky Dobbs clutch passing on the final drive secured the win over Wake Forest. Greg Jones caught the game winning 6-yard touchdown pass. Jones had three catches for 35 yards. Dobbs also threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Alexander Teich on Navy's opening drive. Dobbs has overthrown a number of open receivers the last few games. Gee Gee Greene had three catches for 44 yards. Ricky made the throw of game on the final drive. Dobbs scrambled and hit Greene for a clutch 34 yard reception on third-and-10. Plebe Matt Aiken caught a 61-yard pass that was called back on a questionable holding penalty. Navy's offensive line allowed only one sack. SMU ranks only 97th in the nation in pass defense. SMU's secondary has struggled against the pass at times this year. The Mustangs rely on their ability to generate a pass rush to protect their secondary. Outside linebacker Ja'Gared Davis has posted seven sacks already this season. Defensive end Taylor Thompson has 2 1/2 sacks. Cornerback Sterling Moore has two interceptions. Starting strong safety Ryan Smith, who has two interceptions. missed last weeks game and is questionable for Saturday.  
SMU rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
SMU sophomore running back Zach Line is a 6-1, 235 power back with speed. Lane has been impressive rushing 81 times for 552 yards, averaging 6.8 yards a carry and five touchdowns. SMU quarterback Kyle Padron, like most Run and Shoot quarterbacks, is mobile. Padron has rushed for 173 yards and a touchdown. Navy ranks only 83rd in the nation against the run but that number is skewed since the Mids have faced two option teams and another, Maryland, that rarely threw the ball. The Mids allowed only 77 yards rushing and a touchdown and made the Demon Deacon one dimensional. Wake Forest only averaged 3.2 yards a carry on 24 attempts. Aaron McCauley had another terrific game with 13 tackles, two for a loss and a fumble recovery. Jabaree Tuani was a warrior playing through pain and had eight tackles, three of which were behind the line of scrimmage. His hit forcing a fumble that McCauley recovered at the four yard line with the Demon Deacons going in was a huge play early in the game. Tuani had another huge play when he tackled Harris for a six yard loss when Wake Forest was attempting to run out the clock. The three and out forced a Demon Deacon punt that gave Navy it's last chance to pull out the upset. Chase Burge played well in place of Shane Bothel at nose guard. Navy will be in its nickel package most of the game against the Run and Shoot. Expect to see Wyatt Middleton closer to the line of scrimmage this game like last year.  
SMU passing offense
Navy passing defense
SMU's Run and Shoot offense ranks 27th in the nation in passing averaging over 265 yards a game. The Mids will face for the first time Mustang sophomore quarterback Kyle Padron. Padron, once he became a starter last year, led SMU to a 5-1 record. Padron hasn't missed a beat this year completing 58 percent of attempts while throwing for 1,564 yards. Padron has thrown 16 touchdowns against only five interceptions. The Mustangs have plenty of playmakers at receiver. Darius Johnson has 33 receptions for 336 yards and has scored four touchdowns. Aldrick Robinson is the big play threat averaging 20 yards per catch. Robinson has caught 27 for 539 yards and six touchdowns. Cole Beasley has 30 catches and posted 431 yards and three touchdowns. Navy ranks third in the nation in pass yards yielding only 141 yards a game. Like the rushing totals, these numbers aren't exactly reflective of Navy coverage ability because the Mids have played three running teams. Navy has had trouble with Louisiana Tech and Wake Forest short range passing game. Now the Mids will play against the best passing offense they'll see all year. If they play as soft and tackle as poorly as they did against the Demon Deacons then the SMU Run & Shoot offense choice and switch routes will be open all day. Against Wake Forest they allowed 37of 53 passes to be completed for 326 yards and two touchdown passes. Cornerback Kevin Edwards had 8 tackles, forced a fumble and broke up a pass on a route he jumped. De'Von Richardson posted seven tackles in the first start of his Navy career in place of injured free safety Emmett Merchant. Merchant is expected to play this weekend.  
Special Teams
SMU Matt Szymanski doubles as both the kicker and the punter. Szymanski has hit all three of his field goal attempts including a bomb from 61 yards. As the punter he's averaged 41.0 yards a punt. The Mustang has an excellent kick returner in Darryl Fields who averages 25.4 a return and has a long return of 92 yards. Darius Johnson has averaged only 3.3 yards on his ten punt returns. SMU coverage teams are average. Navy's kickoff coverage team struggles continue as Wake Forest recorded 165 yards on five returns. The Demon Deacons opened the game with a 53-yard kickoff return. They nearly went the distance on their last return following Navy's touchdown. Freshman Marcus Thomas speed, three tackles on kickoff coverage, was the only thing that prevented a touchdown. Kyle Delahooke looked to be back on track last weekend as he averaged 46.4 yards on his five punts. Kyle's 61-yard punt was able to get the Mids out of the shadow of their own goal post in the third quarter. Joe Buckley was bailed out by a Wake Forest penalty after his first extra point hit the upright. Buckley's field goal beat SMU in overtime last year. Alex Teich, Gee Gee Greene and Bo Snelson averaged 23.6 yards on their five kickoff returns against Wake Forest. Gary Myers is averaging 7.4 yards on punt returns this year.  
In two short years Run and Shoot offensive genius June Jones has rebuilt SMU. The Mustangs dominated Nevada in their first bowl appearance since they returned from the NCAA death penalty. Navy's offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper made a number of formation changes in the red zone. After struggling all year Navy scored on four of five trips inside the twenty. Jasper had Navy run a tight formation. Jasper did a terrific job of calling plays especially late in game. Ken Niumatalolo did a better job of clock management than he has in the past giving the Mids a chance to win against Wake Forest.  
The Midshipman are coming off a thrilling come from behind win with their season on the brink. Navy finally returns home after three weeks on the road. SMU is 1-6 against Navy since 1995.  

PREDICTION: Navy, 31-27.

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