Head-to-head: Navy vs. Western Kentucky

Navy opened the 2011 football season last week with a surprisingly easy victory over FCS power Delaware. The Navy Midshipmen piled up 437 yards on offense in defeating the Delaware Blue Hens 40-17. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are entering only their third year playing FBS football. The Hilltoppers nearly produced a huge upset last week when it fell to Kentucky 14-3.

Western Kentucky
Navy rushing offense
Western Kentucky rushing defense
In the opener against Delaware the Mids rushed for 391 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Starting quarterback Kriss Proctor missed a few reads but demonstrated his speed and ability to break tackles as he carried 22 times for 176 yards and scored three touchdowns. His 75-yard touchdown run on the opening drive set the tone for the game. Fullback Alexander Teich (868 yards, 5 tds in 2010) ran hard for 65 tough yards inside against Delaware's stacked defensive formation in the box. Aaron Santiago had a 24-yard burst on a counter option as he ran six times for 56 yards and scored a touchdown. Slotback Gee Gee Greene (505 yards, 5 tds in 2010) showed his speed rushing four times for 38 yards.

Western Kentucky played a tremendous defensive game against Kentucky. They held Kentucky to just 93 yards rushing and only 2.8 yards per carry. Sophomore Mike linebacker Andrew Jackson, in his first career start at linebacker, recorded a team-high 12 tackles, two behind the line of scrimmage and recorded a sack. WKU has an experienced front four that averages 281 pounds. Defensive tackle Rammell Lewis (4 tackles) and defensive end Jared Clendendin (4 tackles, 1 interception) played well in allowing Kentucky just 190 yards in total offense last week.  
Navy passing offense
Western Kentucky passing defense
Kriss Proctor completed 4-of-7 passes for 46 yards throwing a touchdown pass and an interception. Proctor's has a nice target in physical Brandon Turner (2 for 29 yards) who caught two passes for first downs. Proctor's lacks arm strength but offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper only asked him to throw passes he can make. Kriss's last pass of the day was a nicely thrown 12-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Santiago.

The WKU secondary is one of the better secondaries in the Sun Belt conference. The Hilltoppers intercepted Kentucky three times in holding their quarterback to a 38.9% completion percentage and just 97 total passing yards. Senior cornerback Derrius Brooks (36 tackles, 3 INT in 2010) intercepted a pass. WKU has two talented young coverage cornerback in sophomores Tyree Robinson (32 tackles, 2 INT in 2010) and Arius Wright (36 tackles, 1 INT in 2010). Senior SAM safety Ryan Beard, who made 71 tackles last season, had seven tackles in the opener. Proctor has to be careful when throwing down field outside the hash markets because his passes lack velocity and can be picked off by this group.  
Western Kentucky rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
The strength of the WKU offense has been their senior tailback Bobby Rainey. Last year Rainey rushed for 1,650 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. He was named First Team All-Sun Belt last year after leading the conference in rushing yards. Rainey is a workhorse who averaged 28 carries per game in 2010. Rainey ran for 105 yards in the opener against Kentucky.

Navy ranked 75th in the country in stopping the run in 2010. Navy co-captain Jabaree Tuani (five tackles) dominated against Delaware excellent offensive line. The Mids did allow 220 rushing yards and Delaware averaged 5.9 yards a carry. All-American Andrew Pierce ran for 119 yards but was generally kept in check. Right end Jamal Dobbs made four tackles in his first career start. Dobbs demonstrated his power and quickness when he burst through the line and dumped Pierce for a loss on a play being run away from him in the first quarter. Inside linebacker Matt Brewer (7 tackles, two forced fumbles) was the most productive of the linebackers. The linebacker play was fundamentally sound with fewer missed tackles than last year. The linebackers did a much better job of playing their gap responsibility. The Mids linebackers stopped the Delaware running game from breaking any big plays. The Delaware rush totals were padded by 50 rushing yards on last drive against Navy's backups.
Western Kentucky passing offense
Navy passing defense
Western Kentucky junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes is in his second full season as the starter. Last year he completed 51.2 percent of his passes for 1,680 pass yards and 10 touchdowns passes against six interceptions. Jakes is mobile and rushed for 210 yards and four touchdowns last season. He was awful in the opener against Kentucky killing any chance WKU had of springing the upset. Jakes completed only 33.3 percent of his passes and threw four interceptions. However, remember at times Navy's secondary makes average quarterbacks look like Peyton Manning. When Jakes was a redshirt freshman in 2009 he made his first start against Navy in Annapolis. He had the best game of his career as he completed 22-of-28 passes for 276 yards and threw two touchdowns. Jakes also rushed for 44 yards and scored a touchdown.

He helped WKU produce a season best 434 yards of total offense in that game during what ended up a winless 2009 campaign. Junior Marcus Vasquez who had 30 catches for 332 yards and scored three touchdowns last season is considered the Hilltoppers best receiver.

Navy's rebuilt secondary played well last week. They limited Delaware starting quarterback Trevor Sasek to just 9-of-19 completions for 82 yards and no touchdowns. Backup Tim Donnelly replaced Sasek late and completed 7-of-9 passes for 60 yards but was intercepted by Kwesi Mitchell. Mitchell thrived in his new role as rover with six tackles, 2 passes defended and made an interception. The Mids new cornerbacks, David Sperry (5 tackles) and David Wright (4 tackles), had solid first starts at cornerbacks. Wright showed himself to be a sure tackler limiting receivers run after the catch yards. Navy recorded no sacks but did generate some pressure especially from Jabaree Tuani who was credited with two pass defenses on the day. There were receivers open underneath at times but Navy allowed just 143 net passing yards.
Special Teams
WKU kicker Casey Tininess hit one of two field goal attempts against Kentucky. He hit from 41 yards. Last year he hit just 6-of-15 field goal attempts and hit only one of nine attempts from forty yards or longer. Hendrix Brakefield punted well averaging 44.6 yards on eight punts. WKU isn't anything special in the return game.

Navy's new kicker Jon Teague and punter Pablo Beltran had tremendous games. Beltran boomed his only punt 47 yards into the wind that was fair caught inside the 20-yard line. In the second quarter Jon Teague hit a 36-yard field goal before later blasting a 54-yard field goal that would have been good from 60 yards. Teague averaged 65.2 yards on his kickoffs and had two touchbacks. Gary Myers fielded a fair catch cleanly and returned one punt for 16 yards. Marcus Thomas returned two kickoffs for 33 yards.  
Willie Taggart is in his second year as head coach of Western Kentucky. Taggart was a long time Hilltopper assistant who left for Stanford before returning as head coach last season. Taggart was WKU's offensive coordinator in 2002 when they won the Division 1AA championship. He is considered an excellent recruiter and some of that talent was on display last weekend in the near upset of Kentucky.

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo attention to detail and the demands he places on his team during practice was reflected on the field last Saturday. His career record improved to 28-14. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper did a tremendous job in matching up against the Delaware defense. The Blue Hens have had success in the past stacking the box against Navy's running attack. When Delaware stacked the middle of the defense Jasper ran counter option and misdirection creating big plays on the perimeter in the run game. Give credit to Jasper for limiting Proctors throws to the passes he can complete with his limited arm strength. Buddy Green's rebuilt secondary looked good and played well.
Navy needs this game with South Carolina and Air Force the next two games. After allowing 33 points per game last season, the WKU defense has to feel good about its performance in the opener. The Hilltoppers have lost 16 straight home games.

PREDICTION: Navy 31-17

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