Head-to-head: Navy vs. South Carolina

Navy travels to South Carolina for the first time since 1988 to face the number #10 ranked team in the nation. The Midshipmen enter the game undefeated after easily defeating Western Kentucky 40-14. Navy has scored 80 points the first two games this year. South Carolina defeated SEC rival Georgia in a wild and exciting 45-42 game last week

South Carolina has struggled on defense at times early in the year but they are so talented and have so many playmakers it hasn't mattered as the won their first two games. In 1984 Navy recorded one of their greatest upsets when they defeated the then No. 2 ranked Gamecocks 38-21. The Gamecocks are fielding their most talented team since Steve Spurrier became head coach at South Carolina.

South Carolina
Navy rushing offense
South Carolina rushing defense
Navy is leading the nation in rushing averaging 400 yards per game on the ground. Western Kentucky took away the quarterback last weekend resulting in Kriss Proctor rushing for only 23 net yards. Proctor still leads the team in rushing this season (199 yards, 5.2 per carry and 3 touchdowns). The Mids took a huge blow when talented slotback Aaron Santiago (116 total yards, 3 combined TDs) suffered a broken arm which required surgery. The staff is hoping Santiago will be available by the Army/Navy game but his career may be over. The Mids are fortunate that slotback is one of the deepest and most competitive positions on the team. Gee Gee Greene (505, 5TDs in 2010) is currently averaging eleven yards a carry.

John Howell will replace Santiago in the starting lineup. Howell carried three times for 113 yards last weekend. Howell opened the scoring with a 50-yard touchdown run when he burst through a hole off a terrific Bo Snelson block to score untouched. In the third period he cut back and dived into the end zone on a long 57-yard touchdown run. Bo Snelson (6 carries, 39 yards) has run and blocked well but needs to do a better job protecting the football. Fullback Alexander Teich carried 15 times for 102 yards in the win over WKU. Blocking on the perimeter by wide receivers Doug Furman and Brandon Turner has been terrific all season.

South Carolina enters the game ranked 65th in the nation in rush defense. The Gamecocks defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson once was head coach at The Citadel and prepared his team every year to face Georgia Southern's spread option attack. While the Gamecocks current statistics aren't eye opening their talent is impressive. One of the most impressive defensive end recruits in recent memory is Jadeveon Clowney, who was regarded as Scout.com's top high school prospect this past recruiting season. In the first two games Clowney recorded nine tackles and made two sacks. It will be interesting to see if Navy runs at him to neutralize his speed or away from him. While he's played well, Clowney still backs up Melvin Ingram at defensive end. Ingram improbably scored the first two touchdowns of his career in the win over Georgia. Running away from Ingram and Clowney you'll find 6-7, 260 pound junior Devin Taylor. In 2010 Taylor made 46 tackles, 13 behind the line of scrimmage. Their best defensive tackle is 303 pound Travian Robertson, who is very powerful at the point of attack. Last season he posted 52 tackles with four sacks and ten tackles for loss. Mike linebacker Shaq Wilson has terrific speed and has recorded 10 tackles this year. The defensive star so far this year has been the rover or "Spur" senior linebacker Antonio Allen. In two games he has made 22 tackles and has returned both a fumble and interception for touchdowns.  
Navy passing offense
South Carolina passing defense
Navy is back to being a more pure triple option team with Kriss Proctor at quarterback. Proctor lacks arm strength and isn't very accurate but offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper doesn't ask him to make throws he can't execute. So far Proctor has completed 7-of-14 passes for 146 yards with three touchdowns and one interception which is all you can ask. Proctor used a play action pass on third-and-3 to hit a wide open Matt Aiken for a 44 yard touchdown against WKU. Later Proctor faked a handoff to the fullback on the mesh then hit a wide open Brandon Turner (3 catches, 56 yards and 1 TD this year) on a post pattern for a 27 yard touchdown. Kriss loses hit best receiver at slotback with the injury to Aaron Santiago. If forced to pass this could get ugly. Navy's undersized line has the worse percentage of sacks allowed in the nation over the last decade.

For all of South Carolina's pass rushing talent they do have problems defending against the pass. The team is playing without cornerback Victory Hampton who is currently suspended. The Gamecocks best player in the secondary is junior Stephon Gilmore who is a big physical cornerback. He made 79 tackles with three sacks, three interceptions in 2010. Defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor (1st Team All-SEC ) pose a pass rushing nightmare for the Mids.  
South Carolina rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore (1,190 rush yards, 19 total TDs in 2010) is one of the most talented running backs in the nation. He has tremendous speed, an explosive burst and the ability to make people miss. This year Lattimore has carried the ball 50 times for 288 yards. He has averaged 5.8 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns. Navy has to account for quarterback Stephen Garcia who in mobile. Garcia has rushed 11 times for 67 yards and has scored three touchdowns. They run behind a huge offensive line that averages 309 pounds. The best lineman is junior center T.J. Johnson, a 6-4, 314 pound, a very physical road grader.

Navy ranks 84th in the country in stopping the run. The first two weeks of the season the Mids allowed yardage but limited any big plays against two good running backs. Neither is in Lattimore's class. After missing the opener nose guard Jared Marks played well last week recording three tackles while playing two gap and leaving the inside linebackers to roam free. Inside linebacker Matt Warrick had a tremendous game with 12 tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Fellow inside linebacker Matt Brewer has been very physical and he has recorded 16 tackles in the first two games. Navy co-captain Jabaree Tuani has dominated at the point of attack.  
South Carolina passing offense
Navy passing defense
South Carolina's passing game so far this season has been a huge disappointment for Spurrier. Senior quarterback and chronic problem child Stephen Garcia has completed only 18 of 40 passes (45%) for 252 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Last year Garcia completed 64% of his passes for 3,059 yards. He threw 20 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. He can scramble. Garcia ran for 222 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns in 2010 so the Navy front line needs to keep containment. At wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is a junior All-American who made a tremendous catch in the Georgia game for a touchdown. ECU and Georgia had some success double teaming him the first two games. In 2010 Jeffery made 88 catches for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 17.2 yards per catch. Jeffery stands 6-4, 233 pounds and is a huge physical receiver. Other than Jeffrey and Lattimore out of the backfield the only other receiver to figure in the mix is tiny Ace Sanders. Last year the speedy 5-7 sophomore had 25 receptions for 316 yards and two scores. The Gamecocks big offensive line isn't very mobile and has had some problems with past protection.

Navy's new secondary has done a terrific job this year. The Mids rank 23rd in the nation in pass defense allowing only an average of 148 yards per game. Navy has done a nice job generating some pressure especially from Jabaree Tuani and Jamal Dobbs. Dobbs teamed up with Wes Henderson (3 tackles, fumble recovery) for Navy's only sack last week. Cornerback David Sperry has made nine tackles and intercepted a pass this year. Sophomore safety Shawn Lynch played with more confidence last week and had a career high six tackles. Tra'ves Bush made six tackles and intercepted a pass returning it 49 yards for a touchdown. Kwesi Mitchell has played extremely well at his new rover position. Mitchell has made 11 tackles and intercepted a pass.  
Special Teams
South Carolina possesses outstanding speed on special teams. Punt returner Ace Sanders has returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown. Kickoff returner Bruce Ellington has averaged 23.4 yards per return. New kicker Jay Wooten has hit his only field goal attempt from 49 yards this year. Punter Joey Scribner-Howard has averaged 39.6 yards per punt this season.

The Mids special teams struggled in the rain against WKU. Pablo Beltran didn't punt well in the bad weather as he averaged 34.6 yards per punt. Kick coverage had a terrible night allowing 32.7 per kickoff return including 75 yard kickoff return where David Wright ran down the returner to save a touchdown Navy botched two extra point attempts. A poor snap by Brian Ackerman prevented kicker Teague from attempting the extra point after the Mids first touchdown. Teague later missed another extra point kick in the third quarter. Punt returner Gary Myers fumbled a punt early and was tentative fielding punts after that mistake. Kick returner Marcus Thomas has played well.  
The self-described old ball coach has assembled a very talented group at South Carolina. Steve Spurrier since his return to college coaching has led the Gamecocks to a 46-33 record and three straight bowl wins. Spurrier has won six SEC titles and a national championship in his storied career.

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo keeps the team rolling along. They've done a great job of maximizing Proctor's success in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper did a tremendous job in matching up against the WKU defense. Jasper made WKU pay for their aggressive but unsound scheme almost all night. Ken Niumatalolo showed his emotional side discussing the serious injury to Aaron Santiago. It's easy to see why his players play so hard for him.  
Steve Spurrier is a career 42-0 against non BCS schools and Navy is 1-4 all-time in South Carolina. However, the Mids caught the Gamecocks coming off a huge SEC win over Georgia so the letdown factor is there. Spurrier's teams have struggled a bit with an FCS option team Wofford. In 2006 they defeated Wofford (27-20) in 2008 it was (23-13).  

PREDICTION: South Carolina 35-24. The Gamecocks are very talented but haven't put together a complete game. Their quarterback Garcia has been off and the passing offense has struggled. They've allowed 79 points in two games so Navy should move the ball. I wouldn't be shocked if the Mids pulled the upset but I see it more likely as a close game with the Gamecocks pulling away late.

See what Navy fans are saying about this upcoming game in the GoMids.com GoMidshipmen FORUM.

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