Head-to-head: Navy vs. Southern Miss

For the first time ever Navy and Southern Miss meet on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. Navy enters the game coming off a bitter defeat against service academy rival Air Force. The loss cost the Mids a chance to possibly reclaim the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. After being totally outplayed in the first half, the Mids rallied from18 points down in the fourth quarter..

..to tie the score before losing 35-34 in overtime. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles might be better known as Brett Favre's alma mater but they have recorded an impressive 17 consecutive winning seasons. Southern Miss routed Rice last week 48-24 to improve their record to 4-1. The Golden Eagles produced a school-record 654 yards against Rice despite four turnovers.

Southern Miss
Navy rushing offense
Southern Miss rushing defense
Navy enters the game ranked fourth in the nation in rushing averaging over 352 yards per game on the ground. Last week quarterback Kriss Proctor ran 37 times for 134 yards and scored three touchdowns. Proctor struggled at times with his reads against the Falcons. Fullback Alexander Teich (408 yards, 5.2 per carry and 1 TD) leads the team in rushing but will miss this game due to a violation of team rules. Delvin Diggs and Mike Patrick will play in his place. Slotback Gee Gee Greene (505 yards, 5 TDs in 2010) is currently averaging 10.5 yards a carry. John Howell (163 yards, 16.3 per carry, 3 TDs) has emerged as a homerun threat since replacing Aaron Santiago in the starting lineup. Andrew Barker has replaced David Sumrall at left tackle.

Southern Miss has the best run defense in Conference USA and is ranked 11th in the nation allowing just 82 yards a game. No team in the country has more tackles for loss than Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles defense averages nearly nine tackles for loss per game. Jamie Collins (30 tackles, 9 for a loss) has the most tackles for loss in the nation. The junior averages nearly two tackles for loss per game. Defensive end Cordarro Law (23 tackles, 8.5 for loss) is very explosive off the snap and creates a lot of negative plays. Korey Williams (35 tackles) anchors the run defense at middle linebacker, where he led the team in tackles with 92 (14.5 for loss) a year ago.
Navy passing offense
Southern Miss passing defense
Kriss Proctor has thrown the ball much better than I expected. Proctor's passes can float and wobble on occasion but against Air Force he completed 14 of his 24 attempts for 132 yards throwing one touchdown and one interception. Gee Gee Greene (5 catches, 32 yards, 1 TD) demonstrated tremendous concentration and great hands as he made a terrific touchdown catch while falling down in the end zone with 19 seconds left in the game last weekend. Brandon Turner (2 catches for 37 yards) had a 26-yard reception against the Falcons that helped set up Navy's first touchdown to start the rally. Casey Bolena (2 catches, 24 yards) had the best game of his career making a nice diving 17-yard catch on a low throw. Matt Aiken (4 catches, 80 yards 1 TD in 2011) almost made a leaping touchdown catch in the first quarter against Air Force.

The Golden Eagles have a good cornerback in sophomore Deron Wilson (29 tackles) who earned Second Team All-Conference USA honors a year ago. Senior safety Kendrick Presley leads the safeties with 35 tackles. Defensive end Cordarro Law (4 sacks) and defensive lineman Jamie Collins (2 sacks) create a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  
Southern Miss rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
Southern Miss ran for over 370 yards against Rice last week but paid a huge price. The Golden Eagles' top two rushers, Kendrick Hardy and Jamal Woodyard, left the game with injuries. The running back who started the season, Desmond Johnson, hasn't played since after injuring his knee in the season opener. Backups Tracy Lampley (9 carries, 70 yards last week) and Jeremy Hester (9 carries, 44 yards) are likely to split the duty if the top running backs can't play. Quarterback Austin Davis (76 yards, 1 TD) doesn't run often but is mobile.

Navy is ranks 107th in the country after facing South Carolina's superstar running back Marcus Lattimore and the top ranked rushing offense in the country in Air Force. The Falcons dominated the Mids at the point of attack in the first half and always seemed to be running downfield. Brye French matched the Falcons intensity as he posted six tackles including one for a loss. Matt Warrick and Matt Brewer both recorded five tackles but were guilty of over running plays and missing tackles. Jabaree Tuani made four tackles and had a key fumble recovery.
Southern Miss passing offense
Navy passing defense
The Golden Eagles spread offense averages 255 passing yards per game and the offense is ranked 30th overall in the country. Quarterback Austin Davis threw for 3,103 yards and completed 63 percent of his passes in 2010, with 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions. This year Davis has connected on 110 of 183 passes (60.1%) for 1,275 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Davis has surpassed Brett Favre as the school's all-time leading passer. Southern Miss has two outstanding receivers in Ryan Balentine and Kevin Bolden. Balentine is having a tremendous senior season. He has more catches through five games this season (24 rec, 323 yards, 13.5 avg. 3 TDs) than in his first two years combined (16 catches). Balentine is a very athletic receiver with excellent hands. Kevin Bolden (20 rec., 231 yards, 11.6, 3 TDs) led the team in receptions last season (46 rec., 722 yards, 6 TDs).

The Mids rank 26th in the nation in pass defense allowing only an average of 115 passing yards per game. Navy's new secondary had played well this year until the Air Force game. The Mid secondary had its worst pass defense game of the season against an option team. Falcons quarterback Tim Jefferson completed 9 of his 10 throws for 136 yards and a touchdown. Kwesi Mitchell (19 tackles, 2 ints.) badly missed a tackle on the fourth play of the game against Air Force allowing Ty MacArthur to score a 520-yard touchdown. Cornerbacks David Wright (20 tackles) and David Sperry (16 tackles, 1 INT) who had both played well this year struggled balancing their pass coverage responsibilities with run support against an option team. David Wright committed a pass interference penalty which put the ball at the 2-yard-line and set up Air Force's game winning touchdown run.
Special Teams
Kicker Danny Hrapmann has struggled this year. Hrapmann was a First Team All-Conference USA selection in 2010 after hitting 26 of 31 field goals and all his extra points. Last week against Rice, Hrapmann missed a 48-yard field goal and an extra point. Later in the game he missed a 54-yard field goal. Punter Peter Boehme is averaging 42.6 per punt placing five inside the 20-yard-line. Punt returner Tracey Lampley is averaging 9.3 yards per return and 22.8 on kickoff returns. Southern Miss does a below average job covering kicks.

Jon Teague hit from 25 and 37 yards but his chip shot miss from 26 yards after a 74-yard drive late in the first half was a killer. Teague was able to generate a terrific bounce on his onside kick. Navy does a tremendous job covering on-side kicks. After Kriss Proctor unsportsmanlike like conduct penalty turned Teague's overtime extra point attempt in a 35-yard attempt, his low kick never had a chance and was blocked by Air Force at the line of scrimmage. Punter Pablo Beltran had an excellent game averaging 37 yards per punt and placing two punts inside the 20-yard line. Beltran had one touchback on a perfect punt the Mids failed to down inside the 5-yard-line. Punt returner Gary Myers cost the Mids when he didn't drop deep enough and Air Force punter David Baska 65-yard punt sailed over his head costing the Mids valuable field position. Myers redeemed himself later with a 32-yard punt return that set up a touchdown. Marcus Thomas.has been solid on kickoff returns.
Larry Fedora's (26-18 record) Southern Miss teams look to "attack" in all phases of the game. Fedora's Golden Eagles ended the 2010 year ranked No. 18 nationally in total offense. Fedora joined Southern Miss after spending the three previous seasons as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State where the Cowboys have been in the top 10 in rushing yards per game and in the top 20 in total offense. With their attacking style on defense Golden Eagles have forced turnovers in 36 of 39 games during the Fedora era.

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo 29 wins are the most by a Navy coach in his first four years of his career. Niumatalolo was very disappointed with the results and the calls that went against the Mids in overtime last week. The Mids are 11-3 under Niumatalolo following a loss.
Southern Miss looks to be a tough matchup physically for the Midshipmen. However they haven't played against the triple option at all. Many Conference USA teams often seem baffled by their first look at Navy's spread option. Navy hasn't lost three straight since 2002. Southern Miss turns over the ball a lot. They rank 103rd out of 120 teams in turnover margin. .Losing team captain Alexander Teich for this game is stunning news and probably a shock to all the Mids.

PREDICTION: Southern Miss, 28-24.

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