Head-to-head: Navy vs. Rutgers

The Navy Midshipmen travel to New Jersey to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Mids enter this game following a blowout loss (63-35) to Southern Miss at home. Navy has lost their third consecutive game for the first time since Ken Niumatalolo became its head coach.

Rutgers leads the Big East after Saturday's 34-10 victory over Pittsburgh. Rutgers is winning right now with terrific defense and special teams. Its offense is inconsistent and freshman quarterback Gary Nova made his first start last week against Pitt. The series record between the two teams is (11-11-1). Navy has lost the last four games against Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J.

Navy rushing offense
Rutgers rushing defense
Navy leads the nation in rushing averaging over 366 yards per game on the ground. Quarterback Kriss Proctor leads the team in rushing with 524 yards and seven touchdowns. Proctor missed some reads early in the game last week helping to put the Mids in a hole which they could never dig out of because of their porous, over matched defense. Fullback and team captain Alexander Teich (408 yards, 5.2 yards per carry and one TD) returns this week after missing the Southern Miss game due to a violation of team rules. Delvin Diggs ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns in his place. Slotback Gee Gee Greene (505 yards, 5 TDs in 2010) is currently averaging 9.3 yards a carry. John Howell (229 yards, 13.5 per carry, 4 TDs) continues to show a nice burst hitting the holes for big plays.

Rutgers restructured its defense after struggling last season. The Scarlet Knight run defense is ranked 20th in the nation, allowing just 101 yards a game. Linebacker Khaseem Greene has thrived in the new scheme after being moved from safety. Greene leads the Big East in tackles with 45 tackles, has recorded two sacks and forced a fumble. Against Pitt, Greene finished with a team-high 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Linebacker Steve Beauharnais has made 25 tackles this season. Beauharnais was named the Big East player of the week following a nine tackle, two sacks and interception performance in a win over Syracuse. This is a very fast and athletic group that leads the Big East in scoring defense (15.2 ppg.). Rutgers defense has held Navy below its season average in rushing the last four times they played with Rutgers winning three of those last four games.  
Navy passing offense
Rutgers passing defense
Kriss Proctor continues to throw the ball much better than expected. Last week he completed 5 of his 10 pass attempts for 102 yards, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. WR Brandon Turner had a 43-yard touchdown reception to open the second half on a nice well-timed throw by Proctor. This season Proctor has completed 31 of his 57 pass attempts (54.4%) for 441 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Gee Gee Greene (6 rec., 59 yards, 2 TDs) has replaced Aaron Santiago as the main pass catching threat among the slotbacks. Junior Brandon Turner (6 rec, 136 yards, 22.7 avg., 2 TDs) is emerging as a physical, productive receiver reminiscent of former Navy receiver Tyree Barnes. Matt Aiken (5 rec, 100 yards 1 TD) continues to be produce when called upon.

The Scarlet Knights have been very successful in creating turnovers this year. They have forced 22 turnovers and are tied for the most in the nation. Cornerback Logan Ryan picked off two passes last week and returned an interception 45 yards for a score. Junior strong safety Duron Harmon is extremely fast. He has picked off four passes this year and returned one for a touchdown against North Carolina Central. Up front senior defensive tackle Justin Francis has 17 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks. The Scarlet Knights rank second in the nation in sacks with 20. If Navy is forced into third and long passing situations this looks like a mismatch.
Rutgers rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
Rutgers ranks just 115th in the nation in rushing, averaging 79.8 yards a game and only 2.1 yards a carry. The offensive line continues its struggles from last year. Rutgers has used three different starting lineups in the first five games. Like Southern Miss, the Scarlet Knights have a weapon on their bench in highly regarded freshman running back Savon Huggins. Higgins hasn't done much behind the Rutgers offensive line (89 yards, 4 TDs) so far but he is extremely fast and shifty. Rutgers top running back is Jawan Jamison leads the team in rushing with 243 yards but averages just 2.7 yards a carry. Freshman quarterback Gary Nova is a drop back passer and not a real threat to run. Rutgers hasn't employed wide receiver Mohamed Sanu as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation like last season.

Navy is ranks 112th in the country in rush defense. Navy's defense needs to find answers against the run after being trampled by South Carolina, Air Force and Southern Miss. The Mids have been dominated at the point of attack most of the past three games. The Mids allowed Southern Miss to run 50 times for 283 yards, averaging 5.7 yards a carry and score four touchdowns. Navy was overpowered up front and stuck on blocks all game. Even their best lineman Captain Jabaree Tuani (18 tackles) was outplayed upfront. The Mids should match up fairly well against Rutgers offensive line. The Mids simply need better play from their front seven.
Rutgers passing offense
Navy passing defense
The Scarlet Knights passing offense has struggled and the offense is ranked just 106th overall in the country. At quarterback Gary Nova, a top rated freshman recruit started his first game last week against Pitt throwing for 174 yards as he completed 11 of 24 passes for two touchdowns. This year Nova has connected on 32 of 68 passes (47.1%) for 412 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is an outstanding receiver. Sanu has already caught 45 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns. Sanu set a Big East record earlier this year when he caught 16 passes against Ohio. Wide receiver Mark Harrison is a big target who has averaged 16.7 yards on his ten catches and has scored a touchdown. Fullback Joe Martinek, a converted tailback, is a pass catching threat out of the backfield with 12 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. Rutgers offensive line has allowed 11 sacks. They've done a lot better job protecting the passer than in 2010 but are still vulnerable to pressure.

The Mids rank 97th in the nation in pass defense. The last two games Navy has allowed 91% of the passes attempted against it to be completed. Navy's struggling secondary received more bad news when cornerback David Wright (1 tackle) left the game last week with an ankle injury. CB David Sperry (26 tackles, 1 interception) never turned to look at the ball while covering Jarbo on an option touchdown pass from Pierce last week. Rover Kwesi Mitchell (19 tackles, 2 INTs) has had very rough games the past two weeks. Plebe Chris Ferguson (9 tackles, 1 pass def.) replaced a struggling Shaun Lynch at free safety. Chris made a nice diving pass deflection on the opening series of the third quarter to force a punt. Navy has just three sacks this season. Their pass rush has been virtually non-existent.
Special Teams
Kicker San San Te has hit 12 of 16 field goals this year. Justin Doerner is a very good directional punter. He is averaging 39.5 per punt and has placed 13 punts inside the 20-yard-line. He gets good hang time and the punt coverage team is allowing just 3.2 yards per return. The Scarlet Knights are dangerous in the return game. Punt returner Mohamed Sanu is averaging 6.2 yards per return. As a team Rutgers is averaging 24.7 yards on kickoff returns with Jordan Thomas (22.8 yards per KOR) and Jeremy Deering (36 yards per KOR including a 73 yard return) splitting the duties.

As good as Rutgers have been on special teams, Navy has been as equally awful. Jon Teague's line drive field goal and extra point attempts continue to be a problem. Teague has missed or had blocked four extra point attempts and two field goal attempts. Plebe punter Pablo Beltran has averaged 39.8 yards per punt. Marcus Thomas.(19.3 yards per ret.) hasn't done much on kickoff returns. Navy's kickoff coverage was a disaster against Southern Miss allowing an average of 33.2 yards on five kickoff returns
Greg Schiano is in his 11th season as head coach at Rutgers. Greg Schiano is now third all-time in the Big East in coaching victories. He was named national coach of the year in 2006 and had guided the Scarlet Knights to five bowl appearances the last six years. Schiano is renowned as a terrific recruiter. Rutgers leads the Big East with 21 players currently playing in the NFL this year. On defense the Scarlet Knights are big, fast and talented. Schiano teams have historically done a good job defensively against triple option teams holding Navy below its season rushing average the last four times they played.

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo's 29 wins are the most by a Navy coach in his first four years of his career. Niumatalolo is in uncharted territory as the Mids have lost three straight games for the first time since he was named head coach. The Mids are 11-3 under Niumatalolo following a loss.  
Rutgers enters the game off a huge Big East victory over Pitt to move into first place in the Big East and may be primed for a letdown. Like Southern Miss, Rutgers can be a tough match up physically for the Midshipmen against the Rutgers defense. Before last week Navy hadn't lost three straight since 2002. The Navy season might be on the brink with this week's game and I expect them to play like it. Navy's defense need a confidence boost this week and must start to play better.

PREDICTION: Navy, 31-28. Rutgers defense is tough but I don't see the Mids dropping four straight games. Rutgers has been winning with defense and special teams. The Scarlet Knights are starting a true freshman quarterback and have an anemic rushing attack. It's time for the Mids defense to answer the call.

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

MidsDaily.com Top Stories