Navy travels to Central Michigan on Friday for a night game against the Chippewas from the MAC conference. On Saturday the Mids won an exciting 28-21 overtime victory over rival Air Force. The Mids were outgained 507-359 yards by the Falcons but used their opportunistic defense to force two key turnovers. Last week Central Michigan lost 50-35 to Toledo. Both teams enter this game with a 2-3 records.
Navy's rushing offense
Central Michigan rushing defense
Navy moved up nine places in the national rankings after rushing for 285 yards. The Mids are now averaging over 232 rushing yards a game. The Mids averaged 5.3 yards a carry last week against the Falcons. Quarterback Trey Miller played his best game this year rushing for 110 yards on 18 carries.
Miller did a solid job distributing the ball and avoided any turnovers. Nothing, however, ever seems easy for Miller as he endured a number of hard hits and reinjured his ankle injury in the fourth quarter.
Direct admit plebe quarterback Keenan Reynolds replaced Miller and led the Mids to the game tying and winning touchdown drives. Reynolds' poise and productivity have been impressive. I'm not sure if Miller will be healthy enough to start after a short work week with the Friday game. Fullback Noah Copeland (274 yards, 4.4 per carry, 1 TD) played well against Air Force last week and scored the first touchdown of his career. Slotback Gee Gee Greene continues to be the Mids best runner as he gained 58 yards on nine carries last week. Sophomore guard Jake Zuzek was the hero when he recovered the game winning fumble in the end zone. Navy's offensive linemen played their best game against the Falcons.
Central Michigan's defense has struggled this season. The Chippewas are allowing 40.8 points per game and are ranked 114th in the nation against the run. Central Michigan plays a 4-2-5 defense. Their leading tackler on defense is Justin Cherocci with 47 tackles. Cherocci wasn't in the starting lineup against Toledo but still made five tackles. The other linebacker, junior Shamari Benton, has recorded 40 tackles this season. Last year Benton (58 tackles, 3.5 for loss) started four of Central Michigan's last five games. The main problem for the Chippewas is their defensive line which has experience but struggles to hold the point of attack consistently.
Navy's passing offense
Central Michigan's passing defense
Trey Miller and Keenan Reynolds combined to complete 6-of-6 passes for 74 yards against Air Force. Miller has completed 34 of 58 passes for 381 yards (58.6%) with one touchdown and three interceptions this season. While Trey's completion percentage is rather good for a triple option quarterback, Reynolds is even more impressive completing 76.9 percent of his pass attempts. The passing game received a boost against Air Force with the return of sure handed Matt Aiken from a preseason knee injury. Aiken made one catch for eleven yards against Air Force.
The Central Michigan secondary contains the best defensive players on their team. The Chippewas return a lot of experience in their back row. Senior strong safety Jahleel Addae (107 tackles, 4 interceptions) earned first team All-MAC honors last year. This year Addae has made 30 tackles and defensed four passes. Senior free safety Avery Cunningham (79 tackles in 2011) is active in run support with 34 tackles. The Chippewas rank 69th in the nation in pass defense. The defensive line fails to generate consistent pressure as they have produced only five sacks this year.
Central Michigan's rushing offense
Navy's rushing defense
Central Michigan tailback Zurlon Tipton leads the Chippewas in rushing with 447 yards (8.2 avg.) on 72 carries and six touchdowns. Fullback Tyler Lombardo is used almost entirely as a blocking back. Backup Anthony Garland has run the ball 39 times for 176 yards (4.5 avg., 1 TD). Quarterback Ryan Radcliff is a pure pocket passer and not a threat to run. Central Michigan is currently ranked 87th in nation while averaging over 136 rushing yards per game. The Chippewas start four experienced seniors on their offensive line. The best player on the line is left tackle Eric Fisher.
Navy dropped to 96th in the nation in run defense after allowing Air Force to run for 363 yards. The defense allowed yardage last week but overall played well. Inside linebacker Matt Warrick had one of the best games of his career with 11 tackles, two for losses, and recovering a fumble. Warrick made a huge play in overtime when he fought through a block and dropped Falcons running back Cody Getz for a one yard loss on third down. The big news this week is that junior Cody Peterson won the inside linebacker job after making ten tackles against the Falcons. He will replace Brye French who leads the Mids with 36 tackles. Nose tackle Barry Dabney had his best game against Air Force. He recorded a career high six tackles.
Central Michigan's passing offense
Navy's passing defense
Edge: Central Michigan
Central Michigan relies on three-year starter Ryan Radcliff (3,286 passing yards, 25 TDs in 2011) at quarterback. Radcliff nearly pulled off a fourth quarter comeback against the Mids in Annapolis in 2010 as a sophomore. In the 2010 game Ryan Radcliffe threw three touchdown passes as he completed 36 of 58 passes for 394 yards. This year Radcliff has completed 105 of his 179 pass attempts (58.7%) for 1,286 passing yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Radcliff has ability but throws too many interceptions. Radcliff's favorite target is senior wide receiver Cody Wilson, who has caught 33 passes for 394 yards. With nine catches for 108 yards last week Wilson moved into fourth place on the CMU career receptions list (189) and into fifth place on the CMU receiving yards list (2,283). Wilson has the third longest streak of consecutive games in the NCAA (34) with a catch. In 2010 the Mid secondary never could cover Wilson who caught 13 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. Last season wide receiver Titus Davis led the team with 40 catches for 751 yards and 8 touchdowns. This year Davis has 19 receptions and has scored a team high four touchdowns.
Navy's secondary, after struggling early in the year, has played much better the last few weeks. The group took a hit when starting sophomore free safety Chris Ferguson (43 tackles, 3 pass def., 2 forced fumbles) left the Air Force game with an elbow injury. He is expected to miss a month. His replacement, Wave Ryder, was late covering the deep middle on Drew Coleman 54-yard touchdown reception last game. Ryder (15 tackles) has some experience and is a willing tackler. Navy is ranked 101st in the nation in passing efficiency defense but the play of cornerbacks Parrish Gaines (31 tackles, 1 int.) and plebe Quincy Adams (22 tackles, 1 int.) has been solid. Rover Tra'ves Bush initially wasn't expected to play against Air Force after suffering a concussion but answered the bell and played well. Bush made 12 tackles and recovered a fumble. Senior defensive end Wes Henderson (18 tackles, 1 sack) knocked down Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz's pass to end last week's game.
Placekicker David Harman has been excellent hitting 6-7 attempts. Harman was the star of the Chippewas upset win over Iowa. He made all four of his attempts including the game-winning field goal with three seconds left. Punter Richie Hogan is averaging just 36.9 yards on his 22 punts. CMU's return and coverage game is below average. Cody Wilson is a good receiver but has averaged just 3.9 per punt return. The Chippewas coverage teams have allowed a punt to be returned for a touchdown.
Kicker Nick Sloan added two more field goals on the road. He is a perfect 5-for-5 on field goal attempts this season. Navy's sophomore punter Pablo Beltran is averaging 45.5 yards per punt. Six of Beltran's punts have traveled for 50 yards or more. Marcus Thomas is averaging 21.5 yards on his kickoff returns. Shawn Lynch has returned five punts for 62 yards including a 40-yard return. After struggling much of last season the coverage teams have been excellent so far this year. Colin Amerau has hit seven touchbacks on his 18 kickoffs.
CMU's Dan Enos is on the coaching hot seat with an 8-21 record after two plus seasons. Central Michigan has fallen fast since the days when Brain Kelly and Butch Jones turned the program around. CMU's record was 38-17 during the five year stretch before Enos was hired as head coach of the Chippewas. This year may be now or never for the coach Enos.
Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo righted the ship last Saturday in Colorado Springs with the win over Air Force. After losing to the Falcons the last two years, the Mids earned the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper had his offense back on track after struggling the first month of the season. Niumatalolo felt last year's overtime loss to Air Force triggered a six game losing streak. He mentioned that he hopes this year's victory is the start of a winning streak.
Navy leads the all-time series 2-0. The young Mids should be pumped up and received a confidence bolster with their road win over Air Force. Both quarterbacks played well in the victory and moved the offense. Central Michigan's fans should be out in force for Friday's nationally televised game. CMU could be looking for payback from their near miss in 2010.
PREDICTION: Navy, 38-24. Last time these two teams faced off Navy ran for 437 yards and five touchdowns. Navy's offense line played their best game so far this year last week. CMU's offense will score but their defense is struggling and has allowed over 50 points in each of the last two games.