Preseason Preview: Navy at Toledo

We have reached the sixth game on our march through Navy's football opponents for the 2013 campaign. Next up the Mids travel to the mysterious world of the MAC to face the intriguingly named Rockets of Toledo.

We have reached the sixth game on our march through Navy's football opponents for the 2013 campaign. Next up the Mids travel to the mysterious world of the MAC to face the intriguingly named Rockets of Toledo.

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 19; 7 p.m. EST

WHERE: The Glass Bowl (Toledo, Ohio)

LAST SEASON: 9-4 (6-2 MAC, 3rd place in Mid-American West; Lost 41-15 to Utah State in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)


SERIES HISTORY: Toledo leads, 2-1. (Last meeting: Toledo 21, Navy 20, in 2001)

OFFENSE: Let's get something out of the way early. Toledo is better than you think. They are actually way better than you think, and this game is going to be a tougher one than the Mids were probably expecting when they signed the contract back in 2009. As you can see the Rockets were a very respectable 9-4 last year, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Each of the Rockets regular season losses was by less than seven points and they were right in the bowl game, trailing just 13-9 in the fourth quarter, before Kerwyn Williams went off and scored three touchdowns in as many minutes. Simply put this is an excellent squad who are still on the rise.

The Rockets have put together the top recruiting class in the MAC for four consecutive years, a fact borne out by the talent at their disposal on offense. Quarterback Terrence Owens is a dual-threat star and he leads an offense which returns nine starters from a unit which averaged 31.5 points per game last season. With four starters returning from a line that was one of the best in the league, the Rockets should have no problems opening up holes for lead back David Fluellen. Fluellen was just a beast last year, putting together 1,498 yards about as quietly as it is possible to do so. The line will also give Owens plenty of time in the pocket to find top targets Alonso Russell and Bernard Reedy, a couple of receivers who combined for over 2,000 pass catching in 2012.

Conclusion: The scary part of this offense is that as good as they were in 2012 they are expected to be much, much better in 2013. The offense reminds many of the 2011 vintage, one which set school records across the board, and a return into the top 25 nationally in most major categories wouldn't be any surprise. There is so much going on in this offense that Navy will have to concentrate on taking away one phase of the game to make the Rockets easier to beat. Most probably they will key in on Fluellen and try to take him and Owens out of the game on the ground. Either way the D is most likely going to have to come up with a timely turnover or two to slow down the Rockets.

DEFENSE: It is to the Rockets advantage that they will be averaging over 35 points per game in 2013 because their defense is going to be overmatched most weeks. Toledo loses eight starters from a unit which gave up over four touchdowns a game last year, and the back seven in particular is of huge concern entering the fall. One aspect of defensive play which Toledo did excel in last season was picking off passes (17). Unfortunately ten of those picks were from now graduated seniors.

With so many question marks in the line backing and secondary units it will be up to the defensive line to stabilize the ship, especially early in the season. The go to guy for the Rockets defensively will be senior end Christian Smith, a leader on the field and off, who is now healthy after missing the second half of 2012. The rash of injuries the Rockets picked up across the defensive line as 2012 wore on will actually benefit the group this year as players like end Jayrone Elliot already have valuable experience.

Conclusion: Replacing five of your back seven is never easy and the Rockets are going to need unexpected production from some of the new men up. Toledo has proven to be unusually susceptible to the big play, they gave up 24 plays of 20 or more yards in 2012, so the Mids speed merchants will have to take advantage of those defense lapses to break into open field. There are plenty of high powered offenses in the MAC, but Toledo will not have seen a team with the Navy option attack all year. Getting on the board early and often is the key to beating the Rockets.

Other Factors: The Rockets have the best special teams unit in the MAC. Kicker Jeremiah Detmer was second-team All-MAC after making 24 field goals, while punter Vince Penza is a specialist at negating return yardage and pinning teams inside their twenty. The real star of the unit though is receiver Reedy who had three kickoff returns and one punt return for a score in 2012. The Mids coverage units will have to be more disciplined in this game than any other to prevent huge, momentum turning return scores.

Conclusion: This game smells like trouble. I have no doubt that Navy can score on the Toledo defense, but worry that the quick strike nature of the Rocket offense could get the Mids in trouble if a couple of drives stall out. This might be the type of game where we really get to see how the new look Navy passing attack gives the Midshipmen a different way to attack against teams who can score at will. If Reynolds can control the offense and hit a couple of big plays in the passing game, and if the Navy defense can be opportunistic when the Rockets have the ball, then Navy can pull out a win. Top Stories