HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. INDIANA

Navy hosts visits Indiana on Saturday to open the 2013 season. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
INDIANA PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: Even
REMARKS: Last season Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds completed 56.5 % of his passes for 898 yards with nine touchdown passes while throwing just two picks all year. The Mids were effective throwing the ball after Reynolds was named the starting quarterback. Reynolds didn't throw often but the Mids ranked 45th in the nation in passing efficiency. Reynolds completed a game winning 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Matt Aiken with 2:02 to play to beat Indiana last fall. At wide receiver Reynolds will have familiar targets in Shawn Lynch, co-captain Matt Aiken and Casey Bolena. It will be interesting to see which receiver replaces Brandon Turner as Reynolds favorite target.

Indiana was ranked 60th in pass defense allowing 232 passing yards per game. The Hosiers had four sacks in the opener led by sophomore defensive end Nick Mangieri (6-5, 260) who posted 1 1/2 sacks. Last year Indiana posted no sacks against the Mids as Reynolds completed 8-of-13 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.

The best players in the Hoosier secondary are their safeties, senior Greg Heban and junior Mark Murphy (70 tackles). Their new right cornerback is sophomore Michael Hunter. He picked off a pass in the opener and returned it 28 yards.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
INDIANA RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: Navy
REMARKS: Navy produced 257 rushing yards and two touchdowns last year against Indiana. Last year the Mids finished sixth in the country averaging 278.4 rushing yards per game. While that was far from terrible it represented the lowest rushing average for a Navy team since 2002. The Mids had to replace both starting slotbacks and two offensive lineman. Usually the Mids have a player like Reggie Campbell, Shun White or Gee Gee Greene as the principal slotback. This years projected starters, senior Darius Staten and junior Geoffrey Whiteside, played well last year but had limited carries. Fullback is loaded with sophomore Chris Swain currently listed as co-starter with last year's junior starter Noah Copeland (738 yards, 5 TDs). Swain didn't appear with the varsity till the final four games of the year. Swain is the prototype Navy fullback that fans are used to seeing for Navy the last decade. He carried the ball 15 times for 154 yards including a 46-yard touchdown run against Arizona State where he ran though and then away from the Sun Devils for a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran for 66 yards and a touchdown in last year's victory over the Hoosiers Indiana struggled against the run last year. The Hoosiers ranked 119th in the nation in rush defense allowing over 231 rushing yards a game. Last year they actually did a solid job against the Mids option attack forcing three punts and stopping the opening drive on downs. Safety Greg Heban (91 tackles, 3 interceptions in 2012) spied the pitch back last year and recorded 13 tackles. Junior middle linebacker David Cooper (86 tackles, 9.0 for loss) made eight tackles in the victory over Indiana State. Indiana's defensive line did allow Sycamore star running back Shakir Bell to run for 113 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry in just the first half. Bell left the game with 1:20 left in the first half after landing hard on his right shoulder at the end of a 45-yard run. The rebuilt defensive line did a decent job getting off blocks in the opener and creating some negative plays.

INDIANA PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: Indiana
REMARKS: Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson claims he doesn't know who will be the starting quarterback for Navy. Wilson has defied conventional wisdom by refusing to name a starter. Tre Robertson broke his leg last early last year but regained his starting job for the opener. Robertson passed for 71 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 19 yards before leaving the game with bruised ribs. Sophomore Nate Sudfeld may have earned the start after he passed for 219 yards and four touchdowns after replacing Robertson. Sudfield did throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Indiana State. Last year's starter quarterback Cameron Coffman, who threw for 244 yards against the Mids, seems to be on the outside looking in after he struggled when he was given the reins late in the game. The Hoosiers run and up-tempo offense that looks to put pressure on the defense by running a play every twenty seconds.

Whoever starts at quarterback will be throwing to a talented crew of receivers. Junior Cody Latimer (51 rec., 805 yards, and 15.8 avg., 6 TDs in 2012) earned second team All-Big Ten honors last year. Shane Wynn (67 rec., 648 yards, 6 TDs in 2012) had two touchdown catches against ISU including a 43-yard touchdown reception in the first half. Tight end Ted Bolser made six catches for 78 yards and scored twice in the opener. Senior wide receiver Kofi Hughes (43 rec., 639 yards, 3 TDs in 2012) caught a 27-yard touchdown pass last Saturday. The Indiana offensive line does a great job in pass protection. Last year Indiana's offensive line allowed just 17 sacks to lead the Big Ten.

The Mids "bend-but-don't-break" defense often has difficulty defending spread passing teams. The Mids failed to record any sacks last year against Indiana. I wouldn't be surprised to see Buddy Green use explosive direct admit William Tuider as a pass rush specialist off the edge. Last year Cameron Coffman completed 25-of-37 passes for 244 yards against the Mids. The difference in the game was two key interceptions by Navy's defense. Raider outside linebacker Jordan Drake (6-4, 220) returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown. He was named the ECAC Defensive Player of the Week following the game. Parrish Gaines (69 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 pass defensed) made the biggest play of his career against Indiana by intercepting a pass with 1:38 left in the game to seal the win.

INDIANA RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: Indiana
REMARKS: Indiana runs a spread passing offense which creates running room for their one back sets. Last year they used a rotation at running back. This season it looks like speedy sophomore Tevin Coleman won the job. Coleman ran 14 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Indiana State. Last year starter senior Stephen Houston (749 yards, 12 TDs in 2012) provides reliable depth. The Mids had trouble stopping the Hoosiers running attack in last year's game allowing 173 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Tre Roberson, who started last week, is the best runner among the three quarterbacks who see playing time.

Navy was ranked 94th in the country last year against the run. Mids had to rebuild their defensive line with only senior defensive end Evan Palelei returning. The team lost promising nose guard Danny Ring this spring but sophomore Bernie Sarra appears to be a more than able replacement. The powerful Sarra earned the Vice Admiral William P. Mack Award as the most improved player this spring. Senior inside linebacker co-captain Cody Peterson (67 tackles in 2012) anchors the interior of the linebacking corps.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: Indiana
REMARKS: Mitch Ewald is Indiana's all-time career field goal percentage leader. He has hit 45-of-56 (80%) field goal attempts in his career and has made 115-of-116 extra points. Punter Erich Toth averaged 39.5 yards on 48 punts last fall. He generally gets good hang time on his punts. Indiana returners are dangerous. Speedy kick returner Tevin Coleman averaged 23.6 kick return as a freshman last year. Coleman returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown against Northwestern in 2012. In this season's opener versus ISU Shane Wynn returned a punt 58-yards for a touchdown.

Navy kicker Nick Sloan finished his plebe regular season hitting 10-for-15 on field goals and was perfect on extra-points. Sloan was the first freshman kicker to start for Navy since 1996. He hit the freshman wall a little bit in the second half of the season. After being perfect in the first half of the year, he hit on only three of his last eight field goals attempts. While Sloan's had the exact same field goal percentage as Jon Teague in 2011, his kicking never cost the Mids a game. Punter Pablo Beltran had a great year in 2012. He averaged 43.6 yards on his 44 punts. He nailed 11 punts more than fifty yards.

Marcus Thomas has averaged 23.0 yards on kickoff returns. He earned honorable mention All Independent kick returner honors. Shawn Lynch averaged 9.4 yards on his punt returns. The Mids struggled at times covering the few punts (12 punts) that were returned. A number of the long returns were a result of Beltran out kicking his coverage. Navy's coverage teams were generally solid last fall.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: Indiana
REMARKS: Since 2003, Navy has won 19 games against schools from a BCS conference. The 19 wins against BCS schools during that time period are the most in the country by a non-BCS school. Indiana will be looking for payback for last year's loss. The Hoosiers have won the two previous meetings in 1985 (38-35) and 1986 (52-29) that were played in Indiana.

COACHING
EDGE: Navy
REMARKS: Kevin Wilson is in his third season as head coach at Indiana. Wilson spent the 2002-10 seasons at Oklahoma, where he served as co-offensive coordinator and position coach. Oklahoma played in seven Big 12 title games in Wilson's nine years, going 6-1 in those appearances. Wilson is just 5-19 in his first two years at Indiana but he is building the program. The up-temp offense under offensive coordinator Seth Littrell has been explosive. The Hoosiers led the Big Ten in passing offense and were ranked 17th nationally

Last season may have been Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo best coaching job as he incorporated 14 freshmen into the lineup and had 17 players make their first career start. Navy opened the year with two blowout losses. After the first month of the season the Mids record stood at a dismal (1-3). Navy, coming off their first losing season since 2002, entered October having won just four of their previous 14 games. It looked like Navy had sunk into mediocrity. Niumatalolo had his team keep the faith and a five game winning streak righted the ship. Niumatalolo made the gutsy call to insert freshman Keenan Reynolds as starting quarterback. The Commander- In-Chief's Trophy returned to back to Annapolis after a two year hiatus. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper did a terrific job getting Reynolds ready to play so early in his career. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green had a couple of tough games last fall but his defense allowed just 18.8 points per game over the final ten weeks leading up to the bowl game.

Navy was outstanding in red zone defense all year, tying for the 19th-best red zone defense in the country.

PREDICTION: Indiana, 38-31

Indiana spread passing game will give the Mids rebuilt defensive front seven some problems. Navy should run the ball effectively but I believe the fact Indiana has already played will allow them to be the sharper team at home.

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