Navy hosts Delaware on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. 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 has its home opener on Saturday against the Delaware Blue Hens from the FCS. The Mids
opened their season with a victory as they stunned the Indiana Hoosiers 41-35 in Bloomington, Indiana on Saturday night. The Midshipmen jumped out to an early lead and dominated time of possession as they rushed for 444 yards. It was Navy's first road win over a Big Ten opponent since 1979 at Illinois. Delaware has a new head coach in Dave Brock. They won their first two games against Jacksonville and Delaware State. The Blue hens have a 2-3 record against the Mids during the current triple option era.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
DELAWARE PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds completed 2 of 4 passes for 71 yards in the opener. Navy's running game was so effective that he didn't have to pass untll midway through the second quarter. Reynolds first pass was a picture perfect 47-yard bomb that hit wide receiver Casey Bolena in stride and set up a touchdown. Reynolds hooked up with slotback Geoffrey Whiteside for a 24-yard pass completion with two minutes left in the second quarter. Whiteside held on to the ball despite absorbing a vicious hit. Keenan just missed another touchdown pass when he was forced to scramble and overthrew an open Shawn Lynch in the end zone. It wasn't a bad throw since only Lynch had a chance to make a play on the ball. If Reynolds had been able to put a little air under the ball it would have been a touchdown. Last year Reynolds completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 898 passing yards with nine touchdown passes while throwing just two picks all year.
Delaware's secondary features former Maryland transfer Travis Hawkins (5-10, 195) at cornerback. The senior Hawkins is a three year starter who has five career interceptions. Senior free safety Jake Giusti (5-11, 190) made 63 tackles and had an interception and knocked down a pass. The rest of the secondary is comprised of first year starters. Sophomore strong safety Craig Brodsky has made 11 tackles and defensed two passes this year. The other starting cornerback is junior Rutgers transfer Jordan Thomas (6-1, 195) The Mids need to account for explosive outside linebacker Jeff Williams in pass protection. Williams was named CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year last fall after he made 61 tackles, 13.5 for a loss, and a team leading 6 1/2 sacks. Williams can really fly off the edge.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
DELAWARE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Navy ran 70 times for 444 rushing yards, a 6.3 rushing average and scored five touchdowns in the opener against Indiana. Keenan Reynolds was masterful running the Navy triple option offense. He ran 32 times for 127 yards and scored three touchdowns. The midline option was there all night. Reynolds made a lot of great runs but probably none more important than on fourth-and-one with three minutes left in the game. He converted after being hit in the backfield but with a hand down, he kept his knees off the ground and lunged forward for the first down.
New slotbacks Geoffrey Whiteside (9 atts., 97 yards) and Darius Staten (8 atts., for 106 yards) had nice debuts as starters. Whiteside ripped off a 31-yard gain on Navy's first offensive play. He ran back into the pursuit on a few long carries. Staten showed his bowling ball style and quick moves as he broke tackles all night. Sophomore slotback DeBrandon Sanders had an impressive debut as he ran five times for 68 yards. Fullback Chris Swain was limited to 29 yards on ten carries. Swain did power his way into the end zone for a score. Backup B-back Noah Copeland carried two times for seven yards and scored a touchdown on a three yard run. The offensive line did a terrific job of getting to the second level and cutting off Indiana's pursuit all game long. The blocking on the perimeter by the wide receivers and the slotbacks was terrific.
Brock seems as excited about his defensive front as he is about any position. Delaware's defensive line is one of the strongest areas of the team. Right defensive tackle senior Zach Kerr (6-2, 255), is a second-year transfer from Maryland. Defensive end Laith Wallschleger is a 6-4, 270 pounder who struggled through an injury-plagued sophomore year. This year he has eight tackles including three for a loss and has forced a fumble. Middle linebacker Patrick Callaway (Jr., 5-10, 215) has been an impact the last few seasons. Callaway leads the Delaware defense this year with 18 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and an interception
DELAWARE RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Delaware senior FCS All-American running back Andrew Pierce (5-11, 200) has carried the ball 29 times for 156 yards and a touchdown this season. Pierce missed two games last year due to injuries. He has rushed for 3,793 yards for his career . He is currently second in Delaware's all time rushing list in yards and has scored 35 career touchdowns. Junior college transfer Julian Lang rushed for 457 yards on 100 carries and scored three touchdowns. Big red-shirt freshman Jalen Randolph (6-1, 230) has been a productive in short-yardage back (17 att., 87 yards, 5.1 avg., 1 TD) so far this year. The Blue hens run blocking has really improved this year. They are currently averaging six yards a carry in two games and average 301 pounds across their front line.
Navy allowed just 118 rushing yards and the Hoosiers averaged 4.5 yards a carry and scored a touchdown. I felt the interior of the Navy defense helped secure the win when they force Indiana on two consecutive three-and-out series to open the game. Nose guard Bernie Sarra (2 tackles) dominated up front at times freeing up inside linebackers Cody Peterson (7 tackles) and D.J. Sargenti (eight tackles) to make tackles. Sarra is a rock against the run. Sarra and linebacker Chris Johnson stuffed Tevin Coleman for no gain when Indiana went for it on fourth-and-one from their own 34 during Indiana's second offensive series. The Navy offense turned the defensive stand into a 14-0 lead.
DELAWARE PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Delaware had its best teams the past decade when quality Division I transfers take over the reign at quarterback. They won a national championship with Andy Hall and made it to FCS championship game with Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco and Pat Devlin a back-up quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Junior quarterback Trent Hurley, a former Bowling Green transfer, struggled at times last
year behind an inexperienced offensive line that allowed 31 sacks in 2012. Hurley was 185-of-294 (62.9%) for 1964 yards and 10 touchdown against 14 interceptions last year. So far this year the Delaware passing game is clicking. In the first two games Hurley has completed 43 for 60 (71.7%) for 566 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Junior wide receiver Michael Johnson leads the team with 11 receptions for 204 yards, and a touchdown. Tight end Nick Boyle Nick Boyle made twenty catches for 181 yards last year. Speedy senior wide receiver Rob Jones has caught 8 passes for 108 yards and two scores so far this year. The offense line returned everyone from last season and the growing pains experienced in 2012 have paid dividends. They have allowed no sacks in 2013.
Navy's bend but don't break defense was put to the test by Indiana's wide open passing attack once sophomore Nate Sudfeld replaced Tre Robertson at quarterback. For the game Indiana completed 31-of-43 passes for 363 passing yards and four touchdowns. On Sudfeld's first series, Navy ended a promising drive when fast striker linebacker Chris Johnson picked off a pass near the goal line and returned it 27 yards. Freshman Brandon Brandon Clements, starting in place of the injured Kwazel Bertrand, was tested often. Clements (5 tackles, 2 pass defensed) was beat for Indiana's first touchdown on a 45-yard pass to Kofi Hughes. Clemons was beat deep but Wave Ryder sat on a crossing route by the tight end and failed to provide deep help that was his responsibility on the play. Clements defended two passes and was lucky when Hughes dropped two other potential touchdown throws. Parrish Gaines had a good game and led the Mids with ten tackles and allowed no touchdown catches. Wave Ryder (5 tackles)had good coverage on Ted Bolser but the 6-6" tight end just out leaped him for a second half touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. Navy's front line produced no sacks and didn't get much pressure on Indiana's quarterbacks last week.
REMARKS: Delaware's senior field goal kicker Sean Baner is very good. Baner has hit 34 -of- 45 field goals during his career. New punter Eric Enderson has averaged 40.2 per punt this year. Punt returner Rod Jones has returned a punt 62-yards for at touchdown this year already. Michael Johnson is an excellent return man who had a kickoff return for a touchdown last year. Defensive end Laith Wallshleger has blocked five field goal attempts in his career. Delaware has struggled covering kicks this year.
Navy's Nick Sloan hit two of three field goals in a high pressure game. Kickoff coverage was outstanding as the Mids limited Indiana's dangerous kick returner Tevin Coleman to less than twenty yards a return (19.4). New kickoff specialist Austin Grebe had a nice debut with three touchbacks on eight kickoffs. Brandon Dudeck made a great play on the on Indiana's first on sides kick when he aggressively went after the ball and was hammered but held on to the ball. The Mids were lucky the second on sides kick was recovered out of bounds by Indiana. 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 last year.
REMARKS: Delaware usually responds to the challenge of playing FBS locals Navy and Maryland. Keller is 2-2 against Navy. Delaware is 7-9 lifetime against the Mids and always seems to play their A game in Navy Marine Corps Stadium. In the triple option era the Blue hens are 2-3 against Navy. Delaware is not the normal FCS team. It has eleven FBS transfers on the roster. Navy is coming off a huge win and could be primed for a letdown.
REMARKS: Delaware fired head coach KC Keeler after eleven seasons last year. New coach Dave Brock has the team off to a 2-0 start. Brock was the offensive coordinator at Rutgers last season. He has over 22 years of college coaching experience. Brock has seen and excellent improvement in the offense.
Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 41-26 record in his six seasons as head coach. Niumatalolo's mother passed away a few days before the game and the bond between him and his team is obvious and was a huge motivational factor for the Mids. The coaching staff did a tremendous job in the victory over Indiana. Niumatalolo has recruited well and his in game decision making and clock management was superb in the opener.
PREDICTION: Navy, 38-17. If Navy plays like they did last week they should roll.