HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. HAWAII

Navy hosts Hawaii on Saturday in Annapolis. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.

The Navy Midshipmen return home to face the Hawaii Warriors following their heartbreaking near upset 38-34 loss against Notre Dame in South Bend. Navy has little room for error if they hope to qualify for a bowl game. Hawaii has struggled through a difficult season. They are currently one of five winless teams in the FBS this year. This will be the first time two head coaches of Polynesian decent, Navy's Ken Niumatololo and Hawaii's Norm Chow, will face each other in a FBS game.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
HAWAII PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds threw the ball well against the Fighting Irish. Reynolds completed 6-of-9 passes, for 88 passing yards with one touchdown. On the season Keenan has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 755 passing yards with five touchdowns against two interceptions. Casey Bolena leads the Mids with 10 receptions for114 yards. Slot back DeBrandon Sanders has nine receptions for 176 yards, a 19.6 average and a touchdown. Wide receiver Matt Aiken (5 rec., 90 yards, TD) caught a 34-yard touchdown pass last week. The rebuilt offensive line had struggled with its pass protection but has been pretty solid the last two weeks against two talented defensive lines.

The Hawaii passing defense ranks 117th in the nation allowing opponents almost 300 yards per game. The Warriors defensive backs have been a huge disappointment this year. Their defensive numbers are odd. Hawaii ranks second nationally with 74 tackles for loss and has forced 15 turnovers this season yet have allowed a lot of yards and points. Strong safety John Hardy-Tuliau is a long time starter. Last week he made 10 tackles and a pass breakup against Utah State. This season Hardy-Tuliau has 38 tackles, including 4 1/2 for loss and five pass breakups. Cornerback Ne'Quan Phillips (44 tackles, 2 interceptions) had a career high 10 tackles last week at Utah State. Free safety Marrell Jackson (26 tackles, INT) is one of the most talented players in the secondary. He's missed two games this year but is now healthy. Freshman safety Trayvon Henderson has intercepted three passes. Junior defensive end Beau Yap leads the team with 3 ½ sacks. Last year Beau Yap had 37 tackles with 10 1/2 tackles for a loss.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
HAWAII RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy's option offense is ranked 9th in the nation. They are averaging over 297 rushing yards per game. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (599 rushing yards, 3.5 avg.., 14 TDs) scored three times against Notre Dame last game. He leads all FBS quarterbacks with 14 rushing touchdowns. Reynolds did a masterful job reading the ND defense last week. Navy's B-back Noah Copeland (226 yards, 4.3 avg, TD) is doubtful for Saturday based on early injury reports. Sophomore fullback Chris Swain (369 yards, 4.0 avg., 4 TDs) had the "Swain Train" rolling has he powered out 85 tough yards against Notre Dame and scored a touchdown. B-back Quentin Singleton (29 att., 138 yards, 4.8 YPC, TD) has played well in place of Copeland. Slotback Darius Staten (175 yards, 9.7, 2 TDs) missed last week and is questionable at this time. Demond Brown had seven carries for 55 yards against the Irish. Slotback Geoffrey Whiteside (231 yards, 8.3 avg, 3 TDs) saw the most action since his return from his injury. The rebuilt offensive line had its best game last week.

Hawaii's 4-2-5 defense ranks 75nd in the nation allowing 174.6 rushing yards a game. The Hawaii defense is led by senior linebackers Art Laurel (58 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and four pass break-ups) and Brenden Daley (57 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss). SAM safety Jerrol Garcia-Williams is active in run support with 49 tackles. Defensive tackle Siasau Matagiese (28 tackles, 5 TFL, sack) has lost his starting job to Marcus Malepeai (34 tackles, 1 1/2 TFL, 1 sack). The Warrior defense is allowing 36.8 points per game.

HAWAII PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Senior quarterback Sean Schroeder has completed 126 of his 224 (56.3%) pass attempts for 1,699 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Hawaii is averaging 294.4 passing yards per game. They have the 22nd best passing attack in the country. Schroeder had thrown for over 300 passing yards in four consecutive games before last week against Utah State. Hawaii's offensive passing statistics can be misleading. They struggled out of the gate with a different quarterback the first three games and had a poor game last week. However, they averaged 32.3 points per game in the four contests where Schroder threw for over 300 hundred passing yards. Junior Scott Harding is the team's leading wide receiver with 41 catches for 429 yards. The 27-year-old Harding is from Australia and had played six years of Australian Rules football before joining the Rainbow Warriors. Senior wide receiver Chris Gant has caught 32 passes for 610 yards and five touchdowns. Gant is a legitimate deep ball threat with six catches of 40 or more yards in the past five games. Senior wide receiver Billy Ray Stutzmann (14 rec., 239 yards, 17.1 avg., 4 TDs) has caught a pass in 28 straight games. Hawaii rotates a lot of receivers in the passing game. Eight different Hawaii receivers have double digit receptions and six of those players have caught a touchdown pass.

Navy's pass defense is ranked 26th in the nation and they are allowing just 209 passing yards per game. ND quarterback Tommy Rees completed 12 of 20 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions last week. Navy's secondary had a rough time matching up with the Irish speed at wide receiver but they battled all game and produced two turnovers. Parrish Gaines (43 tackles, 2 INTs) ended a promising Irish drive when T.J. Jones slipped and he jumped the route and intercepted a pass. Plebe cornerback Brandon Clements (28 tackle, 2 INTs) made a terrific pick of Rees after getting perfect position against the receiver just before the end of the first half. Navy's bend but don't break defense has been very solid especially when you consider they have just six sacks all year. Junior striker linebacker Chris Johnson athleticism would allow him to stay on the field against Hawaii's multiple receiver passing sets. Johnson has made 49 tackles with three interceptions and two passes defensed. Hawaii's passing offense if clicking can challenge the Mids defense.

HAWAII RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: The Rainbow Warriors offensive line has really struggled trying to establish the run. They are ranked 120th in the nation and are averaging a pathetic 73 yards per game. The Hawaii running game is led by redshirt freshman Steven Lakalaka. He has rushed for 349 yards and three touchdowns on 90 carries. Lakalaka is a 5-10, 240-pound power runner with some speed. Hawaii is averaging just 2.4 yards a carry and has a total of five rushing touchdowns this year. The offensive line has struggled all season.

The Mids are ranked 94th in the nation in run defense. Navy allowed the Irish 264 rushing yards, 7.3 yards a carry and three touchdowns last week. The Mids were dominated at the point of attack and unable to maintain their gaps against the Irish's zone running plays. The Irish were running downhill all day. While Navy struggled against the Fighting Irish running game, the bigger concern was the number of injuries suffered. Nose guard Bernie Sarra (15 tackles) and rover Chris Ferguson (32 tackles) both left the ND game with injuries. Travis Bridges (11 tackles) has played well at nose tackle rotating with Sarra. Chris Ferguson missed a tackle on ND's George Atkinson 41-yard touchdown run. Wave Ryder (26 tackles, INT) saw most of the playing time in place of Ferguson after he left the game. Navy captain Cody Peterson (84 tackles) seems to post double digits tackles almost every game.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: HAWAII
REMARKS: Kicker Tyler Hadden has hit 7 of 10 field goal attempts and all his extra points. Hawaii uses both rugby style punter Scott Harding who is averaging 40.8 on 36 punts and traditional punter Ruben Guzman who averages a 41.6 average. Scott Harding averages 9.1 on punt returns. Chris Gant is averaging 21.6 on kickoff returns. Hawaii does a solid job on coverage teams

Navy kicker Nick Sloan once again missed a key extra point last week. As a result, it forced the Mids to go for a touchdown on the last drive. Sloan has hit 5-of-8 field goal attempts this year and 29 of 32 extra points. Punter Pablo Beltran is averaging 42.5 yards per punt on his 26 punts with nine downed inside the twenty yard line. Marcus Thomas earned FBS Independent Special Teams Player of the Week honors after his performance in the 38-34 loss at Notre Dame. He returned five kickoffs for 137 yards. Thomas' last return was a 49-yard run back to midfield which positioned the Midshipmen for their final drive. Punt returner Shawn Lynch is averaging 5.3 per punt return. The coverage teams have been excellent all season.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: The winless Warriors are in the middle of a two-game, 10-day road trip covering 10,000 miles and six time zones. UH opened the trip with a 47-10 loss to Utah State. It's a long time for anyone to be on the road. Hawaii is 2-0 all-time against Navy. This is a game the Midshipmen need to win if they hope to get back on track for bowl eligibility. Navy does not want to be the first team to lose against Hawaii this year.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Norm Chow is 3-17 after one plus seasons with the Warriors. Chow had been a highly regarded offensive coordinator and quarterback guru at Brigham Young, N.C. State, USC and UCLA. Chow has mentored quarterbacks like Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Detmer, Palmer and Leinart all won the Heisman. Chow's also served as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. He has been unable to get his team hitting on all cylinders this season despite having some decent talent.

Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 44-30 (.595) record in his six plus seasons as the head coach. He is fourth all-time at Navy in career wins. Ivin Jasper called a masterful game against ND with his use of misdirection, counter option and heavy formations. He had the Fighting Irish on their heels all day. His final play call of an end around by wide receiver Shawn Lynch was stopped only because left tackle Bradlyn Heap missed all three players he could have blocked. Both Ken Niumatalolo and Ivin Jasper attended the University of Hawaii. They started their coaching careers at Hawaii as graduate assistants under Paul Johnson. Navy is well coached and has fewest penalties per game.

PREDICTION: Navy, 38-28. Navy should be able to move the ball against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors will probably make some plays in the passing game but I don't see them outscoring the Mids. Hawaii has more ability than their record shows but I would be surprised if they defeated a motivated Navy team that needs the win in Annapolis.

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