HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. SOUTH ALABAMA

Navy hosts South Alabama 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.

Navy Midshipmen and South Alabama Jaguars will meet for the first time on Senior Day at Navy- Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this coming Saturday. Navy defeated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors 42-28 last week. South Alabama lost their last game to Arkansas State 17-16. The Jaguars five losses this season have been by a total of just twelve points. A victory will make the Mids bowl eligible for the tenth time in eleven years.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
SOUTH ALABAMA PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: SOUTH ALABAMA
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds has completed 49-of-91 passes (53.8%) for 814 passing yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Geoffrey Whiteside against Hawaii. Slot back DeBrandon Sanders is tied for the team lead with 10 receptions for 194 yards, a 19.4 average and a touchdown. Sanders made a tremendous leaping 18-yard reception on the last drive of the first half versus Hawaii. Wide receiver Casey Bolena also has 10 receptions for 114 yards. The Mids offensive line could be challenged by South Alabama's defensive front which can rush the passer.

The South Alabama passing defense ranks 31st in the nation. They are allowing opponents an average of 274 passing yards per game. Junior cornerback Qudarius Ford has played well this year. He's made 57 tackles, an interception and has five pass break-ups. Cornerback Montell Garner leads the team with two interceptions and has knocked down three passes. South Alabama's front line of defensive end Alex Page (5 1/2 sacks 3 QBH) , defensive tackle Romelle Jones (5 sacks, 1 QBH) and Pat Moore (2 ½ sacks, 4 QBH) can all create pass rush pressure.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
SOUTH ALABAMA RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (825 rushing yards, 4.2 avg.,18 tds) is second in the nation with 18 rushing touchdowns. They Mids are ranked sixth in the nation in rushing. Navy's B-back position has been felled by injuries. Fortunately its one of the deepest positions on the club. Quinton Singleton has played well since he been used. He ran 16 times for 93 yards and a touchdown last week against Hawaii. The top fullbacks have health concerns this week. Noah Copeland (226 yards) is listed as doubtful and Chris Swain (373 yards) is questionable for Saturday. Geoffrey Whiteside (238 yards, 7.9 avg, 3 TDs) leads the slotbacks in rushing. The offensive line has played well the last few games.

South Alabama's 4-3 defense is ranked 79th in the nation in run defense. Senior middle linebacker Enrique Williams leads the defense with 73 tackles, four tackles for a loss and a sack. Williams tied a school game record with 17 total tackles last week. All-Conference defensive end Alex Page (30 tackles, 11 for loss, 5 sacks) is an impact player who is very quick off the snap. Sam safety Maleki Harris is a force in run support with 48 tackles. Senior Pat Moore (22 tackles, 7 ½ TFL 2 ½ sacks) plays the Jaguars' hybrid end-linebacker role. South Alabama's defense is allowing 27.6 points per game.

SOUTH ALABAMA PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Senior quarterback Ross Metheny has completed 136 of his 220 pass attempts (61.8%) for 1,817 passing yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Last year Metheny, a Virginia transfer, passed for 2,148 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tight end Wes Saxton leads the South Alabama offense with 39 catches for 496 yards. Wide receiver ShaVarez Smith has 29 catches for 551 yards and two touchdowns. Smith is a big play threat with nine receptions for 20 or more yards. Alabama transfer Danny Woodside has 26 receptions for 439 yards and four touchdowns.

Navy's pass defense is ranked 27th in the nation and they are allowing just 213 passing yards per game. The Mids are allowing a high percentage of passes to be completed against them but they are generally limiting the yards per catch. Plebe cornerback Brandon Clements (37 tackles, 2 INTs) made career high nine tackles last week. Parrish Gaines (49 tackles, 2 Int.) has done a nice job since being a moved to free safety. Cornerback Kwazel Bertrand suffered a scary head blow that forced him to leave the Hawaii game. He is listed as questionable this week. The Mids are hopeful that Rover Chris Ferguson (32 tackles), who is listed as probable, returns to the starting lineup this week. Linebacker Jordan Drake had 1 ½ sacks last week.

SOUTH ALABAMA RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: SOUTH ALABAMA
REMARKS: South Alabama run a passing spread offense with three receivers, a tight end and a running back. Their running game is ranked 71st in the country and is producing over 162 rushing yards per contest. Junior running back Jay Jones leads the South Alabama rushing attack with 437 yards and three touchdowns on 83 carries. Quarterback Ross Metheny has run for 359 yards and eight touchdowns on 77 carries. Junior running back Kendall Houston (5-10, 220) has seen more carries in short yardage situation lately. He's scored three touchdowns over the last three games. South Alabama does a very nice job protecting the ball. They haves lost just three fumbles all season.

The Mids are ranked 99th in the nation in run defense. Navy allowed Hawaii 218 rushing yards, 4.6 yards a carry and a rushing touchdown. Hawaii entered the game ranked 120th in the nation and were averaging a pathetic 73 yards per game. The difference last week was that powerful running back Joey Iosefa, who had been out almost the entire year, returned to the Hawaii lineup and ran for 191 yards. The Mids have missed starting nose guard Bernie Sarra who is out with an ankle injury. Inside linebacker Cody Peterson (98 tackles) and D.J. Sargenti (73 tackles) both made 14 tackles last week. The Mids need to do a better job holding the point of attack to allow their inside linebackers to fill and limit rushing yards. The last few weeks Navy has been pushed off the ball at times.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: South Alabama kicker Aleem Sunanon has hit 11 of 16 field goal attempts and had one blocked this year. Punter Scott Garber is averaging 41.3 on 32 punts and has placed seven punts inside the twenty yard line. T.J. Glover handles both kickoff and punt returns. Glover is ranked 16th in the country in kickoff returns averaging 27.2 per return. Glover is averaging 5.9 yards on 15 punt returns. The Jaguars have excellent coverage units. They are allowing only 17.3 yards per kickoff return.

Navy kicker Nick Sloan has hit 5-of-8 field goal attempts this year and 35 of 38 extra points. Punter Pablo Beltran is averaging 42.3 yards per punt on his 29 punts with nine downed inside the twenty yard line. Marcus Thomas is averaging 22.9 yards per kickoff return. Punt returner Shawn Lynch is averaging 5.3 per punt return. The coverage teams have been outstanding all season. Last week they forced and recovered two fumbles against Hawaii's return units.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: South Alabama has lost five games by a total of just 12 points. They are a better program than their record indicates. They look like a program on the rise. Navy will have the home finale and the emotion of Senior Day in front of a packed house to draw inspiration from all game. A victory will make the Mids bowl eligible. Navy is 5-2 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt conference.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Joey Jones is 28-20 after four seasons with the program. His career record is 31-27. Last year South Alabama had a 2-11 mark in its first year on the FBS level. Jones has been with South Alabama for five years building the program from scratch. Jones was one of the finest receivers in Alabama history. Jones has done a nice job with the Jaguars building the program from the ground up.

Navy's head coach Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 45-30 record in his six seasons as the head coach. He is tied for third with Paul Johnson on Navy's career wins list. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper did a nice job countering the Hawaii 3-3-5 defense with the midline option last week.

PREDICTION: Navy, 35-28. Navy should be able to move versus South Alabama. The Jaguars play hard and are well coached. They don't generally beat themselves and have good athletes on both sides of the ball. I see Navy prevailing at home on Senior Day.

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