HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. RUTGERS

Navy hosts Rutgers 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 play their first home game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this season when they take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is the newest member of the Big Ten. The Midshipmen beat Texas State 35-21 with back-up quarterback Tago Smith filling in for an injured Keenan Reynolds last week. Rutgers lost a 10-point lead in dropping a disappointing 13-10 decision to Penn State at home. The Scarlet Knights led all game but relinquished the lead with just 1:13 left to play. Rutgers has won four of the last five meetings but Navy won the last game played at Annapolis 23-21. Rutgers leads the all-time series 12-11-1.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
RUTGERS PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: RUTGERS
REMARKS: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds missed last week with a knee injury but is expected to start against Rutgers. In 2013, Reynolds completed 68 of 128 passes (53.1%) for 1,057 passing yards with eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Tago Smith started at quarterback against Texas State and completed 5-of-7 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Smith threw the ball well except for one pass which was underthrown and picked off. Smith hit wide receiver Jamir Tillman for a 67-yard touchdown pass when the Bobcats aggressive defense starting firing their cornerbacks. Tillman had enough speed to outrace the Bobcat secondary for the score. It was the longest touchdown pass for Navy since 2010 when Ricky Dobbs connected with John Howell on a 77-yard bomb against Army. Wide receiver Brandon Dudeck made two receptions and caught his first touchdown pass this year. The Mids offensive line allowed two sacks and has now allowed four sacks with only a total of 19 pass attempts. If forced into third and long the Mids will probably struggle against Rutgers pass rush.

Rutgers 4-3 defense is very aggressive and like to get after the quarterback. The Scarlet Knights have 13 sacks this season. Rutgers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi combines blitz packages with a strong push up front. RU is ranked sixth nationally and first in the Big Ten with 4.3 sacks per game. The Scarlet Knights had eight quarterback hurries and five sacks against Penn State. Defensive end Kemoko Turay is a redshirt freshman and a pass rush specialist who is second in the Big Ten with 3 1/2 sacks in 2014. Powerful Darius Hamilton has 2 1/2 sacks. Hamilton is the son of former New York Giant Keith Hamilton. Darius led the team with 11.5 tackles of a loss and posted 4 1/2 sacks last fall . Rutgers uses pressure to protect a secondary that struggled terribly last season allowing an uncharacteristic 31 touchdown passes to rank 117th in the FBS. The unit has played better this season but is still prone to allowing the big play. The RU secondary is led by senior strong safety Lorenzo Waters (62 tackles, Int. in 2013) and senior cornerback Gareef Glashen (41 tackles, INT in 2013).

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
RUTGERS RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy leads the nation in rushing. The Mids are averaged 403 rushing yards per game. Navy ran for 352 rushing yards, 6.3 yards per carry and three touchdowns last week with backup quarterback Tago Smith (27 att. for 85 yards, 2 TD) at the helm. Starter Keenan Reynolds is running well this week and looks recovered from his bruised knee and ready to go. Last season he ran for 1,346 rushing yards and a quarterback record setting 31 rushing touchdowns. The Mid B-backs had thier second consecutive productive game as they combined for 190 rushing yards against the Bobcats. Noah Copeland led all Navy runners with 116 yards on eleven carries He burst free for a career long 63-yard run to open the third quarter. Chris Swain had 10 rushes for 68 yards and scored. His brute strength was seen on his 21-yard run that would have made Bronco Nagurski proud and he ran through a number of tackles. Slotback Geoffrey Whiteside (144 yards, 11.1 avg., TD) ripped off a 38-yard run to set up a touchdown. Speedy DeBrandon Sanders left the Texas State game with an injury.

The Scarlet Knights were ranked fourth in the nation last year in rush defense allowing just 104 rush yards per game and only 3.1 yards per carry. Weak side linebacker Steve Longa (123 tackles in 2013 ) is their most athletic linebacker. He earned First Team Freshman All-America by Sporting News and Second Team Freshman All-America by Athlon honors last fall. Longa leads this year's defense in tackles with 24 in the first three games. Kevin Snyder (96 tackles, 7.5 for loss in 2013) is RU's middle linebacker. He is the Scarlet Knights's most experienced player having seen action in 42 games. He helped hold Penn State offense to just 64 rushing yards by contributing nine tackles. Defensive tackle Darius Hamilton (48 tackles, 11.5 for loss in 2013) is very strong at the point of attack. The Scarlet Knights have held Navy below it rushing average the last five times they played. In 2011, Navy was held by Rutgers to just 162 yards rushing yards in a year where the Mid averaged 312.3 yards per game.

RUTGERS PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: The Rutgers offense runs mostly a pro-set. Quarterback Gary Nova has completed 46 of his 76 pass attempts for 755 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions this year. He had a brutal game last week as he went 15-for-30 for 192 yards with no touchdowns and five interceptions in a tough 13-10 loss to Penn State. Last year Nova completed 165-of-303 (54.5%) for 2,159 passing yards with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He ranks 10th among active NCAA Division I quarterbacks with 7,162 career passing yards. Nova tends to lock on to receivers and is turnover prone. Nova can get hot down the stretch of games. He has produced six fourth quarter or overtime wins in his career including a road win against Washington State in the opener. Nova’s favorite target is Leonte Carroo who has caught 14 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns this season. Carroo is a home run threat. Last year as a reserve he had 28 receptions for 478 yards, a 17.1 average and nine touchdowns. Wide receiver John Tsimis has caught seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Paul James is a threat out of the backfield with two touchdown receptions this season including a 69-yard score.

Navy was ranked 38th in pass defense last season. Last game the Mids secondary had some difficulty slowing down Texas State's Tyler Jones in the in the 4th quarter as the Bobcats outscored Navy 21-7 in the second half. Jones completed 24-of-36 (66.7%) for 231 passing yards with a touchdowns pass while the Mids picked him off once. Inside linebacker James Britton (5 tackles) had a key interception which he returned 17-yard to set up Navy's fourth touchdown. Navy free safety Parrish Gaines ( 65 tackles, 3 INTs in 2013) led the team in tackles last week. Gaines was named to the FBS All independent team last year. The Mids are ranked 66th this year in pass defense.

RUTGERS RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Rutgers leading running back is Paul James. He's run for 272 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 56 carries this year. He ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns in the opening day victory over Washington State on the road. James earned First Team All-American Athletic Conference honors in 2013. He ran for 881 yards, 9 touchdowns and 5.7 yards a carry last year. Sophomore scatback Desmon Peoples who has 27 carries for 123 yards and a 4.6 average is used as a change of pace back and to give James a rest. Quarterback Gary Nova is a pure pocket passer and not much of a running threat. Rutgers returned all five starters on the offensive line this year.

Navy's rushing defense ranked 79th in the country last year. This year they are allowing 187 rushing yards per game. The Mids allowed Texas State 211 rushing yards, 4.8 yards a carry and two rushing touchdowns. Inside linebacker Jordan Drake made seven tackles. Inside linebacker Daniel Gonzales (6 tackles) is a very active linebacker who should develop into a quality starter. He's usually in the right place at the right time. He almost had an interception but was run over by Big Bernie Sarra. Defensive end Will Anthony (6 tackles) did a great job beating blocks all night and tied a career high in tackles. Chris Johnson (5 tackles, TFL) dropped Jafus Gaines for a 5-yard loss on the opening series to force a three and out. Paul Quessenberry (4 tackles, PD) stopped Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones on a 4th and two in the fourth quarter to turn the ball back to the offense. Navy had some trouble defended the freeze option reads but the early lead, and the Bobcat penalties, gave them plenty of cushion to hold them off.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: RUTGERS
REMARKS: Kyle Federico has made 4 of 5 field goals this season. He is reliable and has hit 12 of his last 15 field goals. He is 10th in school history for career field goals made. Rutgers has used both Joey Roth and Tim Gleeson as punters this year and both are averaging 37.2 yards per punt. Janarion Grant is very quick and can make people miss in the return game. Rutgers leads the nation in both blocked kicks (4) and blocked punts (2). Since 2009, Rutgers has led all schools nationally with 39 blocked kicks/punts. During that time span, RU has scored 15 touchdowns via special teams. The Scarlet Knights have blocked at least four kicks every year since 2007. Rutgers blocked two kicks versus Penn State – a field goal by Kemoko Turay and a punt by Leonte Carroo. Rutgers blocked a Navy field goal attempt the last time the two teams met.

Navy kicker Nick Sloan has struggled this year hitting two of four field goal attempts. Sloan hit 10-of-14 field goals last season. Punter Pablo Beltran is averaging 44.2 yards per punt. Beltran earned honorable mention All-East in 2013. Demond Brown is averaging just 16.6 on kickoff returns and hasn't had much running room. Parrish Gaines fielded a punt for a four yard return after DeBrandon Sanders was injured. Austin Grebe has seven touchbacks on his sixteen kickoffs. Navy does an excellent job covering all kicks with Toneo Gulley continuing to excel as a gunner.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Kyle Flood took over after Greg Schiano left for and then failed in the NFL. Flood's recruiting classes the last two years have been disappointing but the Scarlet Knights play has improved this season. Flood is 17-12 as head coach and has led the Scarlet Knights to two consecutive bowl appearances. Flood was the 2012 Big East Coach of the Year. Rutgers has appeared in eight bowl games over the last nine seasons. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has a very aggressive attacking defense. Flood hired former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator this year. Friedgen showed a lot of faith in Gary Nova against Penn State and it wasn't rewarded as he was picked off five times.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo is in his seventh season at Navy. He's led the Midshipmen to a 51-31 (.622) career record and stands tied for second all-time in Navy history. The Mids have posted at least eight or more victories in five of his six full years as head coach. Offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper has done a tremendous job getting the most out of his quarterbacks. Tago Smith looked like he had played quarterback his entire life last week when it was his first start on any level. Buddy Green's defense should match up well against Gary Nova who is the type of quarterback who can get impatient and make a mistake against Green's bend but don't break scheme.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE:EVEN
REMARKS: Rutgers is still annoyed by the tough loss against Penn State when they let the game slip away. Kyle Flood is 8-1 in games played in September as Rutgers head coach winning by a combined mark of 250-123. In the last five meetings against Navy, Rutgers has held the Midshipmen below their season rushing average. Rutgers is 4-1 against the Mids in the last five meetings due in large part to slowing the Navy rushing attack. Navy returns home for their first game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium and should have an excited home crowd in the building. Rutgers doesn't seem focused on Navy in the days leading up to the game.

PREDICTION: NAVY 24, RUTGERS 21. The last two games between Rutgers and Navy has been decided by a total of three points. Navy beat Rutgers in Annapolis last time and I believe they will win another close one.

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