HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. VMI

Navy meets VMI 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 returns home to play the FCS opponent Virginia Military Institute at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Air Force defeated Navy 30-21 on Saturday. The game was tied at halftime but the Falcons opened the second half with a 15-play 75 yards touchdown drive. Navy's top ranked rushing attack was held to just 36 rushing yards in the second half. The loss drops the Navy Midshipmen to a very disappointing 2-4 with their third straight defeat. The VMI Keydets enters the game 1-5 following being dominated by Chattanooga, 55-7. Navy has won all nine games played against VMI.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
VMI PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy's passing attack has struggled this year. Keenan Reynolds completed 54.7% of his passes with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. This season Reynolds is completing just 43.5% of his passes with two interceptions and two picks. Reynolds has been playing with a knee brace the last three games and his accuracy and timing seem to have been affected. He doesn't look like the same player. He is listed as questionable for the game and probably won't start. Expect to see back-up Tago Smith at quarterback on Saturday. Smith has completed 7 of 9 passes (77.8%) for 133 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He defeated Texas State in his only start. Wide receiver Jamir Tillman leads the Mids with 14 receptions for 261 yards, an 18.6 average and a score.

VMI's is ranked 73rd in the FCS in pass defense. Senior cornerback James Fruehan (54 tackles, 6 PD in 2013) is a three-year starter and has posted 36 stops with an interception and he leads the team in pass breakups with five. The defensive line is anchored by nose tackle Joe Nelson who has posted two sacks. Strong safety Alijah Robinson has made 31 tackles and has broken up four passes.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
VMI RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy leads the nation in rushing. The Mids are averaging over 340 rushing yards. The fullback, or B-back rotation has been impressive. Noah Copeland leads the Mids with 425 rushing yards, with 8.2 yards per carry and a score. Chris Swain ran for over 100 yards, 103 yards, for the first time in his career against Air Force. He showed both his speed and explosiveness on a 46-yard touchdown run. Keenan Reynolds has run for 388 yards and averaged just 3.6 yards with eight touchdowns. Reynolds has been wearing a knee brace the last three games after missing the Texas State game. Reynolds ran for 1,346 rushing yards and a quarterback record setting 31 rushing touchdowns last season but seems to be playing hurt and will likely sit out this game. Tago Smith has scores twice this season in his one start against Texas State. The offensive line missed senior center Travis Fleming against Air Force. Fleming tried to play but had to leave the game very early when he reinjured himself.

VMI has been dominated at the point of attack and unable to stop the run this year. The Keydets are allowing 287 rushing yards per game. VMI gave up 322 rushing yards against Chattanooga last week. The Keydet’s 3-4 alignment has John Washington, a two year starter on the defensive line. Washington has made 19 tackles with 4 1/2 tackles for loss. Inside linebacker Miller Williams leads the team with tackles 38 in tackles and two forced fumbles. Fellow inside linebacker Darnell Ashton is an athletic linebacker with 33 tackles, three tackles for a loss and has broken up three passes.

VMI PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: VMI’s redshirt freshman quarterback Al Cobb has completed 125 of 195 passes (64.1%) for 1,315 passing yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions this year. Cobb is strictly a pocket passer. The Keydets use three receivers, a tight end and one running back. The top receiving threat is Aaron Sanders who has made 30 receptions and produced 445 yards with a 14.8 average and one touchdown. Doug Burton so far has caught 21 passes for 359 yards with a 17.1 average and two scores. Running back Deon Watts is a threat out of the backfield with 19 receptions and one touchdown.

Navy allowed four touchdown passes against Air Force. The Midshipmen are ranked 63rd in the nation in pass defense and are allowing 233.5 passing yards per game. Cornerback Brandon Clements (34 tackles, 3 PD) was an All-East selection last season. Fellow cornerback Quincy Adams has made 41 tackles with five passes knocked down. Navy has generated some pressure but has just one sack all season.

VMI RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Deon Watts lead the Keydets with 292 rushing yard, a 4.5 average and two touchdowns. He splits time with Jabari Turner who has run for 282 yards and six touchdowns on 65 carries. The Keydets are averaging only 112 rushing yards per game. Senior right tackle Andy Marcotte is the best of the Keydets offensive linemen. VMI has lost eight fumbles this season. Cobb is a pocket passer and not a running threat.

The Mids did a good job against the Falcons running game last week until they wore down in the second half. They allowed 198 rushing yards, 4.1 yards a carry and kept them out of the end zone. Navy couldn't get stops at the end as they were worn down by being on the field much of the second half. Defensive end Will Anthony was in on 9 tackles and the Falcons had trouble handling him. Team captain Parrish Gaines leads the Mids defense with 37 career starts (24 at CB, 13 at safety). Inside linebackers Jordan Drake and Daniel Gonzalez both reached single game career high with 13 stops last week.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: VMI kicker Dillon Christopher has hit three of six field goal attempts this season. Punter Hayden Alford is averaging just 35.7 per punt with nine punts placed inside the twenty yard line. The Keydets are averaging just 19.2 on kickoff returns and 3.2 yards on punt returns. The kick teams have blocked four kicks this season but have been torched for three punt returns touchdowns.

Kicker Nick Sloan has hit just 3-of-8 field goal attempts this season and had another miss last week. Austin Grebe will now handle the place kicking and kickoffs. Austin Grebe has 12 touchbacks on his 29 kickoffs. Pablo Beltran has been outstanding so far this season averaging 44.7 yards per punt. The Mids has averaged just 18.2 per kickoff returns and 1.3 on punt returns Navy's coverage teams have been outstanding this year.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: VMI head coach Sparky Woods (16-57) has been unable to change the FCS division Keydets chronic losing ways in his seventh season. Woods has compiled a career record of 79-103-5 with head coaching stops at Appalachian State and South Carolina. This may be his last season.

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo is trying to get the program back on track after three straight losses. Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 51-34 (.600) record and stands second all-time at Navy in career wins. Navy has struggled down the stretch and has been outscored 58-30 in the fourth quarter this season. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper has to get his unit to play better. Navy has converted just eight of its 26 third downs the last two games.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy needs a win after three straight losses. They will be looking to have their season and get back on track at home. This is an obvious must win for the Mids. For VMI this is the marquee game on their schedule and they will be pumped up to play.

PREDICTION: NAVY 56, VMI 7. VMI last time 41-3. Navy is entering this game in need of a win and will not overlook the Keydets. Expect the Mids to roll in a big way.

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