HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. GEORGIA SOUTHERN

Navy meets Georgia Southern 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 meet Georgia Southern at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this Saturday on Senior Day. The Mids were off last week following their 49-39 loss to Notre Dame in a wide open game where both teams combined for 987 yards of offense at Fed Ex field in a nationally televised night game. Notre Dame jumped out to a 28-7 lead but Navy responded with 24 unanswered points to take a 31-28 lead. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson rallied the Irish in the fourth quarter for the win. Former FCS powerhouse Georgia Southern joined the FBS this season as a member of the Sunbelt Conference and has posted an impressive (8-2) record. Last week the Eagles earned a road win with a 28-25 victory over Texas State. It was Georgia Southern's seventh straight win under new head coach Willie Fritz.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: GEORGIA SOUTHERN
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds looks healthy again and back in top form the last few games after missing some time. Last game against Notre Dame Reynolds completed 6-of-15 passes for 118 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His first pass against the Fighting Irish was a touchdown. Reynolds scrambled away and rolled to his right to avoid pressure and hit wide receiver Thomas Wilson in the end zone for 26-yard score. Sophomore Jamir Tillman is the Mids primary receiver. He has 17 receptions for 324 receiving yards, a 19.1 average and a touchdown. Navy receivers have caught a combined 30 receptions for 494 yards, a 16.5 average and four touchdowns

The Georgia Southern's 4-2-5 defense is allowing opponents an average of 242 passing yards and 21.3 points per game. Safety Matt Dobson returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown to help Georgia Southern defeat Texas State last week. Dobson has made 53 tackles and three interceptions this season. Fellow safety Antonio Glover has posted 54 tackles and made an interception against Texas State. Nickle back Deion Stanley has made 24 tackles and three interceptions. The Eagles have posted 21 sacks for a loss of 162 yards. Will linebacker Antwione Williams has recorded three sacks. Pass rush specialist Ryan George leads the Eagles with 3 1/2 sacks.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy's spread option offense is ranked first in the nation rushing. They are averaging over 350 rushing yards per game. Navy ran for 336 rushing yards, a 5.6 average and scored three rushing touchdowns in its last game against Notre Dame. Keenan Reynolds is now running at top speed without a knee brace the last two games. Reynolds has rushed for 686 rushing yards, a 4.2 average and 11 scores. Navy's fullbacks have run for 1,294 yards, a 7.4 average, and seven touchdowns on 174 carries. Noah Copeland had a huge game with 138 yards on 16 carries against Notre Dame with two more long runs. Fellow fullback Chris Swain (486 yards, 6.6 average, 3 TDs) scored from 4-yards out after Copeland's 54-yard run to give the Mids a 31-28 lead over the Irish. Navy's leading slotback is versatile senior Geoffrey Whiteside who has run for 271 yards, a 8.5 average and three scores. Whiteside scored on a 13-yard run to finish the 15 play drive to open the second half against Notre Dame.

Willie Fritz retained former coach Jeff Monken's defensive coordinator Jack Curtis. Curtis has modified his defense in with a new 4-2-5 scheme. Georgia Southern's leading tackler is senior linebacker Edwin Jackson. He has recorded 82 stops with four tackles for a loss and an interception. Junior linebacker Antwione Williams has recorded 57 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and three sacks. Sophomore nose tackle Jay Ellison is a 305-pound anchor in the middle of the Eagles defense. Ellison has made 31 tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks. The Eagles are allowing 143 rushing yards per game.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Kevin Ellison has completed 56 of his 97 pass attempts (57.7%) for 806 passing yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Ellison has completed 65.7% of his passes over the last month. Kentrellis Showers leads the team with 302 receiving yards on 15 catches, a 20.3 average and three touchdowns. Junior wide receiver B.J. Johnson (19-279, 14.7 avg., 3 TDs) has been quiet the last few weeks but offers nice size at 6-1", 210 pounds. Senior wide receiver Zach Walker (16 rec-214 yards) has missed time with injuries this year including last week’s game against Texas State. Willie Fritz runs a more wide open spread attack. The Eagles have allowed only four sacks all year.

Navy's pass defense is ranks 93rd in the nation, allowing over 248 passing yards per game. Last game the Mids secondary allowed 315 yards and three touchdowns and picked off one pass against Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Cornerback Quincy Adams (55 tackles) leads the Mids with six pass breakups. Free safety Parrish Gaines (27 tackles, 3 INT, 2 PD) tops the Midshipmen with three interceptions. Obi Uzoma (35 tackles) teamed with nose guard Bernie Sarra (20 tackles) for what was only the Mids fourth sack all season against the Fighting Irish's to force a punt. Kwazel Bertrand (53 tackles, INT, 2 PD) took a terrible angle and missed the tackle against the Irish's C.J. Prosise on his 78-yard touchdown reception on just the second play from scrimmage. Bertrand was benched in favor of George Jamison who played well. Jamison made a big interception to end Notre Dame's last scoring drive before the end of the first half.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: GEORGIA SOUTHERN
REMARKS: Georgia Southern changed its offense from the Paul Johnson spread option, which Navy employs, to Willie Fritz's more diverse spread shotgun read option attack. The results have been impressive. The Eagles statistics are not included in the NCAA national ranking due to the fact this is the first season the former FCS powerhouse is playing in the FBS. The Eagles are averaging an amazing 386.5 yards per game which is more than Navy's nation leading total. Sophomore running back Matt Breida has carried the ball 135 times for 1,224 yards, a 9.1 average and 14 touchdowns. Breida has run for over one-hundred yards in six of his ten starts. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison has rushed for 945 yards, averaged 6.6 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns on 143 carries. Freshman running back Alfred Ramsby leads the Eagles with 10 rushing touchdowns and has scored rushing touchdowns in eight straight games. Georgia Southern senior Manrey Saint-Amour is the best player up front and has been added to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy to honor the nation's most impressive FBS center. Saint-Amour is a three-year starter for the Eagles.

The Mids are ranked 82nd in the nation in run defense and allowing 176 rushing yards a game. Inside linebackers Jordan Drake and Daniel Gonzalez are tied for the team lead with sixty tackles respectively. Striker linebacker Chris Johnson (55 tackles, 3 TFL) had his second consecutive rough game against Notre Dame. Chris was twice caught watching on two Golson touchdown runs. It was a rare bad game for Johnson who couldn't get off blocks and make plays like he normally does. Defensive end Will Anthony has been very active this year with 41 tackle, five tackles for a loss, 1/2 a sack and four quarterback hurries.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Alex Hanks beat out five kicker for the placekicking job this year. Hanks has hit 9-of -11 field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards. He has had more struggles on the point after attempts as he has made 46- of -51 extra points. Punter Ryan Nowicki is averaging 40.9 yards per punt, with 12 fair catches and 14 placed inside the twenty yard line. He's boomed six punts over 50 yards and had one that has been blocked. Tray Butler is averaging 6.4 per punt return. The Eagles are averaging 22.1 on kickoff returns. Georgia Southern's coverage teams are just average but they have blocked a punt this year.

The new Navy kicker Austin Grebe has all three of his field goal attempts since replacing Nick Sloan. Austin Grebe has 18 touchbacks on his 48 kickoffs. Pablo Beltran is playing the final home game of his brilliant career. The best punter in Navy history is averaging 44.9 yards per punt with twelve punts placed inside the 20 yard line. The Mids have averaged just 19.7 per kickoff returns and DeBrandon Sanders is averaging 4.8 on punt returns. Navy's coverage teams have been excellent the last two years. Navy junior nose guard Bernard Sarra has blocked three kicks this year. It is tied for the most in the country. Sarra blocked a field goal against VMI and two field goals against Notre Dame.

COACHING
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Georgia Southern's first year head coach Willie Fritz replaced Jeff Monken who took the Army position. This is Fritz's 22nd year as a head coach. Fritz has developed winning programs at each of his head coaching stops. He won two national championships at Blinn College, guided Central Missouri to 11 winning seasons and led Sam Houston State to back-to-back national championship appearances. He was selected as the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year at the FCS level in 2012.Fritz has a 184-67-1 record in 21 years as a head coach. He was named coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association in 2011 when Sam Houston State finished 14-1.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 53-35 (60.2%) record and stands second all-time at Navy in career wins. Navy’s 12 opponents are a combined 62-48 (.564) on the year and its 11 FBS opponents are a combined 60-40 (.600). Only four of Navy’s 12 opponents have losing records, while four opponents are already bowl eligible. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper unit has scored 30 or more points five times this year and the Mids have won four of those contests. The only loss was to Notre Dame 49-39. Buddy Green's defense will face a huge challenge this week.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Georgia Southern Eagles are having a dream first season in the FBS. Their only losses were to NC State 24-23 and Georgia Tech 42-38. Georgia Southern has an outside chance for a bowl game. The Eagles lost a close hard fought 13-7 in Annapolis during their first meeting in 2010. The Mids should be ready for a big effort on Senior Day. Navy lost last week but look healthy and ready to roll on offense.

PREDICTION: Navy, 38-31. I believe this one will be a wide open shoot out. Navy's defense probably will have trouble with the Eagles offense. I believe Navy will move the ball the same way Georgia Tech did earlier this year. The Eagles are a good team. I can see this game going either way but I do like the Mids at home on Senior day.

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