HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. ARMY

Navy meets rival Army on Saturday in Baltimore. 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 the Army Black Knights will meet in America's Game this Saturday. This is the 115th meeting in college football's greatest rivalry game. Army will enter the game under the new leadership of first year head coach Jeff Monken. Both teams are coming in off come from behind victories. The Black Knights rallied from an early ten point deficit to score 28 unanswered points and defeated the FCS Fordham Rams 42-31 on Senior Day. Navy also rallied from a ten point deficit and then survived a late rally by South Alabama to hold on for a 42-40 victory. Navy enters the game playing their best football this season. The Mids have won four of their last five games and have averaged 45 points per game during that span. The Midshipmen have dominated the series winning a record twelve straight games. Navy leads the all-time series 58-49-7.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: ARMY
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds has completed 43-of-96 passes (44.8%) for749 passing yards with five passing touchdowns and three interceptions this year. Reynolds completed only one of his four passes for 42 yards in his last game at South Alabama. He was sacked once and the Mids had trouble handling South Alabama's pass rush. Reynolds struggled early in the season with his accuracy after injuring his knee and being forced to wear a knee brace. Since returning to action, after missing the VMI game, he has thrown three touchdown passes over the last three contests. Jamir Tillman leads the Mids with 18 receptions for 338 yards, a 18.8 average and two scores. Reynolds hit Demond Brown for 42- yards and a first down against South Alabama. Brown made a couple of nice moves to avoid multiple tacklers and pick up twenty extra yards. Last year Reynolds completed just 2-of-7 passes for 10 yards in the snow against Army. Navy's offensive line is ranked as the worse team in the nation protecting its quarterback.

The Black Knights pass defense is ranked 95th in the nation. Army cornerback Josh Jenkins (60 tackles, 4 INTs, 12 PD) is the best player on the Army defense. He's developed into the impact defender. Jenkins has excellent feet, the ability to redirect smoothly in coverage and a burst to make plays on the ball. In last year’s game against Navy, Jenkins jumped a route and was in perfect position to pick off the pass but Reynolds pass was off the mark Fellow cornerback Chris Carnegie (51 tackles, 3 INTs., 10 PD) isn't as talented as Jenkins but had his best season. Carnegie has been a starter since his freshman season and his 99-yard interception return for a touchdown against UCONN in the final minute saved that game. Inside linebacker Andrew King (52 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 sacks) leads the Black Knights with four sacks. King's sack late in the second quarter against Fordham set up a blocked punt that gave Army a lead it never relinquished. Senior captain Geoffrey Bacon's (20 tackles, PD) has been out since he was injured against Yale. It’s left a huge void at safety. Bacon's is practicing again with limited contact this week. If able to play at full speed he can offer run support and better speed at safety. .

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: The Midshipmen enter the game leading the nation in rushing as they are averaging over 357 yards per game. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (1,082 yards, 5.3 avg., 20 TDs) has been on fire since getting healthy and removing the knee brace he had been playing with since being injured in the Temple game. Reynolds has averaged over 173 rushing yards per game and scored 12 touchdowns over the last four games. Navy has averaged 43.5 points per game during that span. Reynolds ran for 144 yards and scored three times against Army last year. The Mids’ fullbacks have run for a combined 1,515 yards and ten scores. Co-captain Noah Copeland leads the B-backs with 859 rushing yards, an 8.2 average per carry and five touchdowns. Copeland has produced at least one run of 31 or more yards in eight of eleven games this year. Noah scored the first touchdown against Army last year on a 39-yard run. Copeland has scored in the last two Army-Navy games and forced a key fumble on a Scott Williams kickoff return in 2011. Fullback Chris Swain (574 yards, 6.6 avg., 4 TDs) demonstrated his power and then speed as he ran for 34-yard touchdown run near the end of the first half against South Alabama. Geoffrey Whiteside (311 yards, 8.0 avg., 3 TDs) leads the Mid slotbacks in rushing. The offensive line has played extremely well the last five games as Navy has scored 28 touchdowns during that span.

Army defense is ranked 92nd against the run this season. In last year’s game the Black Knights run defense allowed Navy 343 rushing yards, six yards per carry and four touchdowns. The run defense was killed by three big plays which combined for 144 rushing yards and produced 17 points. The defense did force six punts in last year’s blowout loss. Linebacker Jeremy Timpf has a team-best 102 tackles and 14.0 tackles for losses. Timpf has been Army’s leading tackler in nine games this year. Army is allowing 34.4 points per game. First team All-Independent nose guard Richard Glover (28 tackles) made eight tackles in last year's game. He made a nice stop on fourth-and-3 on the opening drive of the third quarter in the 2013 game. He played on of his best games on Senior Day against Fordham. Army only allowed 13 rushing first downs last year against Navy but was killed by the Midshipmen's big play speed on offense.

ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Army's quarterback Angel Santiago has completed 35-of-68 (51.5%) passes for 448 passing yards with a touchdown against an interception this season. Santiago completed 5-of-10 passes for 50 passing yards with an interception in last year’s Navy game. Angel's lack of arm strength, with the snow and wind gusting, limited him to mostly screen passes. He wasn't helped much by his receivers who dropped a number of catchable balls. Wide receiver Edgar Poe leads the team with ten catches for 199 receiving yards, a 19.9 average and a touchdown. Sophomore Xavier Moss has two touchdown catches but has not caught a pass since the Kent State game in October. He has only six catches for 52 yards and two scores all year after posting 35 receptions for 463 yards and a touchdown as a plebe in 2013. Santiago gets sure handed slotback Tony Giovanelli (8 rec, 131 yards, 16.4 avg.) back in the lineup. Giovanelli has been out since being hit in the head in a collision against Air Force. If the weather is clear quarterback A.J. Schurr may be used off the bench like he was against Fordham as a changeup if the team is struggling to move the ball. Schurr had a disastrous first start against Navy last year when he fumbled twice as he seems unable to handle a wet football. Schurr has completed 11-of-25 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown this fall. Army's rebuilt offense line has struggled in pass protection and is ranked 127th in sack percentage allowed.

Navy's pass defense is ranks 64th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game. The Midshipmen secondary allowed 21-of-32 passes for just 177 passing yards their last time out against South Alabama. The Mids picked off two passes. George Jamison (19 tackles, 2 INT, FR ) has started the last two games at Rover. Jamison had a big interception in Navy territory with the Mids down ten points in the first half to end a South Alabama drive. Jamison is very smart senior who isn't the fastest player but is often in the right place at the right time. The secondary's best player has been senior captain Parrish Gaines (36 tackles, 3 INTs, 3 PD) who has started 35 consecutive games and quarterbacks the secondary. He had interceptions against Ohio State, Temple and returned an interception 39-yards for a touchdown against VMI. Navy has produced just five sacks all season. Defensive end Will Anthony had a rare Navy sack against South Alabama in the last game to force a punt. Cornerback Brandon Clements (53 tackles, 4 PD) played a great game last year against Army. He picked off a pass Santiago floated into coverage over the middle of the field and forced a fumble against AJ Schurr that led to Schurr's benching.

ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: The Black Knights are ranked fifth in the nation in rushing. They are averaging over 305 rushing yards per game. Army's running game has picked up the last few games as some injured players returned to the offensive line. The Black Knights ran for 382 yards, averaged 6.0 yards per carry and had five rushing touchdowns against the Fordham Rams on Senior Day. B-back Larry Dixon ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams. Dixon has 1,012 yards rushing, a 5.8 average per carry and scored nine times this year. Dixon passed legendary Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis to move into fourth place on the Army all-time list with 3,098 career yards. Interestingly he is tied with Heisman Trophy winner Felix “Doc” Blanchard, the legendary Mr. Inside, with 26 career touchdowns.

Quarterback Angel Santiago has 793 rushing yards, a 4.4 average and a team leading 10 touchdowns this year. Santiago isn't a huge running threat for an option quarterback and has only two hundred yard efforts this fall. Army's talented slotback tandem of Terry Baggett (1,684 career yards, 12 TDs) and Raymond Maples (2, 865 career yards, 10 TDs) are both former single season thousand yard runners. They have been underutilized this fall with the Black Knights move to the spread option double slotback scheme. Army has struggled with injuries and consistency on the offensive line as they have fielded a different lineup for nine consecutive weeks. Center Matt Hugenberg is the only member of the offensive line to start every game.

Navy's rushing defense held the Black Knights to a season low 157 rushing yards last year. Army averaged 3.5 yards per carry and had just one touchdown. Navy and Army understand what each other try to do in the option game. Navy's speed and athleticism covering the alley helped limit Army's run game and the Mids shut them down. First Team All-Independent nose Guard Bernie Sarra (31 tackles, 1/2 sacks, PD) individual match up against new Army center Matt Hugenberg (6-5, 309) is a key one. Sarra (6-1, 303) outplayed former undersized Army center Ryan Powis last season. If Army is unable to establish Dixon at fullback it will be another long day for the Black Knights. Navy linebacker Chris Johnson (60 tackles) was all over the field making plays with seven tackles and a fumble recovery in last year’s game. He combined with Brandon Clements to stop Terry Baggett on fourth-and-3 to end a promising drive at the start of the second quarter. Chris also recovered AJ Schurr's fumble which set up the Mids field goal to open the scoring. Navy was usually able to beat Army's blocks on the perimeter last year. Navy inside linebackers Jordan Drake (85 tackles) and Daniel Gonzalez (73 tackles, 2 INTs) lead the Midshipmen defense in tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy kicker Austin Grebe has been perfect hitting all four of his field goal attempts and all 29 of his extra points since he was named kicker. Senior punter Pablo Beltran is averaging 44.4 yards per punt on 31 punts this year. He has had eight punts fair caught and 14 have been downed inside the 20. Beltran had a clutch 51-yard punt last year against Army. Beltran is one of the best punters in Navy history and a Ray Guy Award nominee. Demond Brown is averaging 19.8 on kick returns. DeBrandon Sanders is averaging 4.5 yards per punt return. Navy's coverage teams have been excellent all season. Bernie Sarra has blocked three kicks this season.

Army's Daniel Grochowski has made 6-of-11 field goal attempts. Cale Brewer has only one touchback on his 18 kickoffs but tackles returners like a special teams ace. Punter Alex Tardieu is averaging 39.2 yards on 41 punts with 20 of his punts being fair caught. Tardieu has placed 18 inside the 20-yard-line and five have traveled over fifty yards. He has seen only five of his punts returned all season. Tardieu is among the nominees for the 2014 Ray Guy Award which is awarded to the nation’s best punter. Josh Jenkins has averaged 17.8 on kickoff returns. Jenkins is once again listed as the punt returner on the depth chart after Edgar Poe handled the duties for a few games. Josh Jenkins is averaging 2.6 on punt returns. Jenkins blocked Fordham Joe Pavlik's punt with 16 seconds left in the half in the end zone last game. After a wild scramble senior Lamar Johnson-Harris finally fell on it for Army's first touchdown off a blocked punt since 2007. Up-back Kelvin White ran 14-yards for a first down on a fake punt against the Rams.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Jeff Monken enters the game with a 42-23 (646%) career head coaching record. Monken will need time to rebuild this program. He's shown himself to be very aggressive with fake punts and onside kicks. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman puts together sound game plans. Brent Davis's offense has seen some injured starters return to his offensive line and the Black Knights have run the ball better the last few games.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is trying to become the first coach in the history of the Army-Navy game to start his career 7-0 against Army. He and former Navy and current Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson are the only coaches to start 6-0. Niumatalolo will become the winningest coach in school history with a victory over Army. He is currently tied with George Welsh. Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper kept pounding the Black Knights defense before breaking open last year's game in the fourth quarter. Buddy Green's defense had one of its best games last fall and totally bottled up one of the best rushing attacks in the country.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy knows they are better than Army and plays like it. The Mids have dominated Army the past decade in winning a series a record twelve games in a row. The Mids are confident that they can handle Army and expect success which is a huge advantage before the ball is even kicked off. Navy has been the dominant Service Academy over the past decade with a 21-3 combined record against Army and Air Force.

Jeff Monken is playing with house money and relatively little pressure in his first Army-Navy game as a head coach. With his service academy experience at Navy he' will not be overwhelmed by the game. I expect him to be aggressive and try to force the issue taking risks on special teams and with a few trick plays. Monken engineered the upset of the year last season when Georgia Southern went to Florida and beat the Gators 26-20 in the Swamp without completing a pass so he's no stranger to overcoming long odds. The Black Knights are desperate for a win against Navy.

PREDICTION: NAVY 27, ARMY 14. Navy is the bigger, faster and the better team. Army had their chance to beat Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds as a plebe but Reynolds dominated last year and enters this game playing his best football all season. Navy defense isn't as solid against the run as last year but they play against this same spread option system in practice all season. Army couldn't run the ball against Air Force and had trouble defending the triple option and Navy a superior option team. Navy is better in the trenches. Army best players are its slotbacks but they are somewhat neutralized by this spread option system that sees them see few touches than in past year. Army will probably hang tough for a half but Navy is simply the more explosive and talented team.

Discuss this story with other Navy fans in GoMids forums: LINK.

GoMids.com Top Stories