HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. COLGATE

Navy meets Colgate on Saturday in Annapolis. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. He also makes a prediction on the game's final score.

Navy Midshipmen open their 135th football season at home against FCS Colgate from the Patriot League. This is the first match-up between the two programs since 1998 when Navy quarterback Brian Broadwater made his first start in a wide open 42-35 victory. Colgate finished last season with a 5-7 record. Navy has won all six games in the series.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
COLGATE PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds struggled with his passing accuracy most of last season. Reynolds recorded the worst completion percentage, 46.8% and fewest touchdown passes (6 TDs) in his career. Keenan didn't look like himself throwing the ball until he was finally recovered from a early season knee injury and removed the knee brace he had been forced to wear. In the last six games he completed 51% of his throws with four scores against one interception. Keenan ended the season completing 52-of-111 passes (46.8%) for 843 passing yards with six touchdowns against three interceptions. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo has stated that Navy wants to be more effective passing this season and use talented wide receiver Jamir Tillman to stretch the field. Tillman emerged last year as the Mids top passing target and go-to receiver. Tillman led the Mids with 20 receptions for 386 receiving yards, a 19.3 average and three touchdowns. Jamir is the son of a former NFL player and at 6-4", 206 pounds offers nice size with above average speed. He's caught at least one pass in nine games. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo has said that Tillman reminds him of former Navy wide receiver Brandon Turner.

The Colgate Raiders pass defense was ranked 80th in the FCS last fall. Colgate plays a 3-4 defense. Strong safety Chris Morgan is probably the best player in the secondary. He made 71 tackles and two interceptions. Left cornerback Adam Bridgeforth (60 TT, 2 INT) is the other returning starter. The pass rush should come from outside linebacker Pat Afriyie (6-2, 235) who made 4 1/2 sacks last year.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
COLGATE RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: The Midshipmen were ranked second in the nation last year in rushing. Navy averaged 338 yards per game. Keenan Reynolds posted 1,191 rushing yards, a career high 4.8 rushing average and scored 23 touchdowns in 2014. His 64 career rushing touchdowns are already the most by a quarterback in all of NCAA history. Senior fullback Chris Swain (6-1", 245) moves into the starting role this fall. Swain was bigger and faster last year as he lifted his game following a solid if somewhat disappointing sophomore campaign. Chris ran 104 times for 693 yards, averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored four times. At 245 pounds the Swain Train runs with power and speed. He lost only one fumble last season. Navy saw both of last year's slotback starters graduate but still possesses terrific depth at A-back. It remains one of the deepest position on the team with five of the six players on the two deep depth chart carrying the ball last season. The key is how the offensive line is will gel with three new starters.

Colgate was ranked 35th in the nation as they allowed over 145 rushing yards per game in the FCS in 2014. The best player on the defense and top returning tackler is Kyle Diener. He was named Preseason All-Patriot League pick at linebacker. Diener made 89 stops last year with four sacks and three interceptions. Victor Steffen is a 6-3', 275 pound defensive end who was named Preseason All-League after making 56 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss last year. Steffen has added forty pounds since his freshman year. The Colgate nose tackle is Alex Campbell, a 6-3", 275 pound first year starter, who was recruited by Army a few years ago.

COLGATE PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Colgate sophomore quarterback Jake Melville threw for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns last year. He Completed 91-of-155 of his passes, 58.7% of his passes, in seven starts with just two interceptions. Melville is mobile and can throw on the move and scramble. Melville's literally big target is senior tight end John Quazza who was a Preseason All-League pick. Quazza led the Raiders with 34 receptions for 400 yards, a 11.8 average and a score. Colgate returns four players who caught 20 or more passes last seasons.

Navy's pass defense was ranked 32nd in the nation in passing yards allowed per game last fall. The Midshipmen secondary allowed 205 passing yards per game last year. The Mids are led by cornerback Brandon Clements in the secondary. He made 58 tackles while knocking down four passes last year. Clements is a very good cover corner with excellent feet and speed. Fellow cornerback Quincy Adams has quietly developed into one of the Mids better defensive players. He earned honorable mention all FBS Independent last year. Last fall he started every game and made 75 tackles, picked off a pass. knocked down nine passes, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Navy coaches have discussed plans to create more pressure out of their 3-4 defense.

COLGATE RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: The Colgate rushing attack were ranked 41th in the nation in rushing. They averaged over 181 rushing yards a game last year. Returning running backs John Wilkins and Demetrius Russell combined to run for 1,124 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jake Melville is a mobile quarterback who ran for 435 yards and four scores last season. Up front left guard John Weber made the Preseason All-League Team.

Navy's rushing defense was ranked 95th in the nation and allowed 198 yards per game. The defense's most irreplaceable player may be senior captain Bernie Sarra at nose guard. Will Anthony, a fellow senior and First-Team FBS All-Independent, joins Sarra up front at defensive end. Navy returns only junior Daniel Gonzales at linebacker but there is good depth and competition here in Navy's 3-4 season.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Colgate has the best special teams in the Patriot League with proven performers in all three areas. Jonah Bowman (14-16 FG) is back at kicker as a Preseason All-League pick. Bowman was national placekicking finalist for Fred Mitchell Award . He set Colgate season records for field goals made (14), field-goal percentage (87.5%) and consecutive field goals made with nine. Nikko Armiento (39.6 avg.) returns as the punter and John Maddaluna III (23.0 KR avg) was an All-League return specialist last season.

Navy kicker Austin Grebe finished the season as Mr. Perfect after replacing struggling kicker Nick Sloan. Grebe hit all six of his field goal attempts and all 33 of his extra points. He hit the game winning field goal against San Diego State in the bowl game. Grebe was named honorable mention All-FBS Independent. The punting job is still a battle between Alex Barta and Gavin Jernigan. Barta played at NAPS in 2012 and was a highly ranked punter by all of the major special team high school recruiting services his senior year in high school. Senior Gavin Jernigan backed up Beltran the last three seasons. Jernigan only punt was a nice 56-yard effort last year at VMI. Demond Brown (19.8 KR) returns as Mids main kick returner. DeBrandon Sanders is back as the punt returner. Sanders averaged 4.3 yards per punt return last fall. Navy's coverage teams have been outstanding the last few years.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Colgate head coach Dan Hunt is entering his second season. Hunt led Colgate to a third-place finish in the Patriot League in his initial season. Hunt had been the associate head coach and offensive coordinator for the seven years under former coach Dick Biddle. Hunt's offenses produced some impressive season especially when he had former All-American Gavin McCarney at quarterback.

Navy's Ken Niumatalolo (57-35, 62%) passed George Welch as Navy's winningest head coach with his victory over Army last year. He has succeeded after following a great coach, in his mentor Paul Johnson, and has established his own legacy. Niumatalolo is now 7-0 all-time against Army and is the first head coach in the history of the Army-Navy rivalry to win his first seven games against the other service academy. Niumatalolo is the fastest in school history to reach 50 wins. Ivin Jasper, Navy's offensive coordinator, had his offense really clicking in 2014 when it was averaging 45 points per game during a five game stretch to become bowl eligible. The big news this summer was the loss of long time defensive coordinator Buddy Green who will miss this season due to health reasons. Coach Dale Pehrson, who has been with the program since 1996, will replace him.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Colgate will be excited to play their opening game against an FBS opponent on national television. For Colgate this is the marquee game on their schedule and they will be pumped up to play. Navy will be looking to start the season on the right foot and take care of business. Navy has never lost to Colgate

PREDICTION: NAVY 41, COLGATE 14. Navy is the bigger, faster and the better team. The days of the Mids struggling to barely beat an middling FCS opponent are over. Navy will roll.

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