The Navy Midshipmen take on the Tulane Green Wave in an American Athletic Conference game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Navy enters the game following a bye week after their 41-24 loss to Notre Dame in a game that was closer than the final score indicated. Tulane suffered a 42-7 loss to No. 24 Houston last Friday night. Tulane leads the series 7-11-1. In the triple option era going back to 1995 the two teams have split the last ten games.
NAVY'S PASSING OFFENSE VS. TULANE'S PASSING DEFENSE
Keenan Reynolds has completed 16-of-31 passes (51.6%) for 281 passing yards with two passing touchdowns. Last game, against Notre Dame, Reynolds completed 2-of-4 passes for 16 passing yards. Reynolds only attempted two passes in the first half before he was hurt and left the game. At Notre Dame Reynolds threw three times to Jamir Tillman (2 rec., 16 yds.) and was able to complete two. On third-and-12 Reynolds completed an eleven yard pass to Jamir and the offense picked up the first down on the next play to keep the drive alive. This season Tillman (8 rec., 113 yds., 14.1 avg, 1 TD) has been the main target as no one else on the Mids has more than two receptions.
The Tulane passing defense ranks 92nd in the nation while allowing opponents an average of 249 yards per game. At cornerback Tulane returns 2014 First-Team Freshman All-American cornerback Parry Nickerson. He picked off six interceptions to pace the nation’s rookies last season. Nickerson, a redshirt-sophomore, is a preseason candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award. Nickerson had 14 tackles and four pass defensed this year. Tulane has forced 13 forced turnovers this season. Senior strong safety
Darion Monroe has 32 tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries in five games. Senior defensive end Royce LaFrance lead the team with six sacks last fall. LaFrance is an impact pass rusher with 18 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and he's posted four tackles.
NAVY'S RUSHING OFFENSE VS. TULANE'S RUSHING DEFENSE
Navy's spread option offense is ranked third in the nation in rushing. They are averaging over 326 rushing yards per game. Navy ran for 318 rushing yards, a 6.5 average and scored three rushing touchdowns two weeks ago against the Irish. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran 15 times for 110 yards. Reynolds injury changed the complexion of the game even though Tago Smith played well. Reynolds 51-yard run to open the game was followed two plays later by Toneo Gulley's 13-yard touchdown run gave the Mids an early 7-0 lead. B-back Chris Swain had 15 carries for 59 yards and a huge dropped pitch for a fumble that handed the Irish a touchdown last game. The Swain train has run for 420 yards, a 5.1 average and four scores this season. Fellow fullback Quentin Ezell (6 atts, 75 yds., 2 TDs) scored twice against Notre Dame ripping off second quarter touchdown runs of 45 and 22 yards.
Tulane's 4-2-5 defense is ranked 95th in the nation. Junior linebacker Nico Marley was named to the Lombardi Award Watch List. Marley recorded 82 tackles, with 13.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, one interception and three pass break-ups on 2014. This year Marley has 44 tackles, six tackles for a loss, a pass defensed and a pick. He runs well and will hit anything that moves. Middle linebacker Eric Thomas has made 43 tackles, five tackles for a loss, a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Thomas is ranked 24th in the country in tackles. The Green Wave defense was run over by former Navy coach Paul Johnson's spread option. They allowed 65 points, 439 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns against Georgia Tech earlier this year.
TULANE’S PASSING OFFENSE VS. NAVY'S PASSING DEFENSE
Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee missed last week's game against Houston with a concussion. Lee has completed 85-of -154 pass attempts (55.2%) for 973 passing yards with eight touchdowns against four picks this year. Devin Powell started at quarterback last week in place of Lee last week against the Houston Cougars and had a brutal game. Powell completed 11 of 28 passes for only 88 passing yards. Junior receiver Devon Breaux (18 rec., 356 yds., 19.8 avg., 3 TDs) has the speed to make big plays. He had a 51-yard grab last week against Houston. Wide receiver Teddy Veal leads the team with 27 catches for 319 yards, an 11.8 average and three scores. The offensive line has allowed 17 sacks this year.
Navy's pass defense is ranked 58th in the nation and is allowing over 224 passing yards per game. Junior cornerback Brandon Clements played well against the Irish two weeks ago. Clements made seven tackles and a pick about the Irish. He jumped a route and picked off a pass to allow Navy to set up a touchdown and tie the score against the Irish. He did a nice job running explosive Will Fuller out of the back of the end zone on an incomplete pass. Clements almost was credited for a great play when he avoided a block and sent ND running back Adams flying and recovered what looked to be a fumble but he was correctly ruled down. Cornerback Quincy Adams (25 tackles, 4 PD) is quick, tough, physical cornerback and a good tackler. He earned honorable mention all FBS Independent last year. The Mids have nine sacks so far this year Navy posted only eight sacks last year.
TULANE'S RUSHING OFFENSE VS. NAVY'S RUSHING DEFENSE
The Green Wave running game is ranked 123rd in the nation and averaging 98.5 yards per game.
Dontrell Hilliard leads the team with 241 rushing yards, a 5.5 average and three touchdowns. He had an 85-yard touchdown against Maine. He splits time with halfback Sherman Badie who has run for 155 yards, a 5.3 average and two touchdowns. Neither of the Tulane quarterbacks are very mobile.
Navy is ranked 38th in the nation in run defense and are allowing 142 rushing yards a game. The Mids allowed the Irish 178 rushing yards, 4.4 yards a carry and four touchdowns. The Mids hung tough on defense but the turnovers and C.J. Prosise brilliance made it difficult to get stops after a good start. The Mids would often seem to have an angle on Prosise but his speed and moves allowed him to break free. Inside linebacker Daniel Gonzalez has made 37 tackles and 2 1/2 tackles for a loss.
Tulane kicker Andrew DiRocco has hit all four of his field goal attempts. Freshman punter Zachary Block made his collegiate appearance two weeks ago at Temple. Block has punted 17 times for a 40.1 average. Sherman Badie handles kickoffs and averages 21.7 per return. Darion Monron is averaging
3.3 per punt return. Tulane coverage teams have struggled and have allowed both a punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns. Sophomore deep snapper Aaron Golub is legally blind with no sight in his right eye and limited vision in his left, and was featured on Good Morning America.
The Navy kicker Austin Grebe suffered his first miss last game. Grebe’s two-year perfect streak of field goals ended as he missed from 44 yards out and hit from 40 yards. Grebe has hit 5-of-6 field goal attempts this year. Grebe has 11 touchbacks on his 34 kickoffs. Alex Barta is averaging 43.9 yards per punt with three of his 11 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Dishan Romine lost a fumble against the Irish but rebounded with a 58-yard return. DeBrandon Sanders is averaging 8.2 on punt returns. Navy's coverage teams played well against the Irish.
Curtis Johnson is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Green Wave. Johnson is 14-29 overall at Tulane. He is a New Orleans native with 28 years of coaching experience from both the collegiate and professional levels. He was on the staff of the NFL Champion New Orleans Saints and the National Champion Miami Hurricanes. Johnson engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in college football in his second season of 2013. Johnson led the Green Wave to a 7-6 overall record but they stumbled last season to a 3-9 record after moving from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo is in his eighth season as head coach at Navy He has led the Mids to a 61-36 (.632) record. Niumatalolo is the program’s all-time winningest coach. Niumatalolo has been on the Mids’ sideline as either an assistant or head coach for 18 of the last 21 years (1995-98 and 2002-07), and has led the program to seven bowl appearances during his tenure as head coach. Niumatalolo is currently the 23rd longest tenured coach at the same school among active coaches.
Tulane leads the all-time series 11-7-1. Even while they haven't been as good as Navy over the past decade they have split the last four games since Johnson and Niumatalolo have been head coaches. Navy will have a nice crowd for homecoming. The Mids are undefeated in conference play this season. With Tulane now a conference opponent this game has a lot more meaning.
PREDICTION: Navy, 52-14. Navy is the faster, more talented and better coached team. Tulane has struggled on the road and have been outscored 114-20 this year. The Green Wave defense was lost trying to defend Georgia Tech's spread option and allowed 65 points. It should be a fun homecoming game for the Navy fans.