The Navy Midshipmen (1-0) opened the season with a dominating 52-16 victory over Fordham of the FCS (0-1) on Saturday in Annapolis. The game will go down in college football lore as it involved Navy literally pulling a quarterback out of the stands after starter Tago Smith went down with an injury. Big things are expected of Fordham in the FCS this year and the school upset Amry on opening day in 2015, but Navy took care of business in a very professional manner and will now turn to face greater challenges down the road.
PASSING OFFENSE: B
The Mids obviously don't expect a whole lot out of the passing offense. It is more of a change of pace than anything and if Navy is able to control down and distance as head coach Ken Niumatalolo preaches then the pass is never used as a last resort. On Saturday that was the case as Navy controlled the game and its quarterbacks went 4-for-4 through the air for 123 yards and a touchdown. The beauty of the pass in the triple-option is that if it is working passed go for long gains, which proved to be the case in this game as the receptions went for an average of over 30 yards
RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Navy will face better defenses than the one trotted out by Fordham, but if the option is working at the level it was on Saturday then there is no reason to think the offense will let down at all this year. Fullback Chris High was the star as he rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries, averaging an insane 17.6 yards each time he touched the ball. In total 11 Navy ball carriers rushed for 427 yards and six scores at an average of 8.1 yards per carry. The coaching staff will be especially pleased that three rushers had carries over 50+ yards, as breakaway touchdowns became a huge part of the Navy rushing machine last season.
All this good news is however tempered by the news that Tago Smith tore his ACL during the game and has been ruled out for the season.
PASSING DEFENSE: C
The pass defense faced a legitimate passer in Fordham's Kevin Anderson and the unit was just ok. While Fordham was never a threat to win the game after the Mids took a 28-10 lead, Anderson was still able to throw for 302 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions (albeit on 45 pass attempts). The Mids defensive backs will be unhappy that they were unable to take advantage of an Anderson mistake and pick off a pass when so many were put in the air and that is an area that must be improved on now as the defense will have to take on more responsibility with Smith injured. Navy will also need more from its pass rush as the Mids totaled just nine yards on three sacks of Anderson.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B
The rushing defense faced a real challenge on Saturday in the form of All-FCS First-Team running back Chase Edmonds. Edmonds was held to just 70 yards rushing on 18 carries, plus two catches for 25 yards. Considering that Edmonds now has over 3,500 rushing yards in his Fordham career it has to go down as a big win for the Navy rush defense. The key player in stopping Edmonds was linebacker Daniel Gonzales. Gonzales had 10 total tackles and a tackle for a loss as Edmond could not find the running room he enjoyed last fall against Army where he rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
It was a solid if unspectacular, day for the Mids special teams units. Kicker Bennett Moehring was perfect on the day, nailing all seven of his extra points plus a chip shot 23-yard field goal. The return game was explosive with no end product as three Navy returners brought back four kickoffs for an average of 25 yards. If anything the highlight was probably punter Alex Barta who had two punts go for 44 and 45 yards, though even then both kicks proved to be returnable. If the worst thing you can say about a special teams unit after a game is that nothing noticeable happened, then it is a net win.
Coaching an FBS school against an FCS opponent should go like this. Navy had a 35-10 lead by half time and then the game slowly dragged towards its expected conclusion. The in-game coaching changed by Niumatalolo were small and the gameplan was executed exactly as he would have liked. Ideally, Fordham would have been kept without a touchdown, but again this is a good FCS squad. The coaching power of Niumatalolo will now come in convincing this team it can still make a run without the quarterback that was declared the successor to Keenan Reynolds the second the 2015 season was over.
OVERALL GRADE: B
Navy did exactly what it was supposed to do against a tricky opponent. The only was this was going to be an A grade would have been with a 70+ point to zero win and Niumatalolo coached Navy squads don't pile up the points so that was always unlikely to happen. It was a great game to get the rust knocked off before focusing on the first AAC game of the season against UConn this upcoming weekend.