Navy visits Western Kentucky on Saturday. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.
Midshipmen football team travels to Kentucky this week to take on the Western Kentucky
Hilltoppers. The Mids have opened the season in impressive fashion averaging 46 points per game while winning their first two games. The Hilltoppers are 2-2 and dominated FCS Morgan State with a convincing 58-17 blowout win. Navy has won both games played in the series.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
WESTERN KENTUCKY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds
has completed 12 of 17 passes for 304 passing yards while throwing two touchdown passes and an interception this year. Reynolds arm strength and accuracy offer the Mids a legitimate passing threat. Reynolds seems very comfortable running plays out of the shotgun sets which offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper
has introduced. Against Delaware slotback DeBrandon Sanders
(3 rec., 86 yards, 1 TD) caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds which put the game out of reach.
The WKU secondary is one of the better secondaries in the Sun Belt conference. The Hilltoppers intercepted Morgan State twice in their 58-17 victory. The best player in the secondary is SAM safety Jonathan Dowling
(68 tackles, 6 interceptions in 2012) who is a very physical playmaker. The former Florida
transfer has made 27 tackles and forced two fumbles in 2013. Former cornerback Arius Wright
has been moved to free safety where he has 19 tackles and an interception. Linebacker Xavius Boyd
who has 5 1/2 sacks this year can really fly off the edge and he provides most of the pass rush pressure for Western Kentucky.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
WESTERN KENTUCKY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Mids enter the game off a bye week. The Navy offense has been performing with amazing efficiency scoring 12 touchdowns on 18 drives. Against Delaware the Mids rushed for 352 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored five rushing touchdowns. Starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran for 109 yards on 15 carries against Delaware. Reynolds now has an 8-2 record as the starting quarterback. Navy has seen tremendous production from its new slotbacks Darius Staten
, Geoffrey Whiteside
and DeBrandon Sanders. The Mids slotbacks receive additional reinforcements this week with the return of speedy Ryan Williams
. Williams suffered a knee injury in the spring which required surgery but he's made an amazing recovery.
The Hilltoppers' 4-3 defense is ranked 95th in the nation against the run. They are allowing over 195 rushing yards per game. Senior linebacker Xavius Boyd, a three year starter, leads the Western Kentucky defense with 45 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss and 5 1/2 sacks. Senior middle linebacker Andrew Jackson
(122 tackles, 17.5 for loss in 2012) is a very athletic and the emotional leader of this defense. The WKU defense lost almost all of its top defensive line talent from last season. WKU has allowed an average of 5.1 rushing yards per carry and nine touchdowns.
WESTERN KENTUCKY RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: WESTERN KENTUCKY
REMARKS: Senior running back Antonio Andrews
rushed for 213 yards and five touchdowns against Morgan State. Andrews has rushed for 545 yards, averaged 8.4 yards a carry and scored six touchdowns this year. He is a target out of the backfield with 10 catches for 119 yards. Last year Antonio led WKU with 1,728 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Interestingly Navy almost saw Andrews in another uniform. He was initially recruited at Army
as a quarterback. A late offer from Air Force
and a high pressure recruiting visit to Colorado Springs resulted in Andrews playing a year at Air Force Prep before he returned home to Kentucky. Fullback Kadeem Jones
is used almost exclusively as a blocker. Quarterbacks Todd Porter
and Brandon Doughty
don't pose much of a rushing threat. The offensive line averages 303 pounds across its front and returns three starters from last year.
Navy ranks 48th in the country in stopping the run. They are allowing 137 rushing yards per game. The run defense has been led by the strong play up the middle. Inside linebackers Cody Peterson
(19 tackles) and D.J. Sargenti (16 tackles) are making tackles behind big 303-pound Bernie Sarra
at nose guard. Navy limited Delaware All-American Andrew Pierce
to just 87 yards as the Blue Hens had trouble sustaining any drives last game.
WESTERN KENTUCKY PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Western Kentucky has played musical chairs with four quarterbacks this year. Junior Brandon Doughty looked to be the starter but a plethora of interceptions cost him the job. Freshman Todd Porter started against Morgan State and completed five of his 10 pass attempts for 76 yards and an interception. After the interception he was relieved by junior college transfer Nelson Fishback
. Doughty has completed 78 of his 122 pass attempts (63.9%) for 830 passing yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The starting quarterback will be determined late this week. Junior wide receiver Willie Mcneal
(43 receptions for 566 yards in 2012) is the team's leading returning receiver. This year McNeal has 15 catches for 207 yards. Freshman deep threat Nicholas Norris
has 14 catches for 169 yards and a team leading three touchdowns.
Navy's secondary did a much better job of jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage against Delaware than they did in the opener against Indiana
. Navy allowed the Delaware quarterbacks to complete 19-of-32 passes for 179 passing yards one touchdown while picking off two passes. Plebe cornerback Brandon Clements
(10 tackles, INT., 3 pass def.) picked off his first pass last game. Cornerback Parrish Gaines
(13 tackles) play has been outstanding this year. Direct admit linebacker William Tuider
(7 tackles) is superfast and made an impact rushing off the edge with three quarterback hurries last game. Tuider provided the pressure on Clements interception. Junior free safety Chris Ferguson
has had a quiet start this year with just three tackles in the first two games.
REMARKS: WKU sophomore kicker Garrett Schwettman
has hit his last seven field goal attempts, His career long is 44 yards. He is automatic inside the 40-yard line but doesn't have a very strong leg. Hendrix Brakefield
punted well averaging 42.8 yards on twelve punts. Antonio Andrews does everything but sell popcorn for WKU. He returns both punts and kickoffs and last year had 767 kick return yards and 234 punt return yards. His 3,161 all-purpose yards were the second-highest total ever behind 1988 Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders
. Andrews and Sanders are the only two players in NCAA history to eclipse 3,000 all-purpose yards in a single season.
Navy's kicker Nick Sloan
has hit three of four field goals this year. The kickoff coverage has been outstanding this year. Punter Pablo Beltran
had a great year in 2012. He averaged 43.6 yards on his 44 punts. He nailed 11 punts more than fifty yards. Beltran has only been called on once this year due to the Mids offensive productivity. Beltran boomed his only punt 53 yards which was downed at the three yard line. Marcus Thomas
has averaged 26.0 yards on his only kickoff return. He earned honorable mention All Independent kick returner honors in 2012. Shawn Lynch
averaged 14.0 yards on his punt returns in the first two games.
REMARKS: The hiring of Bobby Petrino has created a lot of excitement for the WKU faithful fans. The home opener against the hapless FCS opponent Morgan State drew the fourth largest crowd in stadium history. There should be a packed house on military appreciation day. Navy is coming off a bye week and Ken Niumatalolo felt he had to light a fire under his team in practice this week due to a lack of focus by the Mids. You can understand the reason for the confidence from the team. Navy is averaging 46.0 points per game this season, the ninth-best scoring average in the country, and has scored a touchdown on 67 percent of its drives.
REMARKS: Bobby Petrino was named WKU's new head coach after losing his job following a sex scandal at Arkansas
. Petrino lacks much integrity but he's had great success as a head college football coach at previous stops Louisville
and Arkansas. Petrino's career record is a stellar 77-28. In his eight seasons as a collegiate head coach, Petrino led his teams to a bowl games in seven of the eight years, including four 10-win seasons, leading both the Cardinals and the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl games in
school history. Petrino guided Arkansas and Louisville to top-10 finishes nationally three different times.
Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 42-26 record. According to Navy beat writer Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette
Niumatalolo lit into players following Mondays practice. Niumatalolo told Wagner. "We win two games and all of a sudden we think we're Super Bowl champs or something. That's not who we are. We're nobody. We're a team that has to scratch and claw to win every game. If we start thinking any differently, we're in trouble." Navy has a chance to open the season with a 3-0 record for the first time since 2006. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper has done a nice job incorporating the spread passing formations into Navy's offense. With Reynolds at the helm this will be a difficult offense to stop. Buddy Green's defense performed well against Delaware. The cornerbacks and the linebackers did a much better job of jamming receivers and keeping them from getting into their routes cleanly.
Navy 31-21. Western Kentucky has a number of talented athletes and is well coached. However, the weakness of their run defense and the lack of a productive passing attack should allow the Mids to pull out a road victory.