Preview: (15 AP/16 Coaches) Rutgers vs. Navy

Week No.2 of the Rutgers college football season is here, and the first test of the year is upon us. The Navy Midshipmen (1-0) roll into Piscataway for a Friday night ESPN rumble with No. 15/16 Rutgers (1-0, 0-0 Big East) that is sure to be black and blue. Let's take a look in our weekly breakdown.

Week 2 of the Rutgers college football season is here, and the first test of the year is upon us. The Navy Midshipmen (1-0) roll into Piscataway for a Friday night ESPN rumble with No. 15/16 Rutgers (1-0, 0-0 Big East) that is sure to be black and blue. Let's take a look in our weekly breakdown.

Rutgers handled Buffalo easily in the opener while Navy had more difficulty than it needed versus Temple. The Scarlet Knights raced to an early lead and never looked back while the Midshipmen failed to put away Temple until late in the fourth quarter.

At least the Scarlet Knights are finally learning their lesson as to when to schedule Navy, a team that inflicts a cost even in defeat. In 2005, Rutgers won the Navy game 31-21 but came out flat against South Florida the following week and could not recover from an early 21-0 deficit en route to a 45-31 home loss at the hands of the Bulls. Last year the Scarlet Knights gutted out a 20-10 victory at Pittsburgh a week after locking horns with the Mids. Rutgers traditionally fares poorly following the Navy game, and the Norfolk State game next week should be a good antidote for this week's bruising affair.

Nobody in college football seems to want to play Navy. The Midshipmen are disciplined, well-coached and physical. Plus, they play an offensive scheme (the triple option) that hardly any Division I-A school uses (Division I-A is now called the Football Bowl Subdivision by the NCAA).



SCOUTING NAVY

The Midshipmen got out to an early14-0 lead and never trailed against Temple in a 30-19 win. Navy moved the ball at will (361 yards rushing). However, the Midshipmen failed to put the Owls away until the late in the fourth quarter and tried to find ways to give the game away. That being said, Temple never threatened to take the game away from the visiting Midshipmen

What does this game tell us? Nothing, really. Navy struggled in the opener against Temple, but consider this: the Midshipmen gutted out wins against East Carolina and Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) Massachusetts last year before getting on track en route to the school's fourth consecutive bowl game. Under coach Paul Johnson, the Midshipmen certainly know how to compartmentalize each game.

Junior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada improved as the Temple game went on, so there's no reason to think he won't be that much better against the Scarlet Knights. He rushed for 102 yards, including a 44-yard scamper and completed three of seven passes for 78 yards.

 

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Navy QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (or Kaipo for shorthand) vs. Rutgers' linebackers.

When the Scarlet Knights knocked out Navy QB Brian Hampton during a 34-0 rout last year, they did a favor to Kaheaku-Enhada in terms of gaining exposure. Navy wasn't going to win that game with or without Hampton, so Kaheaku-Enhada got some valuable snap time to figure out Rutgers' defense. Kaipo throws the ball more than his predecessors, though his arm seems a bit weak on out patterns.

Last season was the first time Rutgers could truly say it had a handle on the triple option and was able to snuff it out. In fact, RU held the Middies to just 113 yards on the ground. With a corps of young linebackers who have not seen significant time against Paul Johnson's offense, the linebackers could be in for a long evening if they don't play assignment football.



2. Navy's offensive line vs. Rutgers' defensive line.

One of the reasons Navy gains so many yards despite everyone in the building knowing what's coming is its offensive line's quickness on the snap. Perhaps no other team in college football gets as quick a start on the snap as Navy, forcing opponents on their heels and allowing the Mids to get to the second level in the run game. Leading the offensive charge of three returning linemen for Navy is senior center Antron Harper, who is on the Lombardi watch list for the nation's top lineman; the Rimington Award for the best center in college football; and the Outland Trophy for the best interior offensive lineman.

Rutgers is slightly undersized (averaging just over 260 pounds on the defensive line vs. Navy's 275 on the O line), but it has speed in its own right to counter Navy's initial burst. Ramel Meekins, who graduated after last season, almost single-handedly dismantled Navy's offense this year, so the defensive tackles in particular will have to step up. The old cliché that "whoever controls the line of scrimmage controls the game" applies here.

            3. Rutgers DTs Eric Foster and Vantrise Studivant vs. Navy FB Adam Ballard

It will be interesting to see how Rutgers' best defensive player fares against Navy's most gifted running back. Ballard will be coming straight at RU's defensive tackles, so they had better be prepared. Ballard scored two touchdowns against Temple and gained XX yards, and Navy's triple option tends to freeze defensive lines.



            4. RU's passing attack against Navy's green defense

The Midshipmen lost nine players on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason. Temple quarterback Dam DiMichele tagged Navy's secondary for 199 yards despite a lack of run support. The Midshipmen seemed to have trouble when he scrambled with the ball, though DiMichele is more mobile than Rutgers QB Mike Teel.

Still, Teel is more seasoned than DiMichele and has a line that will protect him. Rutgers throws three legitimate deep-play threats in junior Tiquan Underwood and sophomores Kenny Britt and Tim Brown. Can Navy match up?



            5. Navy RB Shun White vs. the McCourty twins

Knight has the speed to get the corner, and he gained 122 yards on just eight carries versus Temple. That was his third 100-yard game in his last four and his second straight. Jason (a true junior) and Devin (a redshirt sophomore) are going to be tasked with watching the pitch. White appeared a bit iffy handling the ball against Temple and coughed it up when hit hard in the first half.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH (NAVY)

QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada

In the triple offense, you need a quarterback who is sharp and poised and who knows how to make multiple reads in option situations. Kaipo showed these abilities last year, as well as the occasional flash of passer ability. He has had almost a full year as a starter under center and should be able to handle himself better than he did against the Scarlet Knights last season (2-for-6 passing for 28 yards and 11 net yards rushing on 22 carries, including four sacks). His backup is junior Jarod Bryant, who completed two of 10 passes for 20 yards against the Knights last year.

FB Adam Ballard 

The senior, ranked the third-best fullback in the nation by The Sporting News, is a standout. Being a Navy running back, he of course knows how to dole out punishment to tacklers. He also can hit the hole quickly, though he lacks breakaway speed. He led Navy in rushing last year with 792 yards and three touchdowns, though he broke his leg in the finale against Army and missed the Middies' bowl game. Ballard is a battering ram on short yardage, and he scored twice against Temple while gaining 78 yards on 21 carries.

Slot Back Reggie Campbell

The senior has speed, creating a dual threat in both the running and the passing game. Campbell was the Mids' leading rusher against Rutgers the last two years, gaining 44 yards on nine carries last season and 69 yards on four touches in 2005. He doesn't get a ton of workload in the running game, but he is a threat to score almost every time his number is called.



PLAYERS TO WATCH (RUTGERS)

TB Ray Rice

The talented true junior racked up 184 yards on 25 carries against Buffalo and needs just 17 yards to set the all-time Rutgers rushing record. In the UB game he got a good deal of yardage running behind the blocking of left tackle Pedro Sosa.

WRs Tim Brown and Kenny Britt

We all saw what Tiquan Underwood did last week. That had to fuel Britt, Rutgers' go-to guy heading into the season, to elevate his game. Brown returns from a broken hand this week. While he may not be

DEs Jamaal Westerman and George Johnson

The defensive ends are key to Rutgers halting Navy's rushing attack. They need to be disciplined and poised, as the triple option features multiple looks and cut blocks. Johnson has a nose for the ball and was all over the place against Buffalo, but he needs to play stay-at-home football this week.



Offensive and Defensive Schemes

Navy employs the dreaded triple option attack on offense, a scheme that relies on getting off the snap quickly and taking out opposing defensive ends and linebackers to create holes on the outside. The Middies are also likely to employ traps and dives, keeping Rutgers' front seven off balance in an effort to get into the secondary. Rutgers' 4-3 defense will rely on assignment football, especially on the part of defensive ends, outside linebackers and cornerbacks, who need to stay at home to defend the option properly. Kaipo brings the added element of passing, something the Midshipmen have not employed much in the past, though he was just 3-for-7 against Temple. Navy was dead last in passing last season with 56 yards per game but was tops in the nation with 327 yards per game running the ball.

The Midshipmen run a hybrid 3-4 defense with formations that also resemble a 4-4, 5-2, 4-6 and nickel package, depending on the offense they face. Navy lost nine starters on this side of the ball last year, and it showed against Temple in the opener. While the Midshipmen often confused the Owls with defensive shifts, they also found themselves susceptible in zone coverage. Rutgers' pro style offense will use Ray Rice as a weapon against Navy's green offense and will rely on the ground game to set up a passing attack that looks to pressure the Mids' secondary. But RU's advantage in the offense versus defense paradigm is mitigated by the fact that Navy is one of those teams that effectively use their offenses as defensive weapons. When you're grinding out 7- and 8-minute drives, you're keeping the opposition from scoring.



SPECIAL TEAMS

True senior placekicker Jeremy Ito looked unsettled against Buffalo. He got a late start on field goal attempts, and his timing generally looked off. He was 1-for-3 on field goal attempts against UB, though one of those misses was a 56-yard attempt. He also was not booming kickoffs in the opener like he has in the past, and we still have yet to see what he is like as a punter. Kick coverage was good in the opener against UB, holding the Bulls to less than 20 yards per return.

Junior Navy kicker Matt Harmon, in his second full year with the starting job, was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts against Temple, including a 43-yarder late in the fourth quarter to seal the game. He also converted all three PATs and was effective on kickoffs. Navy limited Temple to just 14.8 yards per kickoff return.



HEAD TO HEAD

The all-time series that began in 1891 is tied at 10-10-1, with RU gaining a 6-4 edge in the last 10 meetings. Rutgers is 4-1 versus Navy during coach Greg Schiano's tenure, including last year's 34-0 shellacking of the Mids in Annapolis. Navy's last victory in Piscataway was a 34-7 decision in the 1999 season.

Last season, Rutgers held Navy to just 113 yards rushing, the Mids' third-lowest total under Johnson. The 161 total yards was Navy's second lowest total with Johnson at the helm. RU has limited Navy to less than 2 yards per carry while rolling up a combined 65-21 score in the last two meetings, both Rutgers wins.



TRENDS/NOTES

Navy, 19-11 in games played away from home in the last five years, is on the road for the second straight week and the second consecutive Friday. The Midshipmen, who have not beat a ranked team on the road since 1985, follow this game with three home games they should win before traveling to Pittsburgh in early October.

Last year was the first time Rutgers followed a game against Navy with a victory the following game since 1999. The Scarlet Knights were 0-5 following Navy week from 2000-05. Rutgers has won eight straight at Rutgers Stadium dating back to 2005. The Scarlet Knights are looking to start the season 2-0 for the third time since 2000 and are trying to put together back-to-back 2-0 starts for the first time since 1993-94 seasons. 



TIME/TV

ESPN will carry the game at 7 p.m. EDT. Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Rob Stone form the broadcast team.



WEATHER

It's looking like clear skies for the game, with a game-time temperature in the upper 60s to low 70s.

 

PERSONNEL

WR Tim Brown is set to return from a broken hand earlier than expected.  OT Pedro Sosa is a game-time decision with a knee injury. Kevin Haslam will switch from guard to tackle, paving the way for true freshman Anthony Davis to see more playing time in the guard slot.  DT Peter Tverdov is still sidelined with a sprained ankle. FB Andres Morales is not likely to play due to a shoulder injury.


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