I bet we're not where you thought we would be three weeks into the season. Rutgers has underperformed out of the gate and finds itself in a big hole heading into its first road game of the season. Similarly, Navy is on a two-game losing streak and hasn't been able to put the Ws up on the board. However, the Midshipmen have been a lot better at scoring touchdowns than the Scarlet Knights. Navy's offense averages 31.7 points per game to RU's 9.5.
The game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Eastern time at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. CBS College Sports (formerly CSTV) will carry the broadcast, with Tom Hart and Trev Alberts forming the play-by-play team. CBS College Sports can be seen on channel 152 on Dish Network, channel 613 on DirecTV and channel 412 on IO TV in New Jersey. If you're in Annapolis, Md., do yourself a favor and get there early to watch the procession into the stadium.
The Mids, under first-year head coach Ken Niumatalolo, got off to a fast start but have struggled since. Navy cruised past Towson 41-13 in the opening game Aug. 30 but has dropped consecutive games to Ball State and Duke to fall below .500. No one has really stopped the Midshipmen's offensive attack (457.3 yard per game), but Navy has allowed 76 points and 884 yards of total offense in the last two games. For comparison, RU has allowed 68 points and 800 yards of total offense in its first two contests.
Rutgers' slump couldn't come at a better time for a Navy squad trying to get off the schneid. Following the Rutgers game, the Midshipmen face a tough row at Wake Forest and Air Force before returning home for a game against Pittsburgh Oct. 18. If the Mids don't win here, they may be facing a 1-5 mark in early October.
The dreaded triple option is back. While the Scarlet Knights have been able to minimize Navy's running threat the last two years (367 combined yards rushing, 24 combined points against), stopping the option takes discipline and assignment football. Navy's offense is predicated upon the run, but it's not so simple to stop when offensive linemen are constantly pulling and taking the play at linebackers and cornerbacks. RU's young defense will be called upon to hold Navy in check.
Slot back Shun White paces an attack that leads the nation with 370.3 yards rushing per game. White averages 196 yards per game and has scored four times with a 12.5 yards per rush average. No one has found a way to stop the versatile senior who ran for a school-record 248 yards against Towson in the opener.
Senior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada missed the first two games with a hamstring strain and started last week against Duke before being pulled because of heat exhaustion. Senior co-captain Jarod Bryant started in his place the first two games and replaced him in the Duke game. Bryant has completed 13 of 22 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions, including a 68-yard strike to Tyree Barnes against Duke. If Navy goes to more of a passing attack with Bryant is under center, it could be bad news for a beleaguered Rutgers secondary.
Just as Navy has been impressive moving the ball this season, the Mids have been equally unimpressive stopping the other team. Navy runs a 3-4 scheme that is better equipped at stopping the run than the pass, and the Mids are ranked 114th out of 119 teams in pass defense (324.3 yard against per game).
Navy ranks 112th in pass efficiency defense and 91st in total defense, allowing nearly 415 yards against through its first three games. Each opponent has notched at least 300 yards passing and two touchdowns against Navy's defense.
Rutgers should be able to move the ball on the Midshipmen. The question is can the Scarlet Knights finish in the red zone, with just two touchdowns through their first two games?
Kicker Matt Harmon is among the most accurate in the nation, and his only miss this year came on a 47-yard attempt against Towson in the opener. Harmon is 6-for-7 on field goals and is a perfect 11-for-11 on PATs. Punter Kyle Delahooke has not received much work this year, but he has had one of his five attempts blocked.
Navy has not turned any heads in its return game, though the Scarlet Knights should be wary of John Angele and Emmett Merchant on kickoffs. Each has a kick return of at least 25 yards this season.
HEAD TO HEAD
Rutgers leads the all-time series 11-10-1 and has won six of the last seven games in the series. Starting in 1995, the teams have met every year except in 2002. RU has won three straight against Navy, including a 34-0 decision in 2006, the last time the teams played in Annapolis.
Last season, Rutgers got out to a 2-0 start on the campaign with a 41-24 victory over the visiting Midshipmen, and a pair of interceptions in the end zone by Ron Girault and Courtney Greene helped RU hold off a determined Navy squad. The Scarlet Knights scored on seven of their nine possessions, including a 53-yard pass play from Mike Teel to Kenny Britt in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Standout running back Ray Rice tallied 175 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including his only receiving TD of the year.
The teams have two common opponents this season in Pittsburgh and Army. Navy hosts Pitt on Oct. 18, one week before the Scarlet Knights travel to Heinz Field to take on the Panthers. RU plays host to Army on Nov. 22, and Navy finishes out the regular season with its battle against the Black Knights Dec. 6 at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field.
On Sept. 5, the Midshipmen lost 35-25 to Ball State, Rutgers' opponent in the International Bowl last season (a 52-30 RU win).
Rutgers is on a two-game losing streak for the third time since 2004. The Scarlet Knights have not dropped three straight since the 2004 season when they lost their final five outings. Since that season RU has gone to three straight bowl games. . . . Despite not scoring a touchdown, wide receiver Kenny Britt is on pace for 1,000 yards again this season. Britt , who racked up a team-high 1,232 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in 2007, has 198 yards receiving through the first two games (on pace for 1,188 yards in a regular season). . . . Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is 5-1 against Navy, the only loss coming in a 54-21 rout at Navy in 2004.
Navy has not lost three straight games since a 2-10 record during former coach Paul Johnson's first season at the helm. The Mids have been to five consecutive bowl games since. . . . The Midshipmen are a first-half team this year. Navy has outscored opponents 64-54 in the first two quarters and has been outscored 35-31 in the second half. The last two opponents - Ball State and Duke - have outscored the Mids 35-14 in the final two quarters. . . . Navy has four New Jersey players, including three seniors, on this year's squad. Seniors Anthony Gaskins (OG), Sander Gossard (OT) and John Maddox (NG); and sophomore Shane Bothel (DE) all hail from the Garden State. . . . This is the second of three consecutive games against Bowl Championship Series opponents for the Midshipmen. Next week the Mids travel to Winston Salem, N.C., to take on Wake Forest, ranked No. 18 in this week's polls. . . . Navy is 45-55-4 against current members of the Big East, including winning records against Cincinnati (2-0), Connecticut (6-1) and West Virginia (6-2).
Rutgers: DE Gary Watts (knee) is out for the season and will require surgery. Freshman Eric LeGrand, a former linebacker, steps in as a backup at defensive end on the two-deep roster. RB Kordell Young (knee) is questionable for this game.
Navy: FB Eric Kettani (left hip strain) is probable after suffering his injury in his only carry against Duke last week. . . . QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (hamstring) will make the start, but reports are that he is not in complete game shape after missing the first two games. . . . Starting offensive tackle Andrew McGinn (concussion) missed the Ball State and Duke games but is probable.
IT should be sunny with a dry track for this one, as the National Weather Service is calling for a high in the mid 70s.