The Midshipmen are 3-6 and have to win out the season if they want to play in the Military Bowl.
"It's a one-game season," Navy coach Ken Niumataololo said. "This next game is the most important game of the season. We have to find a way to win the next game. That's all we can do."
Luckily for Navy, history is on its side. The Midshipmen have won four straight games against SMU (6-3), and seven of the last night. This includes last year's 28-21 comeback win in Annapolis, Md. In that game, the Mustangs were up 14-0 at halftime but turned the ball over twice in the second half, which Navy turned into touchdowns.
Kyle Padron was intercepted late in the fourth and SMU still had a chance to get the ball back with 90 seconds to play, but was unable to rally.
In 2009, Navy beat SMU 38-35 in overtime at Ford Stadium.
In other words, it hasn't been a fun series for the Mustangs in quite some time.
Another thing about this matchup that doesn't excite SMU is Navy's triple option, which has led to a nationally third-ranked rushing attack that averages 318 yards per game.
"Our guys just gotta play their blocks and execute their assignments and if they do that, they're fine against it," defensive coordinator Tom Mason said. "The biggest thing is if you make one assignment bust, it could be a 60-yard touchdown. You gotta play your responsibility every snap."
"That fullback is a good, strong runner, and of course their quarterback…the offense goes as he goes," Mason said. "We'll need a guy watching the quarterback."
The Midshipmen may be able to run, but they're not so keen on stopping it. Nationally, Navy has the 88th-ranked total defense and the 87th-ranked rushing defense, so stopping Zach Line will be quite the challenge.
And if J.J. McDermott plays like he has in every win this season, the Run and Shoot will be hard to stop, too.
Since 2009, the winner of this game has received the Frank Gansz Trophy. Gansz played linebacker at Navy from 1957-59 and coached for 38 seasons after that – 24 in the NFL and 14 in college, including stints at none other than Navy and SMU. His son, Frank Gansz Jr., is in his first year as the Mustangs' special teams coordinator.
Asked if this game means a little extra to him, Gansz Jr. said, "It's not any different from any other week. We're playing for a trophy in honor of his name that Navy has right now, but for us, our objective is to win No. 7. That, and the fact that we haven't beaten these guys. That draws focus for everybody.
"It's great they want to honor my father in this game, but I want to win this game first and foremost and that's what my dad would want. He would just be proud of us that we have six wins at this point in the season with a chance to win seven."
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