Navy faces Army in Baltimore on Saturday
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE VS. ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
The Navy career of Will Worth ended last Saturday when the quarterback with the fairytale story was injured against Temple. Worth finished the season 72 of 117 attempts for 1,397 yards, eight touchdowns, and three interceptions. After Worth went down the Navy fans got to see sophomore Zach Abey with extended playing time for the time in his Mids career. Abey is seven of 13 for 104 yards with two picks on the season.
The Army defense has played exceptionally well this season and the defense was dominant in only giving u three points and 96 passing yards last time out against Morgan State. Army has the sixth-best passing defense in the nation and the Black Knights give up just 164.5 yards through the air. Army has also allowed just 11 touchdowns passing in 2016. The only team to really move the ball on the Black Knights through the air was Notre Dame.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE VS. ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
We all know that Navy wants to run the ball all day long and the Mids average an obscene 327.5 yards per game on the ground, good for the second-best rushing game in the country. The Mids leading rusher on the year is quarterback Will Worth who has 1,198 yards and 25 touchdowns on 264 carries. Again, though, the Mids will be without Worth this weekend after the offense failed to get going against Temple even with him under center. Abey did show some talent in the loss as he rushed 14 times for 70 yards and a score. Navy has rushed for 54 touchdowns this season, but with all the injuries, it is hard to predict what the rushing attack will look like this weekend.
The Army rushing defense has been spectacular in 2016 and teams just cannot move the ball on the ground against the Black Knight's defensive front. Army only increased its ranking against the run last time out as the Black Knights held Morgan State to just 28 yards (and no scores) on 34 carries. On the back of that game Army ranks 19th in the nation in rushing yardage allowed, giving up just 124 yards per game and only allowing 14 touchdowns.
ARMY PASSING OFFENSE VS. NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
Army has passed for 886 yards this season on 50 receptions and has seven passing touchdowns. Most of those passes have come from junior QB Ahmad Bradshaw who has attempted 84 passes, and 36 have been completed sitting at roughly 43% on the season. This is a bad passing game that has thrown three more interceptions than touchdowns on the season. The major factor in this passing attack is WR Edgar Poe. Poe has 14 receptions for 292 yards and three of the Black Knights seven touchdown catches for the year.
The Navy passing defense has been an issue all year long as Mids have had to outscore opponents to win. The Mids now rank 104th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game at 259.4. Navy gave up two more passing scores against Temple and have now allowed 25 touchdowns through the air in 2016, though the Mids did do a pretty good job in holding Phillip Walker to under 200 yards passing. Navy still struggles mightily when it comes to taking the ball away and with no picks against the Owls they are still ranked 111th in the country in this category with six interceptions on the year.
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE VS. NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
Army is rushing the ball better than all but one team in the country and the Black Knights average 328.9 yards per game on the ground. It is a balanced rushing attack with nine different ball carriers having rushed for over 100 yards on the season and 11 players having scored at least one of the Black Knights 37 rushing touchdowns. The running game was utterly dominant last time out against Morgan State as Army rushed for 504 yards and seven touchdowns on 60 carries. Andy Davidson is the man to watch as two more touchdowns against the Bears to his season total to nine rushing scores.
The Navy rushing defense was pretty good against Temple, save for a couple of major breakdowns. The Owls rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns on the day, with their top two backs combining for 138 yards on 29 carries. Navy ranks 67th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 176.3 yards per game on the ground. The Navy rushing defense does clamp down in the red zone and the Mids have given up just 18 touchdowns on the ground.
Navy's Bennett Moehring had a successful day against Temple where he hit a field goal and an extra point. Moehring has now connected on 6-of-8 field goals with a long of 40 yards on the year. Moehring has missed three extra points (57-of-60) and both his field goal misses were in the 30-39 yard bracket. The Navy return game is strong and punter Alex Batra continues to improve as a field position weapon for the Mids. Barta has three punts for 142 yards against Temple and his long punt of 63 yards was a beauty.
The Army special teams had a much better outing than has been common this year in the Morgan State win. The Black Knights kickers combined to go 5-of-5 on extra point attempts, while Blake Wilson made the only field goal of the day (47 yards) for Army. Wilson and Mitchell Howard have now combined to have combined to go 6-of-12 on the season of field goal attempts. The return game was still not strong, however, with six total kicks and punts returned for just 14 yards.
Third-year Army head coach Jeff Monken is 12-23 at Army. He previously was the head coach at Georgia Southern and was 38-16 with the Golden Eagles, but he was winless in the FCS playoffs in three attempts. Monken has had stints all over the country before becoming a college head coach, including putting in time at Navy, Georgia Tech, and Buffalo. Monken has coached Army back to the postseason in his third season on the job.
Ninth-year Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is 76-40 at Navy. He previously was the offensive line coach at Navy under Paul Johnson and took the head coaching role for the Mids' bowl game at the end of the 2007 season. Niumatalolo previously coached on staffs ate Hawaii and UNLV. Niumatalolo is the better coach in this game, but his skills will be tested given the injuries and attrition faced by Navy this weekend.
Normally a 14 game winning streak would count for something in the intangibles section, but this doesn't feel like a regular Army-Navy contest. The amount of rest that Army has had (three weeks) compared to Navy (eight weeks playing in a row) just cannot be overstated. The other big factor here is the loss of Will Worth given everything he had become to this Navy offense. Worth leads the nation in touchdowns and his ability to make the correct decisions and protect the ball in the option attack was huge for the Mids. With Worth out it is Army that has the advantage coming into this one.
Prediction: Navy 21, Army 28. All streaks have to end eventually and it seems like this year is the best shot the Black Knights have had at the Mids in years. That this excellent opportunity comes on the back of one of the best seasons Navy has ever had is ironic, if a little unfortunate.