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Navy (0-0) vs. Maryland (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, September 6th, 4:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: M&T Bank Stadium (71,008) -- Baltimore, Maryland. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Navy 0-0, Maryland 0-0. Away Record: Navy 0-0, Maryland 0-0. Neutral Record: Navy 0-0, Maryland 0-0. Conference Record: Navy 0-0, Maryland 0-0. Series Record: Navy leads, 14-6.
GAME NOTES: For the 21st time Maryland and Navy will clash on the football field, as the Terrapins and Midshipmen open their respective 2010 campaigns at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The Terps won the most recent meeting between the two schools on the gridiron, defeating Navy, 23-20 back in 2005. However, the Midshipmen hold a 14-6 edge over Maryland in the all-time series and that includes a 3-2 edge over the Terps in matchups in Baltimore.
The Midshipmen are coming off a sensational season in which the team reeled off 10 victories, en route to its seventh straight Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo set a school record with 18 wins in his first two seasons on the sideline for Navy and with the winning campaign in 2009 the Midshipmen have posted eight or more wins in seven straight seasons.
Ralph Friedgen will begin his 10th season on the sideline for Maryland, and the coach will be looking for a much improved team. Friedgen posted 10-win campaigns in his first three seasons in College Park, but last year was one of his worst at Maryland, as the Terps finished with a terrible 2-10 ledger. However, Friedgen's team has performed well in season openers, winning six of nine, and five of its last six.
In 2010 Navy will go as far as quarterback Ricky Dobbs can lead them. Dobbs is coming off an amazing 2009 campaign in which he rushed for 1,203 yards and broke Tim Tebow's record for rushing touchdowns scored by a quarterback with 27. What could be a scary thought is that Dobbs prepared throughout the off- season and heads into the opener looking to perfect the triple-option.
Dobbs will not be the only player carrying the ball for Navy in 2010, as coach Niumatalolo will use Aaron Santiago and Gee Gee Greene at slot back. However, if neither play can perform on a consistent basis there are plenty of options that can step in.
For a triple-option to be truly successful the offensive line must be top notch and fortunately for Navy that is the case, as seniors Jeff Battipaglia and Matt Malloy are back for their senior campaigns.
On top of the strong play offensively, the Midshipmen also put forth a tenacious effort defensively in 2009.
The front line will be anchored by Jabaree Tuani, who is entering his junior campaign. Tuani is looking to bounce back after suffering through a mediocre sophomore season.
The linebacking corps is very inexperienced heading into the new season. Senior middle linebacker Tyler Simmons is the lone returnee with any experience, as his 68 tackles ranked third on the team. Aaron McCauley will also get the nod to start the opener on the outside, and he will need to make an immediate impact.
It is quite the opposite situation in the secondary, where the Midshipmen return a wealth of veteran players. Senior rover Wyatt Middleton doubles as defensive captain and consistent playmaker. Middleton, a starter since his freshman year, collected 68 tackles a year ago.
The Terps had plenty of problems last season offensively, but there are some major components back for the upcoming season, beginning with Da'Rel Scott.
Scott, who was a First-Team All-ACC selection in 2008, had a terrible showing last year, finishing with just 424 yards. However, with three starters back on the offensive line, look for Scott to return to his 2008 form. If Scott is unable to get things going, there is a strong chance Davin Meggett could steal some carries.
The passing game will now be in the hands of junior Jamarr Robinson, who started two games in 2009 and saw time in five others. Robinson will certainly benefit from the play of junior wideout Torrey Smith, whose versatility earned him All-ACC Second-Team honors as both a receiver and return specialist. The other side of the field will be manned by senior Adrian Cannon, giving Robinson two dangerous targets.
Much like the offense, the defense for Maryland had trouble finding a groove in 2009. Unfortunately for coach Friedgen there is not much experience back, so it is unclear if this unit will be improved in the new season.
One of the few returning starters for this unit however, is linebacker Alex Wujciak. The 6-2, 230-pound senior is one of the top linebackers in the entire nation, coming off a season in which he ranked eighth nationally in tackles per game (10.92), en route to All-ACC First-Team honors.
Joining Wujciak at linebacker will be senior Adrian Moten, and sophomore Demetrius Hartsfield. Hartsfield has plenty of potential and could catch a few eyes in the opener.
The linebackers could be very busy this season, with three sophomores starting on the defensive line on Monday. Drew Gloster is the lone veteran up front, but out of the three underclassmen look for Justin Anderson to make the biggest impact.
Cameron Chism, who collected four interceptions a year ago, will be the leader in the secondary and is a solid option at corner. However, the big question mark lies at the other corner slot, which will be split between Trenton Hughes and Dexter McDougle. Both players will get plenty of chances to showcase their talents on Monday and throughout the season.
The Midshipmen are not a complicated team, their goal is to run their opponent into the ground. Maryland is coming off a very poor 2009 campaign and a win to start the new season off would be fantastic, but it is unlikely to happen. Dobbs and company should have this Navy squad in the win column by the final whistle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 35, Maryland 24
09/01 10:42:12 ET