Navy (1-0) at Western Kentucky (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 10th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: LT Smith Stadium (22,113) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Navy 1-0, WKU 0-1. Away Record: Navy 0-0, WKU 0-0. Neutral Record: Navy 0-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: Navy 0-0, WKU 0-0. Series Record: Navy leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Navy will head to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the first-time ever when the Midshipmen get set to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at LT Smith Stadium.
This is Navy's first matchup in Bowling Green, but it is not the first meeting between the two schools. In 2009 the Midshipmen hosted WKU and claimed a convincing, 38-22 victory over the Hilltoppers.
The continued success of Navy's football program is impressive. In 2010 the Midshipmen posted their fourth nine-win campaign in the team's last seven seasons. Prior to that Navy had just nine nine-win campaigns in 122 years of competition. This year's squad opened with an impressive 40-17 decision over Delaware at home.
As for the Hilltoppers, they did not enjoy similar success in their opener, as they posted just three points in a loss to Kentucky. It has been a tough transition for the Hilltoppers since joining the FBS ranks in 2008. Over the last three years Western Kentucky has just four victories, two of which came last year. However, neither of those wins came at home and with the 14-3 loss to Kentucky to open this year the Hilltoppers have now lost 16 straight home matchups.
It might be a new season, but coach Ken Nuimatalolo and his Midshipmen have not changed their offensive approach. Navy opened the year by scoring 40 points behind a devastating rushing attack. The victim this time around was Delaware.
Navy racked up 391 rushing yards on an impressive 6.6 yards per attempt, led by quarterback Kriss Proctor, who gashed the Blue Hens for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. Alexander Teich added 65 yards, while Aaron Santiago posted 56 yards and one score on just six carries.
Navy has posted eight consecutive winning seasons, and while the offensive attack gets most of the attention, a large reason for the recent success is due to the play of the defense.
In fact, that is the perfect formula for winning at any level of football. A dangerous ground game plus an above average defense equals victories more often than not. Last year Navy held the opposition to just 23.3 ppg. That is not an outstanding number, but definitely strong enough behind Navy's rushing attack.
In the opener the Midshipmen put forth another strong showing, as they held Delaware to just 17 points. Navy did surrendered 220 rushing yards in the game, and that is definitely concerning for coach Niumatalolo, especially since the team had trouble in that area in 2010.
Slowly but surely the Hilltoppers have improved offensively since joining the FBS, but that was not apparent in the team's opener against Kentucky. The reason that the Hilltoppers have enjoyed moderate increases in scoring over the past couple years is due to the rushing attack, which posted 173 and 175 yards per contests, respectively, over the last two seasons.
Against the Wildcats the Hilltoppers did churn out 141 yards, but did so on just 42 carries (3.4 ypc). Bobby Rainey, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last year led the way in the loss with 105 yards on 28 totes.
While the ground game was not overwhelming it certainly wasn't the reason for the team's lack of production. That honor goes to the passing attack, which was led by Kawaun Jakes.
Last year Jakes threw just six interceptions in 291 passing attempts, but already through one game the signal caller has four picks. Clearly Jakes was not at his best, completing just 9-of-27 passes for only 93 yards. Despite the terrible performance Jakes will be under center for the Hilltoppers on Saturday. However, coach Willie Taggert might have him on a short leash.
The poor play offensively took the spotlight away from WKU's defense, which was outstanding. Over the past three years this unit has been demoralized by opponents, and seemed out of place in the football subdivision. So, the fact that the Hilltoppers only allowed 14 points against the SEC Kentucky Wildcats is an achievement in itself.
Even more impressive was Western Kentucky's ability to stop the run. Coach Taggert's squad allowed over 170.0 ypg in 2010, but against Kentucky the Hilltoppers shut the door, allowing just 93 yards on 2.8 yards per attempt.
The Hilltoppers even held the Wildcats to under 100 yards passing and finished with three interceptions. Andrew Jackson had a stellar season-opening performance, collecting 12 tackles to go along with one sack. Obviously it was just one game, but if WKU can provide similar performances on this side of the football than the team could be in line for a major increase in victories.
Western Kentucky's defense play against Kentucky was impressive, but look for that unit to take a large step backwards this weekend. Stopping the Wildcats ground game is one thing, but going against Navy's rushing attack is a completely different animal. Look for the Midshipmen to run right through the Hilltoppers, en route to another convincing victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 38, Western Kentucky 16
09/07 10:38:03 ET