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Navy (2-3) at Rutgers (4-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 15th, 2:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Navy 1-2, Rutgers 3-0. Away Record: Navy 1-1, Rutgers 1-1. Neutral Record: Navy 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: Navy 0-0, Rutgers 2-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 11-11-1.
GAME NOTES: The Midshipmen have lost their course, but Navy will try to get back on track when the team docks in Piscataway to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Point Solutions Stadium this weekend.
The Midshipmen opened the season with two wins, but since then it has been one loss after another. In fact, Navy sails into this game mired in a three-game slide. Navy suffered heartbreaking losses to South Carolina and Air Force, falling by a combined four points. However, this past weekend without their best player Alex Teich, the Midshipmen were crushed by Southern Mississippi, 63-35.
Meanwhile the Scarlet Knights are proving to be a possible threat for West Virginia's run at Big East supremacy. So far Rutgers has lost only once and it was a tough, 24-22 setback to North Carolina on the road. Since then though the Scarlet Knights have won two straight games, defeating Syracuse in overtime and clobbering Pittsburgh, 34-10, this past weekend.
This all-time series is tied, as Navy and Rutgers have won 11 games apiece, while tying once. The last meeting took place in 2008 and the Midshipman walked away with a narrow, 23-21 victory.
Even if Teich was on the field for Navy, it would not have mattered, because the fullback does not play defense. The Midshipmen finished with 35 points, which is usually a point total that is accompanied by victories, but that was not the case this weekend, because Navy's defense surrendered 63 points.
Without Teich the Midshipmen still found success on the ground, rumbling for 421 yards on 6.9 yards per attempt. Kriss Proctor led the way with 123 rushing yards and also threw for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Delvin Diggs scored twice on the ground for Navy and finished with 93 yards, while John Howell posted 66 yards, to go along with one touchdown.
Through four games Proctor has been the best running option for Navy, as the quarterback is leading the tram with 524 yards and seven touchdown. Surprisingly Teich only has one score on the season, but he is second on the team with 408 rushing yards, and should be ready to go in this matchup, if he is no longer suspended.
As mentioned earlier, Teich's absence did not cost Navy a win, the performance of the defense did, and this is becoming a habit for coach Ken Niumatalolo's men.
Through five games the Midshipmen are allowing 30.6 ppg and the strength for the offense, has been the weakness for the defense because opponents have clobbered this unit via the run. So far the Midshipmen are surrendering 220.8 ypg and 15 of the 20 touchdowns allowed by this defense have come on the ground.
In the loss to Southern Miss the Midshipmen struggled again to stop the run, allowing 283 yards and four touchdowns on 5.7 yards per carry. However, to make matters worse the defense also surrendered 301 yards through the air and another four scores.
Navy's defense has now surrendered 98 points in two games and until this unit can tighten things up, getting back in the win column won't be easy. Matt Warrick has been the best performer thus far for Navy, and comes into this weekend leading the team with 41 tackles.
It wasn't pretty, but quarterback Gary Nova was able to lead Rutgers to another league win. Nova completed less than 50 percent of his throws in his first start, but did manage to finish with 174 yards and two scores. It was a gutsy performance by the signal caller, especially considering the team did not find much success on the ground. Rutgers finished with just 97 yards on a mere 2.3 yards per attempt.
Running the ball has been a problem for the Scarlet Knights all year, and it is because the team does not have a workhorse to handle the bulk of the load. Jawan Jamison carried the ball 21 times against Pitt, but finished with only 44 yards. Savon Huggins added 42 yards and one touchdown on only 10 totes, so expect him to see some more work this upcoming weekend.
Nova should start again this weekend against Navy, but he will be on a short leash and it is very likely Chase Dodd will see time under center if Nova falters. Regardless of who is calling the plays, Mohamed Sanu has to see the ball more. The team's top receiver hauled in only two passes this past weekend, but despite the mediocre showing, Sanu is still leading the team with 45 receptions, 455 yards and five touchdowns.
The offense did enough for the team to win, but it was the performance by the defense that earned Rutgers its fourth victory. The Scarlet Knights were relentless against Tino Sunseri and Pitt's passing attack, forcing four interceptions, while claiming six sacks.
The team's ability to limit Pitt through the air overshadowed the defense's problems against the run. Rutgers' inability at stopping the run was a bit surprising considering the team is holding opponents on the season to just 101.2 yards per matchups.
What has propelled the Scarlet Knights has been their ability to force mistakes. So far, Rutgers is tied with South Carolina with 22 takeaways and leads the nation with a turnover margin of +2.80. However, that is only half of the story for this defense, which is also second in the nation with 20 sacks, trailing only Texas A&M's 21 on the year.
Leading the way in that category for Rutgers is Justin Francis, who comes into this game with 4.5 sacks. The pressure supplied by Francis and company has allowed Duron Harmon to lead the squad with four interceptions.
The Midshipmen run on every team, so Rutgers should be ready to allow some rushing yards. However, the defense for the Scarlet Knights is too tough and should limit Navy's one-dimensional attack. With the defense playing at this level the offense just has to take care of the ball and find the end zone just a couple of times to earn a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 27, Navy 17
10/12 10:38:14 ET