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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (34,000) -- Annapolis, Maryland. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: FAU 1-2, Navy 2-1. Away Record: FAU 0-4, Navy 3-1. Neutral Record: FAU 0-0, Navy 0-1. Conference Record: FAU 1-4, Navy 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Navy Midshipmen will try to become bowl eligible for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons when they play host to the Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday afternoon.
After winning its season opener against FCS foe Wagner (7-3), FAU suffered a six-game losing streak before finally winning last week in come-from-behind fashion over Troy, 34-27. It was the Owls' first Sun Belt Conference win of the season, snapping a 14-game losing streak against league opponents dating back to Nov. of 2010.
Navy's season started off rough, with losses in three of its first four games. Since then however, it's been smooth sailing for the Midshipmen with four wins in a row, including an impressive decision at East Carolina last week, 56-28.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two programs, but Navy has been perfect in five all-time matchups with teams from the Sun Belt Conference, beating Arkansas State, North Texas, Troy and Western Kentucky (twice) in its history.
The FAU offense (18.4 ppg, 326.4 ypg) has been stagnant for most of the season, but it has come on strong in the past two weeks, scoring 34 points in back-to-back games.
Graham Wilbert has played as well as any Sun Belt quarterback over the past three weeks, completing more than 65 percent of his passes for 825 yards (275 ypg) with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. A career-high four of those TD tosses came against Troy, including the game-winner in the final minute of regulation.
Nexon Dorvilus came up big last week with six catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, and he now has a team-high four TD catches on the season. William Dukes (34 receptions, 480 yards, two TDs) has typically been Wilbert's go-to guy at receiver.
The rushing attack has been lackluster, as the team averages just 3.4 yards per carry, but Jonathan Wallace (382 yards, two TDs) has put up at least 21 carries and 87 yards in back-to-back weeks.
A poor defense has been the major issue for the Owls, as the unit ranks behind of only FIU for most points allowed per game (31.1 ppg).
Big plays have been sparse on defense as it has recorded just nine sacks and five interceptions through eight games. David Hines has 68 tackles and two forced fumbles and also has a team-high 5.5 tackles for loss.
Navy (25.5 ppg) has historically had one of the best rushing attacks in the country, finishing no lower than sixth nationally in each of the past 11 years. It is on pace to do the same this season, as it currently ranks sixth in gaining 269.9 ypg on the ground.
Six different players gain at least 20 rushing yards per game for the Midshipmen, with Gee Gee Greene (511 yards, TD) and Noah Copeland (426 yards, two TDs) getting the most work out of the backfield.
Keenan Reynolds and Trey Miller split time under center, and while neither throw for more than 63 yards per game, both have rushed for at least 246 yards. Reynolds, a freshman, has been the more effective of the two, tossing six touchdowns to just one interception while rushing in five more scores.
The team attempts less than 14 passes per game, so there aren't a lot of balls to go around in the receiving game. Greene has shown big-play ability as a receiver out of the backfield with nine catches for a team-high 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Since allowing 84 combined points in its first two losses, the defense has played much better, surrendering just 17.8 ppg over its last six games.
Matt Warrick (49 tackles, 4.5 TFL, three INTs), Keegan Wetzel (11 TFL, six sacks), and Brye French (49 tackles) make up a very strong linebacking corps. Wetzel had a team-high nine tackles and two sacks last week against ECU.
After such a poor start to the season, FAU has definitely improved its play in recent weeks, and it should be able to put up some points on the Midshipmen, but the Owls' still have plenty of issues on the defensive side of the ball. Navy will have its way at home and cruise to its fifth straight win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 45, Florida Atlantic 27
10/31 10:42:14 ET
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