Navy (2-0) at Western Kentucky (2-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Houchens-Smith Stadium (22,113) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: ESPN News. Home Record: Navy 1-0, WKU 1-0. Away Record: Navy 1-0, WKU 0-2. Neutral Record: Navy 0-0, WKU 1-0. Conference Record: Navy 0-0, WKU 0-1. Series Record: Navy leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will play host to the run heavy Navy Midshipmen on Saturday in a non-conference brawl at Houchens Smith Stadium.
With wins against Indiana (41-35) and FCS foe Delaware (51-7) in its first two games, Navy has a chance to start a season at 3-0 for the first time since 2006. The Midshipmen have gone 2-0 twice now in the last three seasons.
As for the Hilltoppers, they have split their four games this year. The campaign began with an impressive 35-26, win over Kentucky before a 52-20 setback against Tennessee and a 31-24 disappointment against South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference opener. This is just the second home game for the Hilltoppers thus far, with the other coming last weekend when they topped FCS foe Morgan State (58-17).
In 2011 Navy rolled to a 40-14 victory over WKU in Bowling Green. The Midshipmen rushed for 410 yards in the victory, their second in as many all- time meetings with the Hilltoppers.
This time around the Hilltoppers can expect just as much running from the Navy offense. The Midshipmen are averaging 398 rushing yards per game through two games, which is the highest mark in the nation. Navy also ranks 11th in the country in yards per attempt (6.03). Of the 92 points the Midshipmen have scored, 60 have come via the run, as the Midshipmen have 10 rushing touchdowns in just two games.
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds may not make a huge impact through the air each week, but he is still a vital part of the triple-option attack for Navy. Reynolds leads the Midshipmen in carries (47), rushing yards (236) and rushing touchdowns (three). Reynolds is one of just three quarterbacks in the country to be averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game. When he has been forced to pass, Reynolds has been competent enough, completing 12-of-17 attempts for 304 yards and two scores.
Chris Swain (23 carries, 78 yards, two TDs) is second on the team in rushing attempts but has not been very strong in picking up large chunks of yardage. That role has been filled better by Darius Staten (130 yards, TD) and Geoffrey Whiteside (127 yards, two TDs), who are each averaging more than 10 yards per carry. DeBrandon Sanders only has seven carries on the season but already has 86 yards.
Navy has been a mediocre defensive squad early on. The Midshipmen are letting up 21 points and 408.5 yards per game. Navy hasn't done a very good job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks with just two sacks, both of which came against the Blue Hens. Navy has been solid in forcing turnovers, while the offense has done a good job of holding onto the ball. The Midshipmen's +1.5 turnover margin per game is the 11th best mark in the country.
Cody Peterson has been a tackling machine for the Midshipmen, with 19 already this season. However just one has come for loss. Unfortunately that is tied for the team-lead for Navy, which has just four total tackles for loss.
On the year Western Kentucky is averaging 473.8 yards and 34.2 points per game. Like Navy, the Hilltoppers know a bit about relying on the run, as they are tied for 27th nationally in rushing yards per game (226.8).
It is easy to call so many run plays when you have a back like Antonio Andrews to give the ball to. Andrews has totaled 545 yards and six touchdowns on the season and has had at least 99 yards in all four games, including his 213- yard, five-touchdown outburst against Morgan State. Backup Leon Allen (31 carries, 184 yards) has been productive as well.
The rushing game has also been leaned on heavily due to the erratic play of quarterback Brandon Doughty. The signal caller has completed 63.9 percent of his pass attempts for 830 yards and five touchdowns, but his eight interceptions have really painted his performance in a negative light.
Four different receivers have double-digit receptions on the season with Willie McNeal (15 receptions, 207 yards) and Nicholas Norris (14 receptions, 171 yards, three TDs) representing the top options.
As far as defensive production goes, Western Kentucky hasn't been overly impressive, though it has kept itself in games most weeks. The Hilltoppers are allowing teams to score 31.5 points and total 383 yards per game. The Hilltoppers have struggled to get stops in the red zone, where foes have scored at an 80 percent clip, while their nine total sacks rank second in the Sun Belt. That is primarily due to the efforts of Xavius Boyd, who leads the team in tackles (45), tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (5.5).
Navy has played a team from a BCS conference and an FCS school, with drastically different results, so it is difficult to pinpoint where the Midshipmen currently stand. That should be become clearer on the road against a team that can grind out wins thanks to Andrews.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 30, Navy 28
09/25 10:36:46 ET