It is not all that surprising the United States Naval Academy is among the most disciplined in college football.
Navy is currently tied for second in the country in fewest penalties per game, 3.4. It is third in fewest penalty yards per game, 26.6. The Midshipmen have finished atop college football in at least one of those standings every year dating back to 2009.
“Navy has been good for many years,” said Coach Dennis Franchione. “They play with such discipline, pride, heart and execution. They play with (a physical) option game and they challenge us to go from playing Louisiana Tech last week to playing the spread option this week.”
The Bobcats will travel to Annapolis, Md. to face the Navy Midshipmen for the first time in the teams’ history. Both are moving on from losses. Texas State is coming off a game where it committed 13 penalties for a total of 125 yards.
Over the last 11 years, Navy has never finished below sixth in the country in rushing yards. It was the No. 1 rushing team four out of five years from 2003-2008. Its rushing attack is one of the reasons the team has won more BCS games as a non-BCS school than any other program.
This year’s squad plans on keeping that streak alive as it currently ranks sixth with 274 yards per contest. The Bobcats have faced two teams ranked currently in the top 10 in rushing. University of New Mexico is just ahead of Navy, averaging 311 yards, and the University of Nevada-Reno is ninth, averaging more than 250 yards.
“This is a challenging week going from the type of offense we saw last week to Navy’s spread bone,” Franchione said. “It is a totally different concept. I don’t think anybody is going to break any passing records on us this week, but they do throw it a bunch underhand and backwards.”
In this specific scheme, many different players touch the ball. This scheme is evident by the fact Navy has had 17 different players who have scored touchdowns this season, good enough for second in the country. The team has had four separate players reach 100 yards rushing this season.
True freshman Keenan Reynolds won his first four games after being named the starter against Central Michigan University. He has done a majority of damage on the ground rushing for 622 yards on 115 carries, which is second on the team. He has added nine rushing touchdowns and eight passing. If he qualified for passing efficiency, Reynolds would lead the nation with a 177.4 rating.
Senior slot back Gee Gee Greene has started the last 35 games at that position for the Midshipmen. Greene is having his best season with a team leading 679 yards rushing on 90 carries for a 7.5 average. He is coming off a career best 150 yards in a 41-31 loss at Troy University.
The Navy defense ranks among the middle of the pack this season but held San Jose State to only 12 points while giving up 388 yards, compared to the 571 yards the Bobcats surrendered. The Spartans mustered four field goals in the contest and were held scoreless in the first quarter.
“Texas State, they run a pistol-offense. It will be good practice for us,” said Navy linebacker Brye French. “We want to fly around and us seniors want to go out with a ‘W.’ Texas State is a great team and we are going to have to play a perfect game.”
Navy is 28th in the country in red-zone defense, allowing only 29 scores in 38 opportunities, forcing four turnovers and four turnovers on downs. The team is led by senior outside linebacker Keegan Wetzel, who leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
“(Texas State) has the option factor,” said Navy Defensive Coordinator Buddy Green. “They have the capability of spreading you out. They have a really good running game inside. Plus they have a really good play action boot game that keeps you off-balance. They do it all.”
The defense has had an infusion of youth this season, playing as many as eight true freshmen, a majority of them in the secondary. Four of its starters on defense are seniors, including linebacker Matt Warrick, who plays next to Wetzel.
Warrick is among the leaders on the team in tackles with 64 on the season. He leads the team with three interceptions. The team leader is Tra’ves Bush, a senior rover who mans the secondary.
Sophomore cornerback Parrish Gaines is second on the team in picks with two.
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