Know Your Opponent: Navy

Written by Lloyd Ribner III (@Ribner3

Keenan Reynolds is going to try and kick off his sophomore campaign with a bang against the Hoosiers on Saturday.

Keenan Reynolds is going to try and kick off his sophomore campaign with a bang against the Hoosiers on Saturday.

So the Hoosiers dropped a 73-spot on Indiana State last Thursday and you have been craving for more Indiana football ever since. Well luckily for you it is just about that time as the Navy Midshipmen are making their way towards Memorial Stadium. However, how much do you really know about this Navy team? Sure, you have been reading your articles here at Hoosier Huddle (You are, right?!) that are keeping you up to date with what is going on in the IU football world. You also have your preview magazine that will allow you to gain a general idea of what the Midshipmen are as a football team this year. However, if you really want to know the Hoosiers opponent for week two, this is the place to be!

 1.  The Midshipmen are a heck of a lot better than you think.

When a school such as Navy shows up on your teams schedule before the season kicks off many look at it as nearly a guaranteed win, most especially a team from a major conference such as the Big Ten. While every single member of the team has a full scholarship, the fact of the matter is, the Midshipmen do not have a single player on their team who has one for athletics. These are kids who have done exceptionally well academically, have become leaders in their communities and have been recognized by leaders who recommended them for acceptance to the Naval Academy.

So they must be a rather average football team then, right?

Actually, just the opposite. The Midshipmen have the 22nd most victories in the past decade in the entire FBS. Their record during said period of 83-45 places them fourth amongst non-AQ level programs in terms of wins, trailing just Boise State (117), Brigham Young (88), and Tulsa (84). That is not such bad company to have, and if Navy can put together another solid season they very well could move even further up that list.

2.  The Hoosiers will not be the only team with a sophomore savior at quarterback on Saturday.

After Indiana’s week one thrashing of Indiana State, it looks as if the quarterback competition is realistically a two-man race between a pair of sophomores, Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. Navy on the other hand has already found their man for the job and it is a sophomore of their own, Keenan Reynolds.

Reynolds was the Mids’ savior last season, as he became the next in line at Annapolis to become a multiple-year star under center. Early in the season there was a lack of explosiveness in the Navy offense, which typically do what they do, and do it well. The coaching staff turned to the freshman and that wasn’t the case any longer. Reynolds won six of his eight starts including his first four games while throwing for 898 yards, rushing for 649 yards and scoring 19 total touchdowns. The freshman wasn’t just a dynamic playmaker as he was only intercepted twice in his 108 attempts.

3. The cut block is coming, so be ready for it.

While we continuously hear about the dangers and the attempts of eradicating the cut block at both the pro and collegiate levels, the fact remains that in 2013 it is still legal. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, there is practically no team in the nation that executes it better than Navy, and with good reason. When your offensive tackles are hovering around the 250-pound mark, you are not going to be able to go out there and just maul your opponents. In addition when opposing lineman are consumed with blockers diving at their feet, they tend to play with less of a sense of urgency. It is the perfect tactic for a team such as Navy, which is why they have employed and perfected it. The Midshipmen line is full of experience as well, as five players with starting experience are returning, including three full-time starters. Don’t be surprised if the Hoosier defensive line has their hands full all night. 

4.  Run, Run and Run some more.

Whether you play NCAA Football the video game, tailgate at every game or just watch from the comfort of your couch, you surely know that Navy runs a triple option offense. You also know that head coach Ken Niumatalolo loves to run the ball out of this formation. However, did you know that the Midshipmen run the football four times as often as they pass it for nearly three times the amount of yards? Last season they ran the ball an astonishing 53.8 times per game while attempting just 13.2 passes. While Navy did have three players with over 600 yards rushing, there is an obvious attempt to spread the touches around as nine players rushed for over 100 yards on the season and ten different Midshipmen reached the end zone. While they may run the ball this is far from a stodgy, stagnant, or boring offense.

5. This games means something for both teams involved.

As far as the Hoosiers are concerned, their motivation is rather obvious. Last year Indiana traveled to Annapolis and held a lead into the fourth quarter before having it snatched away by the Midshipmen as they won by a single point, 31-30. A team not known for its comeback abilities was able to shock Indiana, holding their explosive offense scoreless for the final twelve minute, while putting up ten unanswered points on the scoreboard. The Hoosiers want revenge for a game that they essentially had in the bag, and very well could have cost them a bowl trip last year as it changed the complexion of the season.

On the other hand, this game for Navy brings a sense of optimism with it. It is the season opener for the Midshipmen, and they are coming off of an eight-win season. With an exciting and semi-experienced star at the quarterback position, a win over a Big Ten program on the road could be exactly what is needed to springboard Ken Niumatalolo’s program to the next level.