A week after shocking the Big East Conference with a decisive 34-10 victory over the University of Pittsburgh, the Rutgers University football program will shift gears back to non-conference play as it hosts the Navy Midshipmen Saturday (2 p.m. on ESPN3) at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. The Scarlet Knights (4-1, 2-0 Big East) will try to put together their first four-game winning streak in two seasons during Homecoming Weekend, while the Midshipmen (2-3) will be trying to shake off their first three-game losing streak since 2002.
If you're unfamiliar with the Navy football program, here's a brief scouting report on the Midshipmen.
What Ken Niumatalolo has done in his first three seasons as the leader of the Midshipmen can only be described as stellar. In three years as head coach Niumtatlolo has lead the Midshipmen to a bowl game. His 29 wins are the most in school history by a coach in his first four seasons at the helm.
The Midshipmen finished the regular season 9-3 and earned a bow berth to the Poinsettia Bowl, but lost to San Diego State University, 35-14.
The Midshipmen run the famous triple-option offense, which features a lot of running and very little passing. Currently, Navy leads the nation in rush attempts (60.8) and yards per game (366.0). Senior starting quarterback Kriss Proctor is 23rd in the nation in rushing (104.8), while senior fullback Alexander Teich ranks 26th (102.0). Teich is averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
"They count on the big play. Corners falling asleep and the secondary falling asleep, that’s how they score points. They need to hit two or three of those a game," Rutgers senior cornerback Logan Ryan said about Navy Wednesday. "That makes my job harder, just to be precise every play knowing that they might run the ball six or seven times before they throw it. That makes you’re job harder as a corner because you have to be on your A-game every play and not be caught by surprise."
However, the Navy offense has been known to speed things up.
"... They've gone now to the no-huddle," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano Monday during his weekly teleconference. "So they're running no-huddle, triple-option, which, if it wasn't hard enough before. So now instead of running the play, they start the guy in motion, and the whole group looks to the sideline, not every play, but a bunch of plays. It's going to be a challenging week."
Senior fullback Devon Diggs (21 carries, 111 yards) and junior running back John Howell (17, 229) could also see some action this Saturday.
If there's one thing that the Scarlet Knights could exploit Saturday, it's the Navy defense. Currently, the Midshipmen's defense is ranked 119 out of 120 Football Championship Subdivision schools. During the last two games, Navy has allowed 13 TDs, 943 total yards and has allowed its opponents to convert 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) on third downs.
"Our pride’s been hurt on defense," Niumatalolo said earlier in the week. "We’re a very proud defensive team. We’ve been a team that’s prided itself on playing hard-nosed football, and these last two weeks have been uncharacteristic for us. Our deal is we’re going to go back and do what we do and just go to the basics. I’ve great faith that we’ll respond. That wasn’t us. That’s not who we’ve been."
Navy can show up and play against anybody as was shown in a Week 3 loss, 24-21, to the University of South Carolina, which currently is ranked No. 13 in the AP Poll and No. 15 in the USA Today poll3. However, if the Scarlet Knights are for real they should be able to easily handle the Midshipmen.