The Midshipmen are coming off a 9-5 season that tied for the fifth-most wins in school history and a 7-1 American Athletic Conference record that propelled the Midshipmen to the AAC title game. After a 9-2 start to the season Navy went 0-3 in December including losses to Temple University, Army and Conference USA’s Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Now the Midshipmen are rebuilding. Defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson stated during the spring, “I just wanted to get our mentality back to being more aggressive. I think I got passive with the calls. We probably weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be.”
Navy has struggled with openers on the road during coach Ken Niumatalolo tenure, going 1-4, with the only victory coming over Indiana in 2013. Overall, though, Midshipmen football has enjoyed a revival in recent years, going 28-6 over their past 34 games. Entering his 10th season as the Naval Academy’s coach, Niumatalolo is 77-42 in his career. He’s the longest-tenured coach in program history.
THE FILE: FAU vs. Navy
THE SERIES: Navy leads the series 1-0
LAST MEETING: 2015 – Navy won 24-17 in Annapolis, Md.
NAVY’S OFFENSE: Navy runs the flexbone triple option. Last year the Midshipmen ranked third nationally in rushing offense with 310 yards per game. Graduated quarterback Will Worth ran for 1,198 of their 4,342 yards. Worth also had 25 of their 61 rushing touchdowns. Returning senior fullback Chris High was the next leading rusher with 546 yards and seven touchdowns. Navy returns only three offensive starters.
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
- 9 Zach Abey, Jr. QB: Played in five games last season, starting the final two – both Navy losses – but is entering his first season as a starter. He completed 20-of-35 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown last season, but also tossed four interceptions. Rushed for 114 yards and two TDs in the Armed forces Bowl. His decision-making on the triple option will determine Navy’s success.
- 33 Chris High, Sr., FB: Carried the ball 85 times for 546 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He is the only returning starter in the Midshipmen backfield. Expect him to have some power runs up the middle against FAU’s Defense.
- 88 Tyler Carmona, Sr., WR: The South Florida product caught six passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns last season. Coming home, Carmona may have a breakout game against FAU. The Midshipmen have been known for surprising opponents with passes, and with a big 6-foot-4 receiver out there expect the ball to go his way.
NAVY’S DEFENSE: The base is a 3-4 but they will shift into four-man fronts. Navy returns six starters from a defense that ranked No. 84 in yards given up, allowing 434 yards of total offense. The Midshipmen also allowed 31 points per game. Navy ranked No. 71 by allowing 179 rushing yards per game.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
- 45 D.J. Palmore, Sr., LB: Big and strong, Palmore plays the “Raider” role on Navy’s defense. He’ll line up on the strong side, placing a priority on run support. He can also walk up to the line, giving the Midshipmen a four-defensive linemen look. He led Navy in tackles-for-loss (11.5) and sacks (6) last season.
- 17 Tyris Wooten, Sr., CB: With Kiffin saying that the passing offense has been a struggle, Wooten could enjoy a breakout game. He started all 14 games for the Midshipmen last year, recording 51 tackles, two interceptions, and 10 pass deflections. At 6-foot-1, Wooten is a sizable cornerback who matches up well with most FAU receivers.
UNDERSTANDING THE TRIPLE OPTION
Navy runs the triple option out of the flexbone formation (above graphic), which includes three running backs – a full back (blue dot) that sits four yards behind the quarterback and two slotbacks (red dots) that flank the offensive tackles, a yard or two off the line of scrimmage – two wide receivers (green dots) and a quarterback under center. The bulk of the carries will go to the quarterback and fullback, but all backs will get carries. The slotbacks will frequently go in motion prior to the snap.
Depending what the quarterback sees from the defense, he can.
- Hand the ball to the fullback.
- Fake to the fullback, run to the edge and pitch the ball to a slotback.
- Keep the ball himself and turn up field.
ON WITH THE SHOWTIME
Showtime is chronicling the 2017 Navy football season for its weekly series “A Season With Navy Football.” The show premieres on Sept. 5 at 10 p.m. In previous years Showtime documented the seasons of Notre Dame and Florida St. and earlier this year was considering documenting FAU.
The Naval Academy began playing football in 1891 – 70 years before FAU was founded. Navy ranks No. 24 among current FBS teams with 701 wins in program history. That’s the most among the armed forces schools. They are also one of only five FBS programs that don’t have the word “University” appearing in the school’s official name.