Anchors aweigh, Sun Devils.
Last night's announcement that Arizona State will be heading to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl means that for the first time in history, the Sun Devils will take on Navy.
The Midshipmen are back in a bowl for the ninth time over the last 10 seasons, so let's take a look at what the boys from Annapolis will bring to the December 29th matchup.
Navy's Season to Date: The Middies enter their final game against Army at 7-4 on the year. They suffered two terrible losses to Notre Dame and Penn State to open the year, being outscored 84-17, before throttling VMI. Following a 12-0 loss to San Jose State, Navy reeled off five straight wins to gain bowl eligibility. They are looking to beat Army for the 11th straight time and 13th in the last 14 meetings on Saturday afternoon.
Navy's Last Game: Navy hasn't played since November 17th, when they took on FBS newcomer Texas State. A pair of Noah Copeland touchdown runs gave Navy a 14-0 lead into the third quarter, and the teams each scored a touchdown in the fourth as the Midshipmen cruised to a 21-10 victory.
Navy's Statistical Leaders:
- Rushing: Gee Gee Greene - 750 yards, 7.2 ypc, 3 TD
- Passing: Keenan Reynolds - 754 yards, 57.5%, 8 TD, 1 INT, 167.2 rating
- Receiving: Brandon Turner - 19 receptions, 248 yards, 3 TD
- Tackles: Tra'ves Bush- 76
- Sacks: Keegan Wetzel - 6.0
- Interceptions: Matt Warrick - 3
Navy's National Ranks (Among 124 FBS Teams):
- Rushing Offense: 6th (285.5 ypg)
- Passing Offense: 117th (108.6 ypg)
- Scoring Offense: 82nd (25.5 ppg)
- Rushing Defense: 60th (160.6 ypg)
- Passing Defense: 49th (229.7 ypg)
- Scoring Defense: 36th (23.6 ppg)
Navy on Offense
You know what you are facing when you play a service academy: the triple option. Navy runs, runs, runs, and runs some more. Only two teams have thrown the ball less than Navy's 143 attempts: Army (110) and Air Force (139).
Freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds operates the offense after taking over for junior Trey Miller on October 20th against Indiana. The 5-foot-9, 177 pound Reynolds has impressed the coaches with his poise, passing and above all, ball protection. He has thrown eight touchdowns and just one interception, and run for 585 yards and a team-high nine scores. He's got some speed and despite his size, he's not afraid to go after those tough yards.
As with any triple-option attack, the Midshipmen feature a number of running threats.
Speedy slotback Gee Gee Greene leads the team with 750 yards and a very impressive 7.2 yards-per-carry average. He's a great athlete and leads the team with 280 yards receiving on his 14 catches. Fellow starting slotback Bo Snelson also brings good quickness to the offense, with a 6.3 yards-per-carry average and 273 yards. When the team wants to pound it with power, they go to fullback Noah Copeland, a 205-pound sophomore. He is second on the team with 592 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and is good for about a catch every game.
In the rare event the team passes the ball, they strike downfield, as Navy ranks sixth in the nation at 14.4 yards-per-completion. Senior Brandon Turner has a good combination of speed and size (6-foot-4) and leads the team with 19 catches and three touchdowns, and the ASU secondary must not sleep on his big play ability. Presenting a similar size/speed package is Casey Bolena with 13 grabs on the year. Shawn Lynch is a home run threat, averaging just over 20 yards on his 13 receptions, and can run like the wind.
The offensive line replaced three starters, and has done reasonably well this season. Navy's offensive scheme calls for a line built on quickness and the ability to move rather than brute strength. They have a solid and experienced left side of the line led by senior guard Josh Cabral, who is a mauler. This should be an interesting battle against an ASU defensive front employing the same philosophy.
Navy on Defense
The Midshipmen run a 3-4 defensive alignment, but unlike most every other 3-4 system, they rarely make plays in the opponent's backfield. Navy ranks 93rd in the nation in sacks and 100th in tackles-for-loss. Nevertheless, they have a solid, stout group that has played well enough to rank 52nd in the nation in total defense.
Up front, the Middies have some tough players. Nose tackle Barry Dabney is a 297-pound space eater whose job is solely to engage as many blockers as possible. The ends are on the light side, with 255-pound Wes Henderson having some good tools and is the best playmaker up front, with 3.5 sacks and five tackles-for-loss. On the right side, Evan Palelei is a high-motor type player.
The linebackers are the strengths of the defense. Keegan Wetzel is a very quick weapon off the edge, and his six sacks and 13.5 tackles-for-loss are both team highs. On the other side, Jordan Drake had the same success, but brings good speed and the ability to cover a lot of ground. On the inside, Matt Warrick is a hard-nosed and versatile player. The team's leading tackler in 2011, he is stout against the run and is also good in coverage, having a team-best three interceptions. Fellow middle 'backer Brye French is a smaller player at 216 pounds, but flies to the ball well and has 71 tackles. Cody Peterson also sees a lot of time and has taken over for French as a starter alongside Warrick, and has 48 stops on the year.
Navy has been better against the pass this year than in prior years. While they lack any elite talent in the secondary, all players are tough and good tacklers. The star of the unit is strong safety/rover Tra'ves Bush. The senior leads the team in tackles with 76 and four pass breakups, and can be a danger from a few spots on the field. Joining him along the backline is the awesomely named Wave Ryder, a big-bodied free safety who can deliver a big hit. At cornerback, the team's best attribute may be their size. Sophomore Parrish Gaines has a great 6-foor-2, 196-pound frame, but can be inconsistent. One the other side, there is a lot of inexperience, as three freshmen populate the depth chart at field cornerback. Kwazel Bertrand took over as the starter in October. A slight 163-pounds, he has good cover skills and has four pass breakups on the year.
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