Start Time: 12:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 26
Location: Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field
TV: CBS Sports Network (Dave Ryan, Corey Chavous, Lauren Gardner)
Radio: Navy: Navy Football Radio Network (Pete Medhurst, Omar Nelson, Joe Miller) WBAL 1090 AM Baltimore; WNAV 1430 AM 99.9 FM Annapolis UConn: UConn IMG Sports Network WTIC 1080 Hartford (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman, Kevin Nathan)
Records: Navy 2-0, UConn 2-1. Navy leads the overall series 6-1.
Live Stats: Here
The Navy football team gets on the road for the first time this season as they travel to East Hartford to take on the Connecticut Huskies in their first ever conference road game. For the second straight week, the Midshipmen will face off against an AAC opponent that is coming off a game in which they almost defeated an SEC East team at their home stadium.
After nearly getting the upset against Florida in the Swamp, ECU travelled to Annapolis last weekend and was beaten soundly by Navy. The Mids racked up 415 yards rushing including an AAC record five rushing touchdowns for Keenan Reynolds. They scored touchdowns on each of their first four drives, utilizing a mix of Chris Swain, Quentin Ezell, Reynolds, Dishan Romine, and DeBrandon Sanders to go up 28-14 at the half. They continued to add on in the second half, utilizing timely pressure on defense and a lengthy time consuming drive in the fourth quarter that put the game away for good in route to a 45-21 victory.
This week they get a UConn team that is coming off a near upset of Mizzou last weekend. Down 9-6 with a chance to tie the game on a 42 yard field goal, UConn head coach Bob Diaco gambled with a fake field goal that didn't work out and UConn was unable to pull off one of the biggest victories in program history. They were able to showcase a defense that is playing at a super high level so far this season as they held Mizzou to one touchdown, 85 yards rushing, and 185 yards passing last Saturday.
What does this mean for tomorrow's game between Navy and UConn? Let's take a look.
When Navy has the ball:
The Navy offense was a beautiful spectacle last Saturday. Keenan Reynolds rushed for 142 yards and five touchdowns as he orchestrated a 45-21 domination of ECU. Chris Swain contributed his second consecutive 100 yard performance. Dishan Romine flashed glimpses of his speed. The offensive line played exceptionally well with LT Joey Gaston receiving offensive player of the game and according to offensive tackle coach Chris Culton, he graded out higher than any other offensive lineman ever has in the eight years Culton has been coaching tackles at Navy.
Navy will more than likely be without LG E.K. Binns due to an elbow injury suffered against ECU which will be a significant loss, but the offensive line should still be able to continue paving the way for the "poetry in motion" that is the Navy triple-option offense as Reynolds described it when it is firing on all cylinders.
UConn will be the best defense Navy has faced to this point. They completely dominated the line of scrimmage against Army and allowed Missouri one touchdown and 270 yards of total offense on their home turf. Junior Joseph is having an exceptional season so far. They are big and fast up front with Julian Campenni, Kenton Adeyimi, and Folorunso Fatukasi leading the way. Linebacker Luke Carrezola has flashed signs of being a breakout performer and they have an experienced and talented secondary as well.
The UConn defense will challenge Navy with their physicality and speed up front, forcing the ball towards Junior Joseph and trying to limit the number of possessions Reynolds gets to work his magic. While I believe that UConn will do a much better job of limiting Navy's offensive output compared to Colgate and ECU, I still think that in the end Navy will find a way to put points on the board.
Advantage: Slight to Navy
When UConn has the ball:
The Navy defense played another solid game last Saturday. Will Anthony and Amos Mason played excellent off the edge. Mason recorded his first career sack and forced fumble and Anthony added a pair of tackles for a loss to go with a fumble recovery and five overall tackles on the day. Bernie Sarra continues to perform like the three year starter he is, creating the opportunities for Anthony and Mason to get pressure on the quarterback.
Navy's linebackers continue to be effective with Micah Thomas leading the team with 15 tackles on the season and Daniel Gonzales producing a strong effort before being ejected for targeting last week. The secondary has shown glimpses of its potential in the first two games but will have to continue to improve as the season progresses for the Navy defense to truly reach its potential.
UConn has been for the most part subpar on offense. Their offense ranks 117th in FBS in S&P+ and 125th in FBS in points per game with 16. While they appear to have a quarterback of the future in Bryant Shirreffs who has shown flashes of his potential this season, they continue to underperform as a whole. Noel Thomas is putting together a great campaign at wide receiver and you can expect Arkeel Newsome to be heavily involved in the short yardage passing gameplan. Both Thomas and Newsome could be key players tomorrow if UConn hopes to pull off a victory at home.
Advantage: Slight to Navy
Austin Grebe remains perfect as Navy's placekicker dating back to last season. He also had several nice touchbacks last week and that is a good sign for Navy moving forward. Alex Barta and Gavin Jernigan continue to battle it out for the punter spot, but both of them have performed well when called upon. Dishan Romine showed what he is capable of as a kick returner last week. Overall, the Navy special teams unit has done what they are supposed to do so far this season.
UConn has had its share of struggles on special teams. They have had missed field goals, missed PATs, and a myriad of blocking issues. It was evident that one of Diaco's main reasons for attempting the fake field goal at the end of the Missouri game was a lack of confidence in his special teams unit. This is an area where UConn will have to improve if they hope to keep pace with Navy and pull out a victory this weekend.
UConn will provide the biggest test yet for Navy's offense. They will play hard nosed, physical defense and keep Navy to a lower scoring output than the first two games of the season. While I believe they provide a significant challenge, I also believe that Keenan Reynolds and the Navy offense is up to the task at hand. UConn will probably find a way to put together a few nice scoring drives, but it will not be enough as the Navy offense will continue to be extremely efficient in the redzone and convert scoring opportunities into enough points to put UConn away in the fourth quarter.
Navy 27- UConn 21