Navy opened up their 2015 season with an emphatic victory over FCS opponent Colgate.
After a rough first series that saw Navy lose yardage on their first three plays and ended with a Chris Swain fumble and turnover, the Midshipmen settled in and overcame their first game jitters to dominate on both sides of the ball.
Colgate was forced to settle for a field goal after the fumble as the Navy defense held inside the redzone.
On the next Navy drive, a dropped pass by Swain resulted in a Navy FG and a 3-3 score.
Navy pushed tempo all summer long and it showed up during their first game of the season.
On the ensuing Colgate drive, Elijah Merchant had an excellent pass breakup to force a punt.
Navy then marched down the field and Chris Swain made up for his earlier fumble with a 52 yard touchdown run to put Navy up 10-3.
Just like it was clear that Navy wanted to push the tempo early on offense, the defense was bringing more pressure than usual under interim defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson. This did not translate into sacks, but the pressure on the quarterback clearly disrupted the rhythm of the offense and made it easier for the defense to make plays.
Navy drove down the field on their next possession and Keenan Reynolds scored on the QB keeper for the 65th rushing touchdown of his career, moving within 12 of Montee Ball’s NCAA record for rushing touchdowns.
Navy then stuffed Colgate on fourth down on the ensuing possession and marched down the field and scored on a Shawn White TD to go up 24-3.
Quentin Ezell would add another TD giving Navy 3 different fullbacks who scored touchdowns in the first half as they went into the locker room up 31-3.
Colgate put together a solid drive on their first possession of the second half, but a Kevin McCoy forced fumble gave Navy the ball back and they capitalized with another Quentin Ezell touchdown to go up 38-3.
Colgate finally got on the board again with a touchdown pass from Jake Melville to preseason All-Patriot League tight end John Quazza to cut the deficit to 38-10.
Kevin McCoy would recover a fumble and return it for a touchdown to put Navy up 45-10 and a late Nick Sloan field goal put the finishing touches on the score as Navy defeated Colgate by a final of 48-10.
Navy was dominant on both sides of the ball. After a shaky first series, the offense settled in and ended up with 438 yards of offense including 371 on the ground. The Mids averaged almost 8 yards a carry, and aside from a few early dropped passes, they looked more comfortable in passing situations. The fullbacks ended up with 153 yards on 14 carries in the first half and finished with 192 yards and four touchdowns.
While Keenan Reynolds did not put up extravagant numbers, he did exactly what a quarterback in a triple option system is supposed to do. He took what the defense gave him, made the right reads, and led Navy to a 38 point victory.
The Navy defense may have been the biggest winner on the day. They answered the pundits, at least for one week, by getting pressure on the quarterback and swarming to the ball. Aside from the early field goal that was the result of the Swain fumble, the defense only gave up one touchdown to an offense expected to be elite within the Patriot League.
Sean Williams was solid in his freshman debut, the linebackers played excellent, including Kevin McCoy who ended up with a forced fumble and fumble recovery for a touchdown, and Navy was able to win the turnover margin.
One interesting thing to note was the play of the punters. Alex Barta absolutely boomed a 72 yard punt early in the third quarter while Gavin Jernigan’s punt in the fourth quarter was less impressive but still a respectable 42 yards. This is a battle that coach Niumatalolo has said will continue into the season, but Barta appears to have the upper hand lately in practice and during the game.
While a rout against an FCS foe has to always be taken with a grain of salt, this was an impressive performance all around for a Navy team looking to establish itself in their first season in the American Athletic Conference.
There are still plenty of areas to work on, but I believe there were more answers than questions after week one, and with a bye week before opening up conference play, Navy is in good position to put their best foot forward in the AAC.