Where: Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, Texas
When: 8:00 pm eastern, 7:00 pm central
Watch on: ESPN News, Joel Myers and Al Groh
The Last Time These Teams Met:
The Mids hosted the Bobcats for their first ever meeting on the gridiron in Annapolis back in 2012. Navy won 21-10 as fullback Noah Copeland (then a sophomore) led the way with 110 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Will Butler: Texas State looked almost perfect two weeks ago against an awful SWAC team, so nobody really knows how good this team is yet. A sellout crowd (or close to one) should be on hand in San Marcos if the weather holds up, but with a 50% chance of thunderstorms forecast on Saturday that's a big "if". Last time the Bobcats played in front of a sellout crowd, they let their nerves get to them in a mistake-riddled blowout loss to Texas Tech. However, this year's team played against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with a ruthlessness not seen in San Marcos for a very long time, and there's at least some hope for a major upset.
Mitchell Northam: The Mids gave a good showing against Ohio State, but the wheels came off in the second half and they wound up losing. Navy bounced back in week two though with a win over Temple, but star QB Keenan Reynolds got shaken up in the process and missed the final series of the game with a knee injury. Texas State should be a good measuring stick to find out just how good the Mids are this year.
The Battle in the Trenches (OL vs DL)
TXST OL vs Navy DL:
WB: The Bobcats' O-line had no trouble manhandling UAPB's outmatched front seven, and although that was expected they still looked vastly improved over last year's often shaky performances. Navy will provide a stiffer test with some significant size at noseguard, but the D-line isn't their strong suit and Tyler Jones should have time in the pocket to look down field. You won't see holes the size of Mack trucks for the Bobcat running backs to run through like two weeks ago, but they should be able to get to the second level.
MN: Defensively, Navy will try to get after it once again, but as far as piling up sacks goes they haven't been that successful. Still, Bernard Sarra and Paul Quessenberry do an awesome job of stopping the rush, and Quessenberry is especially solid off the edge as a pass rusher. They'll need to be on their "A" game though to get pressure on Jones and the Bobcats' running backs.
ADVANTAGE: Texas State
TXST DL vs Navy OL:
WB: Texas State's defensive line is still very much a work in progress and had a few shaky moments trying to bring down UAPB's Benjamin Anderson in the pocket. Asking the D-line to overwhelm Navy's explosive and disciplined O-line is too much at this point; their goals should be to stick to their assignments, get in good enough positions for their linebackers to clean up on the run, and
hang on for dear life prevent big plays.
MN: The rushing game for the Mids has been successful in the last two weeks, and the offensive line is a big part of that. The Mids racked up a ton of yards on the ground in a loss to Ohio State, and a ton more in their win over Temple. Those yards don't come without the offensive line clicking. The interesting thing about the Mids O-Line is that they really have seven starters on the line. Of course, only five can play at once, but Tanner Fleming and Brandon Greene have both had successful reps across the line in Navy's first game. Navy doesn't pass much, but Reynolds has been protected for the most part, with this line only giving up two sacks between OSU and Temple.
The Passing Game (QB's, WR's vs DB's)
TXST QB/WR vs. Navy DB:
WB: Texas State has a few big play threats at wide receiver in Jafus Gaines, Ben Ijah, and converted running back CJ Best, but they'll need to cut out their occasional bad habit of dropping catchable balls. Second team All-Sun Belt quarterback Tyler Jones looked comfortable in Dennis Franchione's new no huddle attack, but we'll see how he matches up against a disciplined Midshipmen secondary that keys on opponents' mistakes. Jones had a couple of coverage sacks against UAPB and stared down receivers at times last year, so he'll need to stay calm and make the right reads.
MN: The Mids have had trouble defending the pass, often leaving too many open holes deep for the big play. J.T. Barrett picked them apart in the second half in Baltimore while Temple had a handful of big plays through the air as well last Saturday. They have gotten better from week one to week two though, and safety Parrish Gaines has played the role of ball-hawk, coming up with an interception in each game.
ADVANTAGE: Texas State
Navy QB/WR vs. TXST DB:
WB: The good news for Texas State's green and mostly untested secondary is that Navy's been averaging 50 yards passing per game. The bad news is that Reynolds and Navy's rushing attack are so good that it might not matter. Corners Craig Mager and David Mims II are going to be tested at the edge of the defense by Navy's slotbacks as well as Reynolds and will need to stick their tackles if Texas State wants to have any hope of containing the Midshipmen. The young Bobcat safeties will need to focus on not letting any big plays break or let the Midshipmen receivers get behind them when a rare pass attempt does happen.
MN: Navy is more of an "attack by land" team rather than attacking by air; still, Reynolds has shown that if a hole in the defense presents itself that he can take advantage of it. Sure, the Bobcats have a solid group of linebackers, but the front and back sides of their defense aren't so special. If Texas State can't get to Reynolds early, then I expect a few more passing plays from Navy's run-heavy offense. Coach Ken Niumatalolo might want to test Texas State's unexperienced DB's early anyways.
The Rushing Game (RB's vs LB's)
TXST RB vs Navy LB:
WB: Robert Lowe is a workhorse between the hashes for Texas State and Terrence Franks is a speedster who can be a threat in both the running and passing game, although the Bobcats are missing explosive backup Chris Nutall to suspension. Navy's linebackers aren't overly aggressive, but they're good enough to avoid giving up too many missed tackles and big plays against teams with inferior or equal talent levels. Lowe doesn't always have the speed to leave all 11 men behind, but he's improved at following his blockers and is talented enough to wear down the opposing front seven.
MN: Linebacker was an issue of concern for the Mids coming into the season as they lost two senior starters from last year to graduation, along with Maika Polamalu leaving the team briefly and Jordan Drake switching from outside linebacker to inside. Drake has come along and has played solid, but there are still a lot questions about this core. In the past two weeks they have looked decent, but there is still a ton of room for improvement.
ADVANTAGE: Texas State
Navy RB vs. TXST LB:
WB: Here is the marquee unit matchup for this game. Michael Orakpo and David Mayo may be the best linebackers in the Sun Belt and could start on a number of P5 teams, but Navy's ceaseless machine of pounding opponents up the middle with their fullbacks and stressing the edges of the defense with their slotbacks will present a massive challenge for them. If 'Rak and Mayo had enough talent on the defensive line to back them up I'd be willing to call this matchup a draw, but since they don't they'll be at a disadvantage and will need to focus on flying to the ball and forcing a rare Midshipmen turnover or two.
MN: Noah Copeland, Chris Swain, DeBrandon Sanders and more stars in Navy's rushing attack. Copeland had a successful game the last time these two teams met, and with a matchup against a weak D-Line I expect the fullbacks to get more carries and yards up the gut in this one rather than seeing the wings (or slot-backs) run the sideline. Copeland and the Swain-Train should be able to break through consistently for handfuls of yards with each carry, and if they can get past the Bobcat's second level, watch out.
WB: Texas State has an experienced ST unit with Will Johnson booming the ball with precision on punts and kickoffs, Jason Dann doing solid placekicking work, and big play threats Jafus Gaines and Brandon Smith returning kickoffs. Craig Mager had a solid punt return for 35 yards against Pine Bluff, but the competition ramps up this week against an excellent Navy coverage unit.
MN: Navy has an experienced group of specialists as well in Nick Sloan, Pablo Beltran and long-snapper Joe Cardona. This group has been working together for a few seasons now and mistakes between them are scarce. On the returning end, Demond Brown has done a solid job on kick returns averaging about 16.5 on eight of them. DeBrandon Sanders doubles as the team's slot back and punt returner, and given the space and chance, he could make a big play or two on a return.
WB: Texas State has some weapons that can challenge Navy's front seven, but the Midshipmen are a disciplined team (last week's game aside) that can and will take advantage of any mistakes committed by the Bobcats. Navy's rushing attack will likely be too much for the Texas State front six to stop effectively, so we may be in for a shootout. If the Bobcats can avoid letting the nerves of playing in front of a sellout crowd get to them, they could give the Midshipmen some headaches. However, if Keenan Reynolds stays healthy, I think Navy's triple option attack will ultimately prove too much for the 'Cats to handle. Navy 38, Texas State 28
MN: Navy should be able to win this one, but there are a few variables. We don't exactly know how healthy Reynolds is after taking a hit to the knee last week. He has sat out a few practices this week, but that's something he has done in the past and has played on the following Saturday. The other variable is mistakes. Navy has coughed up the ball four times in the past two games, and two of those went for defensive touchdowns. If Reynolds is healthy, and Navy can be disciplined, then this team should roll to a victory in an offensive battle. Navy 45, Texas State 32