With the annihilation of Morgan State behind them, the Hilltoppers will now face a more formidable opponent in the Navy Midshipmen.
Watch out! The Middies are always tough, gritty, and run that pesky triple-option offense with ultimate precision and discipline.
You don't believe me? How dare you! Check this, Navy leads the nation in rushing yards per game, averaging 398. They also have three players with over 100-yards rushing, including their dynamic quarterback named Keenan Reynolds.
Offensive Playmakers for Navy:
- QB: Keenan Reynolds - 12-of-17, 304 yards, 2 TD - 47 rushes, 236 yards, 2 TD
- RB: Darius State - 11 rushes, 130 yards, 1 TD
- RB: Geoffrey Whiteside - 12 rushes, 127 yards, 2 TD
Obviously, stopping Navy's ground attack will be key for Western Kentucky, who has had it's struggles with dual-threat type quarterbacks so far this season. Reynolds doesn't throw it often, but he's been accurate when he does and he's usually throwing it deep, four of Navy's five receivers average at least 18.5 yards per catch.
The Hilltoppers front seven will need to be disciplined in their gaps and the secondary will need to have their heads on a swivel to protect the Midshipmen's running game from getting to the outside edges. Winning the line of scrimmage on first and second downs and forcing Navy into third-and-long situations on offense will be key for Nick Holt and the WKU defense.
With both Navy and Army on WKU's schedule, the coaching staff has made it a point to dedicate time in every practice to defend the triple option offense, we'll see if the extra preparation will pay off on Saturday.
While the Hilltoppers, and most teams around the college football world have played four games, or at least three, the Midshipmen have only played two games so far. A 41-35 road win at Indiana on September 7th and a 51-7 blowout of Delaware (Blue Hen pride!) on September 14th in Annapolis.
It's a weird scheduling situation for Navy, but it gives an advantage with an extra week to prepare for Western Kentucky.
Breaking down the Midshipmen's defense, they've been stingy against the run this year, just giving up 137.5 yards per game in their two wins this season. However, Indiana is a spread-oriented offense that is pass heavy and Delaware was obviously a very outmatched FCS opponent.
Getting Antonio Andrews and the rest of the gang going could be difficult for the Tops, however, this could be a game where WKU's air game could set up the running game since Navy is giving up 271 passing yards per game.
Whoever the quarterback is on Saturday (Doughty, Porter, Fishback?), it will be important to get the passing game into a rhythm and establish an advantage against Navy's secondary.
Defensive Playmakers for Navy:
- LB: Cody Peterson - 19 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
- LB: DJ Sargenti - 16 tackles, .5 tackle for loss, 1 interception
- CB: Parrish Gaines - 13 tackles
What to watch for
Quarterback Shuffle - With Morgan State being the live, in-game evaluation of all the quarterbacks, this week's practice will serve as the primer as to who will start against Navy on Saturday. You can make the case for either Todd Porter, Nelson Fishback, or Brandon Doughty to get the nod. From what I've heard so far, it's very likely we'll see Doughty back in the fold - but hey, we'll see.
Know Your Assignments - Navy's triple-option offense along with the dual-threat abilities of quarterback Keenan Reynolds will pose it's problems defensively for WKU. With a defensive line still searching for their identity and the struggles with quarterbacks with good wheels, we'll see if WKU's defense will be focused on filling their gaps and not get frustrated against this type of offense.
Stout O-Line - Navy's defense has been good against the run so far this year, it will be important for the WKU O-line to create some holes to get Andrews, Allen, and Simpson going. On the flipside, protect the quarterback (whoever it is) against the pass rush and take advantage of Navy's secondary who's had trouble defending opponent's (namely Indiana's) passing attack.
Prediction: I foresee a high-scoring battle where the spoils will to go the Hilltoppers, in a close one, 45-41.