March-ons are complete (check back soon for more photos). Cadets and mids are in their respective corners. The predicted “wintry mix” hasn’t shown up, replaced instead by on-again, off-again light snow.
The hype is over. Well, almost — here’s the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Jon Greenert, offering his perspective from Philadelphia.
OK, now the hype is over. Three quick hits as Army and Navy fans settle in:
1. In case of pass, break glass: The Mids and Black Knights finished near the top of major-college football when it comes to the ground game thanks to their use of run-heavy triple option offenses. But if the game stays close, and it often does, the first team to successfully break from the script may have the edge. Navy fans may remember Brandon Turner’s game-changing 49-yard catch last year. Army fans may rather forget it.
The Black Knights could have the edge if the game goes aerial: Freshman Xavier Moss leads both teams with 30 receptions for 418 yards this season. The former Texas track star (state runner-up in the 800 meters) has nearly double the yards of Navy starting wideouts Shawn Lynch (five catches, 75 yards) and Casey Bolena (13, 164) put together. He only has one touchdown, but it was a big one: A 75-yard bomb during an early-October loss to Boston College.
Unlike some other freshmen, Moss has some familiarity with the rivalry — his grandfather served in the Navy.
2. Facts and figures: Navy is 41-20 under head coach Ken Niumatalolo when outrushing its opponent. … Reynolds broke an NCAA quarterback record with seven touchdown runs in a 58-52 win over San Jose State, but Army sophomore signal-caller A.J. Schurr wasn’t too far off in the Black Knights’ loss at Hawaii late last month, piling up four rushing scores. … According to the Navy press guide, this is the first time the Mids have faced off with the Black Knights during final exams.
3. Defense can’t rest: Reynolds gets the headlines for Navy, but it’ll be up to the Mids’ defensive leaders to stop running back Terry Baggett and the rest of the Black Knights’ option attack.
The option brings a special brand of headache to inside linebackers, who must cut through the misdirection and either engage a bruising fullback or sprint toward the sideline to meet a halfback trying to turn the corner. Good news for Navy fans: The Mids’ middle contains seniors Cody Peterson and DJ Sargenti, first and second on the team in tackles, respectively. Sargenti’s got a team-best six tackles-for-loss, and Peterson’s 124 stops are more than double any Black Knight on Army’s roster.
Follow us here during the game for the latest updates, including photos, from Philadelphia.