Navy Opens 2014 Season Saturday vs. No. 5/6 Ohio State
Setting the Stage
Navy and fifth-ranked Ohio State will meet for the fifth time on the gridiron when they square off on Saturday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium (71,008) in Baltimore. Kickoff is set for 12 noon with Under Armour serving as the participating game day sponsor.
The Midshipmen received two points in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 Poll. Meanwhile, it's the 26th consecutive year that Ohio State has been ranked in the AP preseason poll, which is the best mark in the FBS. Oklahoma is the next closest, having been ranked 15 consecutive years.
This will be just the second time that Ohio State has come East to play Navy. The two teams met in Baltimore in 1930 at old Municipal Stadium, with the Buckeyes coming out on top, 27-0. In the last meeting between the two schools, the 2009 season opener, Ohio State hung on for a 31-27 win when Brian Rolle picked off Navy's two-point conversion attempt with 2:23 remaining and returned it 100 yards for two points to give the Buckeyes the win.
Navy's last victory over a team ranked in the top 25 came on Nov. 7, 2009, when the Mids knocked off #19 Notre Dame in South Bend, 23-21. Navy's last win over a team ranked in the top five was on Nov. 17, 1984, when it stunned #2 South Carolina, 38-21, in Annapolis.
Saturday's game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Allie LaForce on the call. LaForce's uncle is a 1969 graduate of the Naval Academy and played football for the Midshipmen. He returned an interception for a touchdown in the 1968 Army-Navy game.
Touchdown Radio will provide the national radio broadcast with Taylor Zarzour calling the action and Gino Torretta handling the color analysis.
The Navy Football Tailgate Show on WNAV 1430 AM / 99.9 FM will air at 10:00 am with Robert Bode, Joe Miller, Chloe Gunther and Wiley Baker live from M&T Bank Stadium.
The Navy Football Pregame Show with Pete Medhurst, Omar Nelson and Joe Miller will get underway at 11:00 am, followed by game action beginning at 12 noon on the Navy Radio Network.
Following the contest, Medhurst, Miller and Baker will recap the day's events in a 60-minute postgame show live on WNAV 1430 AM / 99.9 FM and WFED 1500 AM.
The tailgate show, the pregame show, the game and the postgame show are available over the internet to Navy All-Access subscribers.
Scouting Ohio State
Ohio State had won 22 games in a row before dropping its final two games of the 2013 season, losing to Michigan State (34-24) in the Big Ten Championship Game and to Clemson (40-35) in the Orange Bowl.
Despite losing starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller in the preseason, the Buckeyes are still considered to be one of the top teams in the nation. Ohio State is ranked #5 in the Associated Press Poll and #6 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll.
The Buckeyes are led on defense by what has been touted as the top defensive line in the country. Defensive ends Joey Bose (6-5, 278) and Steve Miller (6-3, 255) along with defensive tackles Adolphus Washington (6-4, 295), Michael Bennett (6-2, 288) and Tommy Schutt (6-2, 295) one the best defensive lines Navy has faced in the triple option era.
Ohio State is expected to start redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett (6-1, 225) at quarterback. He will have a host of talented skill players to get the ball to, including running backs Ezekiel Elliott (6-0, 225), Rod Smith (6-3, 231) and Curtis Samuel (5-11, 196) and H-Backs Dontre Wilson (5-10, 188) and Jalin Marshall (5-11, 205). Tight end Jeff Heuerman (6-5, 255) is one of the top tight ends in the country.
Navy vs. the Big Ten
Navy is 54-60-4 (.475) all-time against teams currently in the Big Ten Conference and has won two straight, defeating Indiana in each of the last two years.
The Mids will play host to Rutgers at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Sept. 20 in the Scarlet Knights' first year as a member of the Big Ten.
Navy In Season Openers
Navy is 8-4 (.667) in season openers during the "triple option era" (2002-present) and 3-3 in season openers under head coach Ken Niumatalolo.
The Midshipmen are 0-3 when opening at a neutral site over the same time frame with losses to Maryland twice (2005, 2010) in Baltimore and Notre Dame (2012) in Ireland.
Saturday's contest marks the fifth time in Niumatalolo's now seventh season in which Navy has opened its season away from its home field.
Niumatalolo Third In Career Wins AT Navy
Entering his seventh season at Navy, head coach Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 49-30 (.620) record and stands third all-time at Navy in career wins.
Niumatalolo holds Navy coaching records for most wins in the first two seasons (18), three seasons (27), four seasons (32), five seasons (40) and six seasons (49) of a career.
A victory over Ohio State on Saturday would give Niumatalolo 50 career wins, which would tie him with Eddie Erdelatz (50-26-8 from 1950-58) for second all-time at Navy for career wins. Additionally, he would be the fastest coach in school history to reach 50 wins (80 games). Erdelatz won his 50th game in his 83rd game, while George Welsh won his 50th in his 92nd game.
Niumatalolo is the first Samoan head football coach on the collegiate level and the second Polynesian head coach in FBS history (Larry Price, who was the head coach at Hawai'i from 1974-76, was the first).
Last year, Niumatalolo was selected as a member of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame inaugural class.
2014 Preseason Honors
Senior offensive tackle Bradyn Heap, senior outside linebacker Chris Johnson, senior safety Parrish Gaines and senior punter Pablo Beltran have been named to the Phil Steele 2014 Preseason All-Independent First Team.
Steele ranks four Navy units among the best in the country. He ranks Navy's quarterbacks as the nation's 20th best (Ohio State #5), the running backs (SB's and FB's) were ranked 39th (Army #9, Ohio State #22 and Notre Dame #24), the offensive line is ranked 33rd (Notre Dame #16) and Navy's special teams are ranked 24th (Ohio State #15).
Junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds is on the Watch List for the Maxwell Award, the Davey O'Brien Award, The Manning Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.
Johnson is on the Watch List for the Lombardi Award.
Senior fullback Noah Copeland is on the Watch List for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award.