Navy Football Eyes Upset Saturday Against No. 11 South Carolina
Junior safety Tra'ves Bush returns to his home state of South Carolina on Saturday.
Sept. 12, 2011
Setting the Stage
Navy and No. 11 South Carolina will meet for the eighth time in series history and for the first time since 1988 when the two programs collide on Saturday at 6:00 pm at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia, S.C.
ESPN2 will broadcast Saturday's contest with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Craig James (analysis) and Jeannine Edwards (sideline) calling the action. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com.
The Navy Football Tailgate Show on WNAV 1430 AM / 99.9 FM will air at 4:00 pm with Pete Medhurst live in Columbia and Joe Miller and Wylie Baker in the WNAV studios in Annapolis.
The Navy Football Pregame Show with Bob Socci, Omar Nelson and Pete Medhurst will get underway at 5:00 pm, followed by game action at 6:00 pm on the Navy Radio Network and Sirius Satellite Radio (Ch. 93).
Following the contest, Joe Miller and Pete Medurst will recap the day's events in a 60-minute postgame show live on WNAV 1430 AM / 99.9 FM and WFED 1050 AM.
A victory over No. 11 South Carolina would be the biggest upset (by ranking) by a Navy team since the Mids stunned No. 2 South Carolina, 38-21, in 1984.
Navy wll be looking to beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 2009 when the Midshipmen upset No. 19/21 Notre Dame, 23-21, in South Bend. The Mids defeated No. 15/16 Wake Forest in 2008, 24-21.
The Mids last played a school from the SEC in 2004 when Navy knocked off Jay Cutler and the Vanderbilt Commodores, 29-26. Navy also defeated Vanderbilt in Nashville in 2003, 37-27.
The Mids are 2-0 for the first time since 2006. Navy started 3-0 that year before dropping an overtime decision to Tulsa.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo's 29 wins in three-plus seasons are the most by a Navy coach in his first-four years.
The Mids are leading the nation in rushing, averaging 400.5 yards per game on the ground. Navy is eighth in the country in pass efficiency (194.03)
Navy is 24-2 under Niumatalolo when scoring first, 18-3 when leading after the first quarter, 19-3 when leading at the half and 24-0 when leading after three quarters.
Navy has scored 40 or more points in back-to-back games (40 against Delaware and Western Kentucky) for the first time in the Niumatalolo era and for the first time since 2007 when Navy scored 52 against Delaware, 46 against Notre Dame and 74 against North Texas.
Scouting South Carolina
South Carolina is the most physically talented football team the Mids have faced in recent memory. The 11th-ranked Gamecocks are currently 2-0 with victories over East Carolina (56-37) and Georgia (45-42). The 56 points against East Carolina is even more impressive when you consider that last week the Pirates gave up just 17 to Virginia Tech.
The Gamecocks are led offensively by tailback Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, two of the best players in the country at their respective positions. Lattimore has rushed for 288 yards and four touchdowns on 50 carries (seventh best in the country for rushing yds/gm), while Jeffery has 10 catches for 177 yards and one touchdown. Stephen Garcia is one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. He is 18-40 passing for 252 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
Antonio Allen leads a talented defense with 22 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception. Stephon Gilmore has 14 tackles and a fumble recovery. Defensive end Jadveon Clowney was the top high school player in the country last fall and he's already made an impact in Columbia, recording two sacks and forcing a fumble.
South Carolina is ranked 21st in the country in rushing offense (236.5), fourth in scoring offense (50.5) and 18th in punt returns (15.4).
The Last Time ...
South Carolina 19, Navy 8 Nov. 12, 1988 | Columbia, S.C.
Navy's defensive unit came up with one of its best efforts of the season, but a pair of breakdowns in the punting game led to 10 points and Liberty Bowl-bound South Carolina gained a 19-8 win over the Midshipmen.
The Mid defenders held the Gamecocks to just 278 total yards and no touchdowns.
Carolina's lone TD came on a blocked punt and the remainder of its points were field goals from Collin Mackie.
Because of injuries, the Mids were playing with a revamped offensive line, and Gary McIntosh stepping in for Alton Grizzard at quarterback.
South Carolina's blitzing defense allowed Navy just six pass completions in 20 attempts.
Navy's best drive of the day was on its opening possession when it moved to the SC 30 where a 47-yard field goal attempt from Ted Funoukos just missed.
Midway through the second quarter, Antonio Walker broke through and blocked a punt attempt by Navy's Jefferson Triplett, snatching up the loose ball and scoring.
Another Mackie field goal had the Gamecocks up 16-0 at the half.
Navy's lone score came when sophomore safety Bart LaRocca intercepted a Todd Ellis pass and returned it 50 yards to the Carolina four in the final period. Three plays later halfback James Bradley scored from the five.
Ellis completed just 16 of 33 passes for 170 yards.
Navy vs. The SEC
Navy is 9-9-2 all-time against the SEC.
The Mids' most common SEC opponents have been South Carolina (3-4) and Vanderbilt (3-2-2).
The Mids have also faced Arkansas (0-2), Georgia (2-0), Ole Miss (1-0) and Mississippi State (0-1).
Navy has never played Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU or Tennessee.
Navy has three players on its roster that hail from the state of South Carolina.
Junior slot back Gee Gee Greene is from Columbia, junior safety/outside linebacker Tra'ves Bush is from Johnston and freshman fullback Quinton Singleton is from Manning.
Greene has eight carries for 88 yards (11.0) for the Mids this year and is one of the top blockers among the slot backs. He has also excelled in the classroom, earning a 2.96 GPA in Political Science. He earned a 3.31 GPA last spring and was named to the Commandant's list.
Bush plays both safety and outside linebacker for the Mids and is fifth on the team in tackles with nine. He intercepted a pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown against Western Kentucky. Bush's cousin is South Carolina starting strong safety D.J. Swearinger.
Navy Rolls Over Western Kentucky
Junior slot back John Howell had touchdown runs of 50 and 57 yards the first two times each touched the ball, while the Navy defense came up with four turnovers as the Mids rolled over Western Kentucky, 40-14, in front of 19,409 at Houchens-Smith Stadium last Saturday in Bowling Green, Ky.
Howell set the tone for the game on the fourth play from scrimmage when he took an option pitch from senior quarterback Kriss Proctor and ran untouched 50 yards for a touchdown. The snap was high on the PAT and the Mids led 6-0.
Western Kentucky had a chance to take the lead late in the first quarter after Gary Myers fumbled a punt and WKU recovered at the Navy 35-yard line. After picking up one first down, the Navy defense stiffened and Casey Tinius missed a 32-yard field.
The Mids made the Hilltoppers pay on the next possession when Proctor hit a wide open Matt Aiken down the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first quarter to give Navy a 13-0 lead.
Navy would make it 20-0 on its first drive of the second quarter. This time, Proctor hit a wide open Brandon Turner down the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown.
After Western Kentucky cut the Navy lead to 20-7 on a 13-yard touchdown run by Bobby Rainey, the Mids answered with a five-play, 60-yard touchdown drive with Aaron Santiago scoring from the four to cap the drive.
Howell made the score 33-7 with a 57-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and then junior safety Tra'ves Bush capped off the scoring with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth.
Howell led the Mids with 113 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries, while fullback Alexander Teich ran for 102 yards on 15 carries. Reserve fullback Mike Patrick picked up 62 yards on six totes.
Proctor completed just three passes, but two went for touchdowns, as he threw for 100 yards. Aiken (1-44, 1 TD), Santiago (1-29) and Turner (1-27, 1 TD) each had a catch for the Mids.
The Navy defense was led by junior linebackers Matt Warrick and Matt Brewer. Warrick recorded 12 tackles and recovered a fumble, while Brewer had nine tackles, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble. Senior corner David Wright added seven tackles and broke up a pass.
Navy Vs. Ranked Opponents
Navy's 23-21 victory over No. 19 Notre Dame in 2009 marked the first time since 1984-85 that Navy has beaten a Top-25 team in back-to-back seasons. The Mids defeated No. 16 Wake Forest in 2008, 24-21.
It marked the first time an unranked Navy team defeated a ranked Notre Dame team since 1936 when the Mids beat No. 13 Notre Dame, 3-0.
Navy has not beaten more than one ranked team in a season since 1957, when it defeated No. 5 Notre Dame (20-6), No. 10 Army (27-20) and No. 8 Rice (20-7) in the Cotton Bowl.
Navy Vs. the BCS / Non-BCS
Since 2003, Navy owns an 18-21 (.462) record against schools from a BCS conference and an impressive 54-12 record (.818) against non-BCS foes. Navy's 18 BCS wins are the most by a non-BCS school since 2003.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo is 22-6 (.786) against non-BCS squads and 7-8 (.467) against teams from a BCS conference.
Navy's 18 wins against BCS schools have come against Vanderbilt ('03, '04), Duke ('04, '05, '06, '07), Rutgers ('04, '08), Stanford ('06), Connecticut ('06), Pitt ('07), Notre Dame ('07, '09, '10), Wake Forest ('08, '09, '10) and Missouri ('09).
Navy has beaten at least one BCS opponent in eight-consecutive years, which is the second-longest active streak in the country by a non-BCS school. TCU has had at least one BCS win in nine-consecutive seasons.
The mark of a good team is having the ability to win on the road and Navy is 38-22 (.633) in games played away from Annapolis over the last nine years, which is tied for the 11th-best mark in the country.
The Mids are 1-0 in games played away from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2011.