Navy and Western Kentucky Set for Gridiron Battle
Navy senior offensive lineman Andy Lark
Sept. 21, 2009
Setting the Stage
Meeting for the first time, Navy (1-2) and Western Kentucky (0-3) are set to square off on Saturday afternoon in a contest that will be broadcast on CBS College Sports.
Craig Bolerjack (play-by-play) and Randy Cross (analyst) will call the action from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (34,000) beginning at 3:30 pm.
The Navy Football Radio Network will provide more than six hours of coverage starting at 1:30 pm with its pregame show on 1430 WNAV (Annapolis) hosted by Pete Medhurst, Joe Miller and Wiley Baker.
The Navy Football Pregame Show will get underway at 2:30 pm with Bob Socci, Omar Nelson, John Feinstein and Pete Medhurst setting the scene from Annapolis, followed by game action beginning at 3:30 pm. Sirius Satellite Radio (Ch. 121) will carry the Navy broadcast.
Following the contest, Pete Medhurst and Joe Miller will recap the day's events in a 60-minute postgame show live on 1430 WNAV.
Tickets are still available at www.NavySports.com or by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY. Tickets will be available on game day at the Navy Ticket Booth located in the North end zone.
Pregame festivities will get underway at 1:15 pm with the Navy Football Team Walk.
Originating at the Blue Angel in the southwest corner of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the team will make its way down the sidewalk and through NavyFest before walking up the drive to the stadium. Fans are encouraged to line up on both sides of the sidewalk to cheer for the team.
The march-on of Brigade of Midshipmen will take place at 3:11 pm.
The 1959 Navy Football team will be honored at halftime as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. That squad played the first game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium 50 years to the day of Saturday's game against Western Kentucky. Navy defeated William & Mary, 29-2, on Sept. 26, 1959.
The first 5,000 fans will get a commemorative poster celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Navy will be wearing replica 1959 uniforms to celebrate the occasion.
Scouting The Hilltoppers
Western Kentucky heads into Saturday's contest with the Midshipmen having yet to find a victory in 2009. The Hilltoppers have lost to Tennessee (63-7), South Florida (35-17) and to Central Arkansas (28-7).
Western Kentucky's offense ranks 83rd in rushing offense (126.67 yards per game), 118th in scoring offense (9.00 points per game), 119th in passing offense (91.33 yards per game) and 119th in total offense (218.00 yards per game).
The Hilltoppers' defense ranks 79th in pass defense (233.00 yards per game), 115th in scoring defense (42.00 points per game), 118th in total defense (508.33 yards per game) and 119th in rushing defense (275.33).
Punter Jeremy Moore ranks 14th in the country, averaging 44.28 yards per punt.
Navy vs. the Sun Belt
Navy is 1-0 (1.000) all-time against teams currently in the Sun Belt.
The Mids' only game against a team from the Sun Belt was an epic 74-62 victory over North Texas on Nov. 10, 2007. The 136 combined points are etched into the record book as a Football Bowl Subdivision record for a regulation game.
A Look Back at the First Game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Navy unveiled its newest pride and joy, the $3 million dollar Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, before 25,000 spectators by beating William & Mary, 29-2, on Sept. 26, 1959.
Joe Bellino scored the first points in stadium history on a 53-yard touchdown run, while fullback Joe Matalavage rumbled for an 86-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Jim Maxfield led the Navy offense to two more touchdowns as the Midshipmen piled up 289 yards rushing while holding The Tribe to just 101 yards of total offense.
"I remember that we were all very proud of our new stadium and so impressed with how big and beautiful it was," Jim Dunn, an offensive center and captain of the 1959 squad, told the Annapolis Capital. "That stadium really helped put Navy football on the map. It made home games much more of an event."
Plans to construct a new stadium actually began more than two decades before and in 1939, the Naval Academy Athletic Association bought a 106-acre tract of farmland in West Annapolis.
By 1941, architects had completed preliminary plans and specifications, so rough grading of the former Davis-Smith site began.
However, World War II intervened and delayed construction of the stadium until 1956. That is when a survey showed the available athletic space for the Naval Academy intramural program to be woefully inadequate. Demolishing Thompson Stadium, home to Navy football since 1912, would free up five acres of valuable on-campus space for outdoor exercise activities.
Thompson Stadium had become terribly outdated in terms of seating, parking and other amenities and had deteriorated tremendously during its 48-year existence.
Academy officials estimated it would require $300,000 in renovations just to restore the stadium to limited utility without adding another seat, parking space or improved facilities. As a result, a drive to raise private funds for a new stadium began and was coordinated by Rear Admiral William R. Smedberg III, Superintendent of the Naval Academy at the time. Captain Eugene B. Fluckey served as campaign director and is credited with generating contributions that more than covered the cost of constructing the stadium. The stadium was funded by thousands of dedicated alumni, sailors, marines and friends of the United States Naval Academy, who donated the $3 million in private gifts. As a result, Navy was able to build a stadium that was worthy of its great football tradition.
"Thompson Stadium wasn't much to speak of. It was like a high school stadium to most of the players," quarterback Joe Tranchini told the Capital. "Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was definitely a major upgrade."
Navy Has Been Here Before
This is the third-consecutive year that Navy has started 1-2 and the fourth time in the last five years.
In 2008, Navy defeated Towson before losing to Ball State and Duke.
In 2007, Navy defeated Temple before losing to Rutgers and Ball State.
In 2005, Navy started the year losing to Maryland and Stanford before defeating Duke.
Navy has not started 1-3 since 2002 when Navy won the opener over SMU and then lost 10-straight before beating Army in the season finale.
Since 2003, Navy owns an 19-6 (.760) record in games following a loss. The Mids have lost back-to-back games just six times during that seven-year span:
2005 Maryland and Stanford 2006 Rutgers and Notre Dame 2007 Rutgers and Ball St.; Wake Forest and Delaware 2008 Ball State and Duke 2008/09 Wake Forest (bowl game) and Ohio State Navy has not lost three-straight games since the 2002 season when the Mids lost 10 in a row.
The Mids eluded a string of three straight losses in Navy's last home game by scoring 32-consecutive points and earning a 32-14 win over Louisiana Tech in Navy's home-opener.
Navy Stout Against The Run
Navy held Louisiana Tech to just 11 yards rushing, the fewest yards on the ground by a Navy opponent since the Mids held SMU to negative yardage (-13) in last year's contest in Annapolis (Oct. 25, 2008).
Louisiana Tech crossed the 50-yard line just twice, while five of the Bulldogs' 10 first downs came in the first quarter.
Navy is 33rd in the country in rush defense, giving up just 96.67 yards per game on the ground.
Mids Struggle in All Three Phases in Loss to Pitt
Pitt quarterback Bill Stull completed 17 of his 24 pass attempts for 245 yards and one touchdown to lead the Panthers to a 27-14 victory over Navy in front of 55,064 fans at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The Mids did not play well on offense, defense or special teams, but it was the special teams' miscues that stood out, as that unit cost the Mids 17 points.
Pitt fumbled the opening kickoff and senior outside linebacker Ram Vela had a chance to scoop the ball up and score or fall on the ball at the Pitt 19-yard line. Vela was unable to do either, as he ended up kicking the ball out of bounds at the Pitt 11-yard line.
Despite Vela's miscue, the Navy defense still had Pitt pinned deep in its own territory. Pitt, however, was able to drive 89 yards on 12 plays with Stull capping the drive off with a six-yard touchdown pass to Oderick Turner to take a 7-0 lead. It marked the third-straight game the Navy defense has given up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
Navy tied the game at seven late in the first period on a one-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs.
After Pitt took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by Ray Graham, Navy put together an 11-play drive that stalled on the Pitt 15-yard line. Junior kicker Joe Buckley came on and missed a 32-yard field goal wide right to end the Navy scoring threat.
The wheels completely came off for Navy on the next possession when junior punter Kyle Delahooke dropped a perfect snap and then kicked the ball while it was on the ground. Delahooke was credited with a loss of eight yards and then a 15-yard penalty at the spot of the foul, giving Pitt the ball at the Navy 15-yard line. Three plays later, Dion Lewis scored from six yards out to give the Panthers a 21-7 lead.
Navy pulled to within 24-14 early in the fourth quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by sophomore slot back Marcus Curry, but Pitt put the game away with a 12-play, 79-yard drive that ate up 6:25. The drive was capped off by Dan Hutchins' 18-yard field goal to make the score 27-14.
Navy was held to 218 yards of total offense, including just 129 yards on the ground on 46 carries. It was the worst offensive day for Navy since Oct. 14, 2006, when the Mids managed just 161 yards of total offense and 113 rushing yards against Rutgers in a 34-0 loss.
The 14 points scored by Navy are the fewest scored in a game since Oct. 28, 2006, when Navy lost to Notre Dame, 38-14.
Sophomore fullback Alexander Teich led Navy with 80 yards rushing on just 12 carries. Dobbs completed six of his 21 pass attempts for 89 yards.
Senior linebacker Ross Pospisil led the Navy defense with 14 tackles, while junior safety Wyatt Middleton had nine tackles and a fumble recovery. Senior linebacker Tony Haberer was in on eight stops.
On tap to play one of the toughest schedules in recent memory, the Mids will battle eight teams this fall that played in bowl games a year ago, including the first three games and five of the first six games.
Navy's two losses this year have come at the hands of preseason Big Ten favorite and nationally-ranked Ohio State (2-1) and preseason Big East favorite Pitt (3-0)
Keeping The Football
Navy has kept the football an average 33:26 per game, the sixth-best time of possession in the country.
Converting In The Red Zone
Navy has scored on eight of 10 attempts (80 percent) inside the red zone, with all eight scores resulting in touchdowns (80 percent).
Meanwhile, the defense has given up 10 scores on the oppositions 12 attempts inside the red zone (83 percent), with only six of those scores resulting in touchdowns (50 percent).
Navy ranks No. 1 in the country in fewest penalty yards per game (21.67 yards per game) and tied for second in fewest penalties per game (3.00 per game).
Last year, Navy finished second in both penalty yards per game (26.77) and penalties per game (3.15).