Know the Foe: Navy
A look at Navy, which hosts USF on Saturday in Annapolis, Md.
Record: 5-1, 3-0 in American Athletic Conference
Wins: 48-10 vs. Colgate, 45-21 vs. East Carolina, 28-18 at Connecticut, 33-11 vs. Air Force, 31-14 vs. Tulane
Loss: 41-24 at Notre Dame
Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (eighth season, 62-36)
The breakdown: Not only do the Midshipmen run an offense (triple option) rarely seen anymore, they run it flawlessly. Navy has committed only four turnovers in seven games (tied for third-fewest in Division I-A) and its 25 penalties are the fewest among I-A programs. In four of the previous six years, the Midshipmen finished first nationally in fewest penalties per game. A team of cut-blocking extraordinaires, Navy's catalyst is 5-foot-11 senior QB Keenan Reynolds, who operates behind a mobile line averaging only 279 pounds. Reynolds needs two rushing TDs to tie Montee Ball for the NCAA career record (77), and his 3,822 career rushing yards are 357 shy of Navy record-holder Napoleon McCallum. "He just doesn't make mistakes," USF defensive coordinator Tom Allen said. "They're gonna force us to be as disciplined and as fundamentally sound as we've ever been." Defensively, the Midshipmen, who blitz liberally, likely will come out in a three-man front with a nose guard head-up on the center, and the ends helmet-to-helmet with the tackles. Against the run, they rank fifth in the AAC and 46th nationally (148.2 ypg). "They're very, very sound technically, and they're very, very aggressive," Bulls offensive line coach Danny Hope said.
Odds and ends: Navy enters Saturday's contest on a seven-game home win streak. Its only two defeats in its last 13 contests (dating to last year) were two losses to Notre Dame. ... The Midshipmen have forced at least one turnover in 13 consecutive contests. ... Navy has lost only three coaches in Niumatalolo's eight seasons. By contrast, USF lost or dismissed six coaches after last season. ... Former Newsome High three-way star Will Worth, the Tampa Bay Times' 2012 Offensive Player of the Year for Hillsborough County, is the Midshipmen's holder for PATs and field goals, and the third-string quarterback. "It's definitely been tough," he said. "But if I do (have to be a third-stringer) I'm glad it's behind someone who's going to break the school rushing record." ... The only other local on Navy's roster is freshman LB Conner Dorris (Clearwater Central Catholic).
Taggart's take: "You can't be mentally weak against that team because they are disciplined and mentally tough and they can fight through a lot. When they're tired they'll fight through it and when they're hurt they'll fight through it, and that's kind of how they're built. And you've got to be that way as a football team as well."