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Game 4 preview: Rutgers takes on Navy

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After a letdown that came oh-so-close to euphoria, the Scarlet Knights must get ready for a unique challenge.

Sarah Glenn

Ah, the triple-option. It's almost mesmerizing when it's run well, and no team runs it better than the Naval Academy. The Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing and muster 30 yards more per game than the next highest team (Georgia Southern). For Rutgers, Navy is a familiar foe and the strategy has been the same for over a decade: sell out against the run and hope you've done enough to keep them out of the endzone.

The last time these two teams met, Rutgers limited the Mids to 162 yards rushing, well below their season average in 2011. Still, RU needed a block on a 34-yard field goal to remain in the lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game. With Navy giving 4.5 in this matchup, Rutgers might need more special teams magic to prevent a letdown after an emotional loss from the week before. In a way, this game is exactly like the season opener, but with a different type of poison. The Midshipmen are going to pound the ball into the heart of the defense and they'll get big rushing numbers, so it will be up to Rutgers to make the key stop late in the game when it's needed, just like they did against Washington State. Some might call this game a trap game, but the Midshipmen are too good for that moniker, especially with Keenan Reynolds coming back. The Mids are simply a quality opponent that can hang with good teams, like they did against a loaded Ohio State roster. Navy has been a ridiculously consistent bowl team for over a decade, so they should not be taken lightly one bit.

Besides all of the chop blocking, all eyes will be on Gary Nova. Five interceptions will do that for him. Navy isn't all that great defensively, evidenced by 838 yards of offense given up to Temple and Texas State the past two weeks. This is a perfect opportunity for a bounce back game, so let's hope Ralph Friedgen's reading of the riot act worked.

Perhaps more importantly, we should see a return to giving the rock to Paul James and just letting him do his thing. Nick Saban once told an anecdote about a former coach who didn't really call complex play schemes, but instead just got the ball to his best players. In other words, it's not about the X's and O's, it's the Jimmys and Joes. This should be the mantra for Fridge. James can burn you on the ground or through the air; all you have to do is get him the ball. He's the cog that makes the Scarlet machine run, so it's imperative that he carries the offense.

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Rutgers enters Saturday getting 4.5, which means it could be a tougher matchup than Penn State (although without the three point home-field advantage, you could say last weekend was a bigger spread). Rutgers has a good record against the service academies, so it's interesting that the spread is that big. Vegas might know something we don't, or they're just playing up the hangover card. In any case, they usually know best, which means Rutgers could be in for a long day with the triple-option. Let's hope the success against the Mids continues.