The Navy football team takes special satisfaction in being the most disciplined program in the country, but this week that reputation got put to the test a bit starting with a 35-34 overtime loss to Air Force last Saturday.
The Midshipmen committed six penalties for 67 yards in that game, the most in a year, after having been called for five infractions in the previous three games. Most egregious was unsportsmanlike conduct on senior quarterback Kriss Proctor, who drew the flag when he exchanged words with a Falcons defender following his touchdown in overtime that gave Navy a 34-28 lead.
Place kicker Jon Teague had his 35-yard extra-point try blocked, and Air Force scored the tying touchdown and added the winning point after to escape with its second consecutive victory over the Midshipmen, who remain the least penalized team in the country.
Then on Wednesday, Coach Ken Niumatalolo revealed starting fullback and senior co-captain Alexander Teich would not be playing today against Southern Miss because of a violation of team rules. Niumatalolo stopped short of calling the disciplinary action a suspension, but regardless, Teich’s absence means Navy will have to count on the far less experienced Delvin Diggs (four carries this season) to run between the tackles.
“There’s a lot of stuff” going on, Niumatalolo said earlier this week. “Our players aren’t taking responsibility for the game, blaming other people. Whatever the outside distractions are, and there’s a lot of it, the bottom line is we’ve got to get ready for these guys.”
Navy did so with Teich absent from practice, but he was with the team when it arrived at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Teich was on the field before the game talking to teammates and listening to music through ear buds while tossing a football.
With Teich out of the lineup, the Midshipmen may elect to get the ball to their slotbacks much more often today than against Air Force. Last week, slotbacks had two carries while Teich had 35 for a game-high 148 yards.
“We’re four points from being undefeated,” Niumatalolo said, referring to the Air Force margin and a 24-21 loss to then-No. 10 South Carolina on Sept. 17. “The margin of error for us is minute, so if anyone is doing anything wrong because of discipline, stepping the wrong way, doing all that stuff, I’m going to harp on it, just to continue to emphasize, ‘Guys, yes, we’re close to winning, but we didn’t get it done.’ ”