Navy football vs. Penn State: Mids regroup after early bye week
By Gene Wang,
The Navy football team continued to regroup on the practice field this week following a 50-10 loss to Notre Dame in Dublin on Sept. 1. Midshipmen quarterback Trey Miller was especially grateful for Navy’s earliest bye week in more than 10 years, as he was able to nurse a sore ankle suffered in the season opener.
Miller was moving around with less discomfort this week as opposed to the days immediately following Navy’s second straight lopsided loss to the Fighting Irish, in which the junior hurt his ankle when a defensive lineman landed on his foot.
Despite a noticeable limp, Miller finished the series in the second quarter and declined to come out of the game even when the coaching staff attempted to insert backup Keenan Reynolds. Miller’s fortitude impressed his teammates, but his limited mobility coupled with Notre Dame’s swarming defense contributed to just 16 rushing yards on 20 carries for the first-year starter.
“Much better today,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said about Miller’s ankle after Tuesday’s practice. “I thought he looked much better today so I was definitely encouraged by what I saw. I think just with every day he’ll get better. He’s been really diligent in getting his treatment.”
The Midshipmen visit Penn State (0-2) on Saturday.
Miller’s performance included a costly turnover in the second quarter when the Midshipmen were trying to cut into a 20-0 deficit. Navy had driven to the Notre Dame 16-yard line and was facing second down and one when Miller lost the ball dropping back to pass.
Stephon Tuitt scooped up the ball for the Fighting Irish and ran for a 77-yard touchdown that all but doused anychance of a Navy comeback. The fumble was one of three lost for the Midshipmen, who committed four turnovers and ran for just 149 yards, their lowest rushing total since Dec. 11, 2010.
“The ball’s the most important thing,” senior slotback Bo Snelson said. “We’re giving it to them and they’re not giving it back to us, then obviously we’re going to have a problem. Ball security has always been something we’ve preached about here. We just didn’t do a very good job of practicing what we preach. Now it’s become an even bigger point of emphasis.”
The Midshipmen were unable to mount consistent drives in part because of those turnovers, allowing Notre Dame to own an advantage of more than seven minutes in time of possession. Last season, Navy held close to a three-minute margin in time of possession per game.
Miller, meantime, completed 14 of 19 throws, and his 192 passing yards were the most for the Midshipmen since midway through 2010. The passing total came despite Navy missing both its starting wide receivers.
Junior Matt Aiken was unavailable because of a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage, and senior Brandon Turner did not accompany the team to Ireland per Niumatalolo’s decision. Turner has been practicing with the first-team offense following the Notre Dame game, but Aiken remains a long shot to play this weekend, according to Niumatalolo.
With Aiken’s status in doubt, junior Shawn Lynch has been working with the first team. Lynch led Navy in receiving in the opener with 87 yards on four receptions coming off the bench behind starters Casey Bolena and Jonathan Gazaille.
“We had to throw because we were behind,” Niumatalolo said. “That’s not us. We threw because we were behind and kind of got out of our element a little bit. We want to throw when we want to throw and kind of dictate that, but because of the situation, we were so far behind, they dictated to us that we had to throw. We’re not built for that, to throw like that every down.”