Noah Copeland is a football chameleon, willing and able to adapt to whatever role he’s asked to perform.
If Navy needs him to function as a blocker or decoy, the fullback is content to handle tasks that often go unnoticed. And when Copeland is asked to shoulder more of an offensive load, he can do that, too.
Copeland ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, leading Navy to a 21-10 victory over Texas State at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
“It feels nice just to contribute more, even if it’s just running now,” said Copeland, a sophomore who helped Navy prevail in its 10th straight senior day game.
“The last couple games, I just had to do my role. It’s all about doing your role rather than running the ball and stats. It really doesn’t matter about stats, as long as you can do your role and win the game.”
Copeland scored on runs of 15 and 16 yards as the Midshipmen (7-4) won for the sixth time in seven games.
Fellow fullback Chris Swain added 45 yards rushing as Navy adjusted when Texas State limited quarterback Keenan Reynolds’s effectiveness by using a front alignment for which the Midshipmen had not prepared.
“Take what they give us,” Reynolds said. “They were trying to take away the quarterback, so the A backs and the fullback have a great game.”
Shaun Rutherford threw a touchdown pass to Isaiah Battle for the Bobcats (3-7), who dropped their fourth consecutive game. After scoring 55 points in a loss to Louisiana Tech a week ago, Texas State’s offense was held in check for much of the game despite offensive totals that might have suggested otherwise.
“I can’t be critical of the way our defense played,” said Texas State Coach Dennis Franchione. “We held them to 14 essentially. Except for the turnover on the second-half kickoff, I thought we played pretty good. If anybody had told me we’d hold them to 14 without the fumble, I’d have said we’d have won the game.”
A week after yielding 487 yards in a 41-31 loss at Troy, Navy’s defense surrendered 405 yards but did not allow a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
“The defense bailed us out,” Midshipmen Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They kept us in the game.”
It was Navy’s final contest before its Dec. 8 battle against Army in Philadelphia, where the winner will claim the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for football supremacy among U.S. service academies.
Gee Gee Greene also ran for a touchdown for Navy, which amassed 407 yards on the ground.
Niumatalolo said that what reporters thought was an uneven offensive effort was actually a case of Navy making the most of the opportunities it was presented.
“It forced us to execute,” he said. “We were executing pretty well at the beginning. We just didn’t execute well enough, but we still won.”
The run-first mentality wasn’t a surprise to Franchione.
“They wouldn’t throw a pass some games if they didn’t have to. . . . Their option game is very unique and they choose to throw it underhand and backwards and read people, and that aspect of the game,” he said. “It’s a different challenge from what we face week in and week out.”