Following one of the least productive offensive showings since Navy installed the triple-option offense, Coach Ken Niumatalolo said he would stick with Trey Miller at quarterback in spite of the junior’s 10 turnovers through four games.
Miller was responsible for a fumble and interception during Saturday’s 12-0 loss to San Jose State, in which the Midshipmen failed to score for the first time since 2006. Navy’s 144 total yards also were its second fewest since it went to the triple option in 2002.
Miller’s interception came late in the third quarter, and he played in one more series before freshman Keenan Reynolds took over with 7 minutes 46 seconds left in regulation.
“I have faith in Trey,” Niumatalolo said following practice on Monday afternoon. “He needs to play better, but I know he can get it done.”
Miller has seven fumbles and three interceptions, including five turnovers inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. Against San Jose State, Miller directed a promising opening drive deep into Spartans territory but lost a fumble at the 9-yard line after a three-yard run.
Settling on a quarterback blunts at least one major potential distraction as the Midshipmen prepare for the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy against Air Force on Saturday. Navy had won the trophy for a service academy-record seven consecutive seasons beginning in 2003, but the Falcons have claimed the hardware in each of the last two seasons.
The game is set for 9:30 a.m. local time in Colorado Springs, and the environment figures to be especially boisterous with Air Force Academy officials permitting overnight tailgating for the first time.
“I just can’t catch a break,” said Miller, who is averaging 2.6 yards per carry this season. “But it’s still all on me. I get the offense going, and when I turn it over, it hurts the team.”
The Midshipmen (1-3), who have not beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this season, will need Miller to be at his best considering they’ll be without starting slotback John Howell for the remainder of the season. The senior’s football career is over after he tore ligaments in his right knee in the first half on Saturday.
Howell was wearing a brace and standing on crutches during practice and said he would be having surgery on Tuesday for a completely torn ACL and a partially torn MCL.
Howell was Navy’s fourth-leading rusher last season, and his five touchdowns were the most on the team among non-quarterbacks.
The prognosis for starting safety Tra’ves Bush is much more encouraging, although it remains uncertain if the senior will be cleared to play against Air Force. Bush came out in the first half Saturday after a helmet-to-helmet collision with a Spartans player and did not reenter because of a concussion.
“We look at it, and we’re not far off,” said senior slotback Bo Snelson, whose workload is likely to increase with Howell unavailable. “The biggest thing is we’ve got to focus in tighter on ourselves. So I have to see what I can do better. Trey has to see what he can do better . . . because as soon as you start pointing fingers and saying somebody else is the problem, then your game starts to slip.”