In its first two games this season, Navy's offense has imposed its will on opposing defenses.
Colgate, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, can be forgiven for being incapable of stopping Navy's triple-option attack, but the Midshipmen really showed the country they could be dangerous against East Carolina. Navy rushed for 415 yards against the Pirates' strong run defense, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds and fullback Chris Swain each eclipsed 100 yards.
While UConn (2-1) did not have too much trouble with Army's triple option, Reynolds will be executing the offense out of the flexbone at a much higher level in UConn's American Athletic Conference opener. Reynolds, a four-year starter, is closing in on the NCAA career rushing touchdowns record. After running for five against East Carolina, Reynolds is up to 70 career rushing touchdowns, seven behind the record set by Wisconsin's Montee Ball. Navy (2-0, 1-0 American) also has the benefit of a bigger, more experienced offensive line and skill position group than Army.
Enter Julian Campenni, Folorunso Fatukasi, Luke Carrezola, Junior Joseph, Matt Walsh, Andrew Adams and Graham Stewart, the leaders of a defense much more prepared to face Navy's triple option than either Colgate or East Carolina. It is the same defense that held Missouri to seven offensive points in its own house and held Army to nine total first downs.
UConn head coach Bob Diaco has faced Navy many times in his time as Notre Dame defensive coordinator. Many of the Huskies' defensive starters this season played against Army last season, as well, meaning most of UConn's defense has had two games and three weeks of practice in preparation for Saturday's game. The Huskies will definitely be ready for it.
Offensively, UConn will look to play its game: establish the run, have Bryant Shirreffs hit short passes efficiently and take a few deep shots. Expect Arkeel Newsome to be more involved this weekend and for the Huskies offense to rebound after a subpar performance against a tough Missouri defense.
Navy's defense is nothing special, but does appear to be more aggressive than in the past. UConn will try to control the clock the way it did against Army, and will need to do so effectively in order to keep its defense fresh and off the field. If the UConn offense sputters, it will give Reynolds too many chances with the ball and could lead to the Huskies' demise.
Additionally, special teams has been a weakness for Navy. UConn definitely has some issues to correct in that arena, but the comforts of Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field and a non-SEC opponent could help the Huskies win the third phase of the game.
Navy has a good chance of winning the West Division in the American, and it is expected to be a contender for the conference championship. After three impressive performances to start the season, UConn has an opportunity Saturday to prove that it, too, belongs in that conversation.
After Memphis' win over Cincinnati Thursday, UConn can legitimately be considered a contender in the East Division if it wins Saturday. Even a close loss against a really good Navy team would be another sign to the country the Huskies are for real.
How to Watch:
TV: 12 p.m., CBS Sports (Dave Ryan, Corey Chavous, Lauren Gardner)
Radio: WTIC 1080 AM (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman) | 91.7 WHUS | www.whus.org
Series: Navy leads the all-time series 6-1. In two games since UConn moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the series is tied 1-1. The Huskies' lone win came in 2002, a 38-0 win in Annapolis in the first meeting after UConn's move to FBS.
First Meeting: The Huskies lost 55-7 in Annapolis to open the 1975 season. The two teams played every year from 1975 to 1979 with Navy winning each time.
Last Meeting: The Midshipmen posted a 41-17 win at Rentschler Field on Sept. 30, 2006.