Here are a few tidbits of news and opinion as the Mids get ready to take on Texas State this weekend…
Scouting Report: Texas State
Texas State recently fell in a 62-55 shootout against No. 19 ranked Louisiana Tech. The Bobcats led the Bulldogs going into the second quarter and were able to tie the score up twice, including a 48-48 score going into the fourth quarter. Shaun Rutherford completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Bradley Miller to tie it up for the fifth time of the game. The Bulldogs quickly responded and added another scoring drive late in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Bobcat quarterback Shaun Rutherford is one of the more accurate passers in the WAC conference, completing 64.5 percent of pass attempts. The senior signal caller as completed 129 for 200 pass attempts for 1,454 yards passing, with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Rutherford is also a huge threat to run, with 388 yards rushing on 119 carries and four touchdowns. Rutherford is very efficient running the Bobcats' read-option offense and can punish defenses who over pursue.
Senior running back Marcus Curry leads the Bobcat rushing game with 513 yards rushing, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, with 9 rushing scores. In 2011, Curry was second on the team behind sophomore running back Terrence Franks--who led the team with 863 rushing yards and nine scores. Franks is also a very hard runner with big play potential, with 54 carries for 224 yards rushing and three scores.
Junior Andy Erickson leads the Bobcat receiving corps with 33 catches for 426 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Erickson is a very dangerous return man and ranks second in the nation, averaging a huge 18.7 yards per punt return, with a long return of 54 yards.
The Bobcat's second-most dangerous receiving threat is senior tight end Chase Harper, who is second on the team with 20 receptions for 249 yards receiving and three scores.
After catching only two receptions for 11 yards in 2011, sophomore receiver Deche Milburn has been phenomenal for Texas State with 17 receptions for 154 yards receiving. Junior Isaiah Battle has also seen plenty of playing time at the Bobcats 'H' receiving position. Battle leads Bobcat receivers with 10 or more receptions, averaging 15.8 yards per reception.
Sophomore receiver Ben Ijah has been another impressive surprise for Texas State, with 16 receptions for 125 yards receiving.
Freshman center Matt Freeman, senior tackle Thaddeus Watkins, and Charlie Will Tuttle--who moved from center to guard--have been the three consistent pieces on the offensive line.
Senior offensive tackle Adley Eshraghipour returned to the starting role for Utah State after missing prior three starts. At the other guard position, junior Mike Yoder and redshirt freshman Zach Crawford have traded the starting job as the season wore on.
Texas State fields a 4-2-5 defense that spur strong safety/linebacker hybrid Jason Mclean has been wonderful in; the senior leads the team with 58 tackles, including a tackle for a loss, with four passes defended. Free safety Xavier Daniels follows closely behind McLean with 51 tackles, four passes defended, and a forced fumble; the junior defensive back led the team in tackles with 77 in 2011.
Senior cornerback Darryl Morris has been a thorn in quarterbacks' sides and is tied for first on the team, with 3 interceptions and 6 passes defended. Sophomore cornerback Craig Mager has been had an excellent year with 31 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, and a team-high 10 passes defended.
Junior cornerbacks Phillip Benning and Justin Iwuji have split time at the defensive back position in the flexible defense. Iwuji leads the pair with 34 tackles, including 2 for a loss, and an interception returned 23 yards to set up a score in the Bobcats 21-34 loss at home to Nevada.
Senior linebacker Joplo Bartu leads the front six with 49 tackles including 3½ for a loss, 1½ sacks, with a pair of quarterback hurries. Senior Brian Lilly started the first seven games for the Bobcats and has posted 28 tackles, including one for a loss, a sack, and a team-high two fumble recoveries.
Junior linebacker Damion McMiller in starting in place of David Mayo--who suffered a left knee injury and is out for the season. McMiller got his first start against Utah State, tallying 5 tackles, including a ½ tackle for loss.
Junior defensive ends Jordan Norfleet and Jamie Clavell-Head combine for 34 tackles, including 4 for a loss, and three quarterback hurries. Clavell-Head also got his first start against Utah State and grabbed his first interception of the season and two tackles, including one for a loss.
Nose tackle Blake McColloch has been sturdy starting for the Bobcats with 20 tackles, including 3 for a loss, a sack, and a forced fumble; defensive tackle Kamu Taulelei ties McColloch with 20 tackles, including ½ a sack.
Sophomore punter Will Johnson handled punting, field goals, and kickoffs for the Bobcats for the third time against Utah State. Johnson is 9 for 13 from field goal range with a long of 52 yards against Houston; the sophomore attempted a 56-yard field goal last week against Louisiana Tech. Johnson is averaging 41 yards per punt with a long punt of 59 yards against Utah State.
The Bobcats have one of the best special team units in the country. Navy will have to be extremely vigilant against a Texas State team, with two of the better punt and kickoff returners in the country.
Freshman kick returner Jafus Gaines averages 30.9 yards per kick return which would put him in the top eight in the FBS. Gaines tied his season-best 65-yard return against Stephen F. Austin. He had returned another for that distance against Louisiana Tech last week. Gaines has also returned two for 59 yards against Utah State, had a 44-yard return against San Jose State, and a 50-yard return against Idaho.
The Bobcats are well aware of the spark that Navy freshman Keenan Reynolds brought to the offense in the fifth game of the season. A Texas State team that gave up 62 points at home to Louisiana Tech, will look to stop Reynolds and the high powered Navy rushing offense.
Bobcat head coach Dennis Franchione gave praise to the true freshman in his Monday press conference.
"I think the guy that has kind of been the catalyst in their turnaround is Reynolds." Franchione said. "The freshman quarterback who can throw and run and really pose as problems because of the multiplicity with which he can do things. Not very often does a freshman start at the Naval Academy, so pretty impressive with what he is doing."
The Midshipmen have 18 players on the roster from the state of Texas, including senior wide receivers Tyler Lynch and Jonathan Gazaille and senior slot back Bo Snelson. The Mids have not been their best since the bowl clinching victory against Florida Atlantic. One game to go and Navy can focus on the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. This week, the Navy defense needs to be focused on stopping an offense with big play potential. The Navy offense needs to limit the turnovers and take advantage of a defense allowing 211.7 rushing yards per game. If both defenses play as poorly as they have at times over the season, this could be another high scoring shootout.
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