SMU seeks redemption vs Navy after last year's performance
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A year ago, Navy was on a roll when it faced SMU.
The Midshipmen arrived in Dallas riding a four-game winning streak, and they left the Lone Star State savoring a 75-31 victory that clinched a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
As Navy prepares for Saturday's game against SMU, coach Ken Niumatalolo would love to see his team recapture the magic it displayed during that run.
"That game seems so far away now. I wish we could play like that again," Niumatalolo said. "They're much improved, and we're not as good."
Navy (5-3, 3-3) has lost three straight and is coming off one of its poorest offensive performances in recent memory, managing a mere 136 rushing yards in a 34-26 loss at Temple.
SMU (6-3, 3-2) is still in the hunt for the AAC West Division crown.
Third-year SMU head coach Chad Morris certainly remembers last year's game against Navy, which amassed 496 rushing yards and outscored the Mustangs 47-7 in the second half.
"We have to go to Navy, a team we have not fared well against in each of my two years here," Morris said. "Matter of fact, we were absolutely embarrassed at our place last year. It was a very disappointing loss."
Some things to know about the Navy-SMU matchup:
TROUBLE WITH THE TRIPLE: SMU has not fared well against Navy under Morris, enduring a 55-14 drubbing in Annapolis in 2016. The Mustangs have been unable to contain the triple option, allowing 896 rushing yards in the last two meetings with the Midshipmen. Statistically, SMU has improved its rushing defense, giving up an average of 166.2 yards per game to rank 62nd nationally. However, the Mustangs have allowed four straight opponents to rush for 200 yards or more.
SENIOR DAY: On Senior Day, Navy will honor the Class of 2018 in a pregame ceremony. Co-captains Darryl Bonner and D.J. Palmore lead a group of 34 seniors who have compiled a 33-15 record. "It's our last go-round in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. We'll just try to soak in every moment and make the most of it," Bonner said. Navy has won 14 consecutive games on Senior Day.
HIGH-POWERED OFFENSE: Morris previously served as offensive coordinator at Clemson and brought his high-powered passing attack to Dallas. Quarterback Ben Hicks directs a spread system that is producing 505 total yards of offense and 39.6 points per game. Trey Quinn, an LSU transfer, leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 90 receptions for 921 yards. Courtland Sutton has 48 catches for 752 yards and nine touchdowns.
STILL IN THE HUNT: Morris noted that Navy had plenty of motivation going into last year's meeting with SMU. "They were playing for a chance to host the championship game. So they had a lot to play for and great desire," Morris said. The situation is vastly different this time: With a win on Saturday, SMU would set up a showdown for a share of first place in the West Division when it travels to 20th-ranked Memphis (8-1, 5-1) on Nov. 18.
TROPHY ON THE LINE: Navy and SMU jointly established the Gansz Trophy in 2009 to honor a legendary coach with ties to both institutions. Frank Gansz played center and linebacker at Navy for three seasons and is a 1960 graduate of the academy. Gansz later spent four years as an assistant at his alma mater. Gansz was starting his second season as an assistant at SMU when he died on April 27, 2009. Navy is 5-0 in Gansz Trophy games.
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