Navy led the nation in rushing last season, but the Midshipmen break in a new quarterback when they open the season Monday night in a nationally televised nonconference game against visiting BYU in Annapolis, Md.
Senior Dalen Morris takes over for triple-option wizard Malcolm Perry, who ran for 2,017 yards last season while leading Navy to an 11-2 record and 360.5 rushing yards per game. Morris had a strong preseason camp after appearing briefly in four games over the past two seasons.
“Dalen came in with a purpose and took the position,” offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said in a video call with media. “I’m very excited with where Dalen is now. He just has to keep doing it and carry that confidence over into the season.”
BYU, coming off a 7-6 season as an independent, has experience at quarterback in junior Zach Wilson, who has 3,960 passing yards in 18 games over the past two years, including an injury-disrupted 2019 season. He finished strong, however, throwing for nearly 900 yards in the final three games.
“I think he had a great offseason not having to rehab or anything like that,” said BYU coach Kilani Sitake. “He was able to master his craft a little bit more and improve his game. He worked really hard in the offseason. This was his third fall camp, so he felt a lot more comfortable. Instead of trying to establish himself as a player, now he is trying to compete and solidify his spot.”
The Cougars suffered a significant blow in camp when senior tight end Matt Bushman, a potential All-American, suffered a season-ending injury, reported to be a torn Achilles tendon. Without Bushman, BYU’s goal of being better in the red zone — the Cougars ranked 120th out of 130 teams last season — gets even trickier.
It helps to have a talented and veteran offensive line, led by left tackle Brady Christensen and center James Empey, both juniors. The Cougars will try to lean on their size on both sides of the line in a game that the oddsmakers rate close to a toss-up.
“Their offensive and defensive lines, very physical,” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. “They have played with a lot of Power 5 people. Up front, they don’t look out of place. That’s going to be one of my biggest concerns. They’re well-coached and they’re physical. That’s a bad combination (for us).”
Navy ended last season on a four-game winning streak, went 7-1 in the American Athletic Conference and finished with a 20-17 Liberty Bowl win over Kansas State. That was a brilliant bounce-back season after falling to 3-10 in 2018, only Niumatalolo’s second losing season in 14 years at the academy. Fullbacks Jamale Carothers (743 yards, 14 touchdowns, 6.6 yards per carry) and Nelson Smith (571 yards, seven TDs) return, while Niumatalolo raved about the camp development of senior slotback Myles Fells, who had 18 carries last season.
–Field Level Media