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Georgia Southern, Navy Know Each Other Well

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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With the season in the home stretch, Georgia Southern and Navy will soon compete in an exciting November pairing. Though the coaches will meet for the first time, these two programs know each other well.

Georgia Southern and Navy are two programs very familiar with one another. Two of the last six head coaches for the Eagles, Paul Johnson and Jeff Monken, ultimately went to, and came from, Annapolis. Johnson won back-to-back national championships in 1999 and 2000. Currently the head coach at Army, Monken took Georgia Southern to three consecutive trips to the FCS semifinals and led the Eagles to their first-ever win over an FBS foe, a 26-20 triumph at Florida. Back in 2011, the Midshipmen edged the Eagles 13-7 in Annapolis.

Now a member of the Sun Belt Conference, Georgia Southern is making an anticipated return to the mid-Atlantic. The Eagles enter Saturday an impressive 8-2, undefeated in league play and with losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State by a combined five points. Recently, Georgia Southern received a vote in the Associated Press top 25 poll. There is talk that, if there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams, the Eagles could receive a waver to play in the postseason.       

"Good football team," stated Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. "Obviously I know a lot about their program, Coach Johnson, who is my mentor. Ivin Jasper, Chris Culton, Danny O'Rourke, three guys on my staff coached there for many years and won a couple of national championships. I know it's a storied program that has a lot of tradition, a rich tradition of winning championships."

Saturday's meeting will feature the nation's top two rushing offenses. Georgia Southern paces major college football with 385.1 yards per game, while Navy leads everyone else with 350.4 yards per game. 

"They love their option football down there," Niumatalolo continued. "Coach Fritz has done a great job in bringing his style of option football. I've been impressed with the seamless transition from a veer, triple-option, mid-line team to a zone-option team, which they are doing. They look like they have been running that offense for years."

Three games ago, the Eagles set a conference record with 613 yards on the ground at Georgia State. Sophomore running back Matt Breida leads the league with 1,224 yards and 14 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison ranks fifth and third, respectively, with 931 yards and eleven scores. Freshman running back Alfred Ramsby comes in at tenth in the Sun Belt with 611 yards and tied for fourth with ten touchdowns. Georgia Southern compiles offensive production a number of different ways.  

"What they do is a little bit different than what we do. Conceptually, there are some things as far as having a dive, a quarterback option and a pitch option. They are a zone-option team, similar to Auburn's stuff. They also have a power game, so they can run right at you. They can get the football to the perimeter, they have fast guys," Niumatalolo explained. "I think you can adjust to option teams that aren't so good. When they are really good like Georgia Southern, it is going to be hard."

In their last contest, the Midshipmen scored 24 unanswered points and pulled to within three points late in a close game with Notre Dame. Navy ran for 336 yards against a defense that held Florida State and Stanford to a combined 97 yards rushing. Senior Noah Copeland carried the football 16 times for 138 yards for the Midshipmen. Navy has now won two of its last three and has scored a total of 131 points in those outings.

Despite the difficult defeat to the Fighting Irish, the Midshipmen used the days that followed to focus on the next challenge on the schedule.  

"It was a tough loss for us. Our kids put everything in to that game," Niumatalolo added. "Our bye week was used to get ready for Georgia Southern. We took full advantage of having two weeks to get ready for them because we know how good they are. The extra week of preparation was good for us. We took some days off to get some rest, get physically healed a little bit, but we knew we had to get back and get prepared for a very good football team."  

With the season in the home stretch, Georgia Southern and Navy will soon compete in an exciting November pairing. Though Fritz and Niumatalolo will meet for the first time, these two programs know each other well.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports