The Panthers lead the all-time series against the Midshipmen 22-13-3, with Pitt winning six of the past seven contests.
The Last Time Pitt and Navy last met on Sept. 19, 2009 at Heinz Field. The Panthers won the game 27-14 to improve to 3-0 on the season as running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham both found the end zone and quarterback Bill Stull efficiently ran the offense, throwing for 245 yards and a touchdown. The Pitt defense stifled the vaunted Navy rushing attack, holding the Midshipmen to just 129 yards on 46 attempts (2.8 yards per carry).
2012 Navy Season Review
Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (fifth season)
2012-13 Record: 8-5, lost to Arizona State in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Beat Air Force 28-21 (OT) and Army 17-13 to regain the Commander in Chief's Trophy.
Beat Indiana 31-30 by scoring 10 points in the last six minutes.
The Niumatalolo File
A former Hawai'i quarterback who also spent several years as an offensive assistant at Hawai'i, Navy and UNLV, Ken Niumatalolo was named head football coach at Navy after his mentor Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech following the 2007 regular season. Now, having already coached in more bowl games than any other coach in Navy football history, Niumatalolo enters his sixth season at the helm of the Midshipmen's storied program. After playing and coaching under Johnson's distinctive triple-option offensive attack for two decades, Niumatalolo was the no-brainer candidate to follow Johnson's successful tenure at Navy. With a 40-26 overall record, five bowl berths, two wins over Notre Dame and, perhaps most importantly, a perfect 5-0 record in Army-Navy games, Niumatalolo's time at Navy has produced one of the best stretches in recent Midshipmen football history.
Looking at the Midshipmen
Offense: 5 starters lost, 6 returning
1. Reynolds the decision maker - Every effective triple option attack needs a composed man under center to take the snap, read the defense and decide what to do with the football. Sophomore Keenan Reynolds is that man for Navy. The diminutive quarterback had a solid freshman year, passing for 898 yards, rushing for 649 yards and scoring 19 total touchdowns. Although he struggled with fumbles early last season, Reynolds improved to lead Navy to eight wins and the nation's No. 6 rushing offense (278.5 yards per game). A year of experience should make him even better in 2013.
2. Small, inexperienced offensive line - With only one senior and one 300-pounder on the Navy offensive line, Aaron Donald and the rest of the Pitt defensive line should feel confident that they can get in the backfield and disrupt Reynolds. However, the athletic, undersized Midshipmen line feeds on tired defenders when Navy sustains long offensive drives. The Panthers' defense must get off the field on third downs to stay fresh.
Defense: 4 starters lost, 7 returning
1. Hoping to improve - The Navy defense struggled at times last season, allowing 30 points or more on five occasions and conceding more than 400 yards per game. Returning seven starters should mean that the Midshipmen will improve on that side of the ball, but the Pitt offense should still be able to create some mismatches against Navy defenders.
Keys to Victory
1. Stop the triple option - When facing Coach Ken Niumatalolo's Navy squad, stopping the triple option is the main goal for every team. The quarterback, full back and running back must all be accounted for on every down. The Pitt defensive line and linebackers need to play well each snap against the undersized Midshipmen offensive line; any lapses of concentration could lead to a quick Navy touchdown.
2. Calm the crowd - With a boisterous homecoming crowd likely to fill the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for this 1 p.m. kickoff, Pitt needs to get off to a good start. An early touchdown for the Panthers would likely silence the 30,000-plus Navy fans, and the Pitt defense must also come ready to play to ensure that the Midshipmen's rushing game doesn't get into an early rhythm.
Check back for a preview of Pitt's week 8 opponent, Georgia Tech.