ANNAPOLIS | The aftermath of Navy’s latest loss was three injured starters, two more turnovers and one murky quarterback situation.
San Jose State’s 12-0 victory at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium left the Midshipmen pondering their first shutout loss since 2006 to cap a forgettable opening month of the season.
Quarterback Trey Miller was pulled in the middle of the fourth quarter of a feeble offensive day for the Mids (1-3), whose 144 yards Saturday was their fewest since an 82-yard day against Connecticut in 2002.
“Defensively, we did a good enough job to win and we didn’t do anything offensively,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Obviously, you can’t win if you don’t score any points.”
Navy rarely threatened to do so against the Spartans (4-1), who won for the first time in seven games all-time in the Eastern time zone. The Mids crossed the San Jose State 40 just twice in nine possessions.
They did on their first drive, generally staying on schedule until Miller lost a fumble inside the Spartan 10. While San Jose State got nothing out of the ensuing possession, the Navy offense sputtered the rest of the day.
“It was so early in the game that I thought we’d bounce back, but offensively we never bounced back,” Niumatalolo said.
It was another ominous sign for Miller, a junior in his first full season as the Mids’ starter. Including a second-half interception, Miller has 10 turnovers in four games.
Niumatalolo considered sending in freshman Keenan Reynolds before Miller’s interception. The change didn’t come until less than eight minutes remained, and Reynolds could not provide a scoring spark, either.
“I just feel like I can’t catch a break, but it’s still all on me,” Miller said. “I get the offense going and when I have turnovers, it just hurts the team.”
So do injuries. Navy lost slotback John Howell (right knee) and safety Tra’ves Bush (concussion) for the game early in the first quarter, and cornerback Quincy Adams departed late in the third quarter with a stinger.
How long-term those absences could be remains undetermined, though the Navy defense held up reasonably well without Bush, its top defensive back. The Mids did not allow a touchdown for the second straight week, but did surrender five drives of at least 10 plays.
Austin Lopez matched a school record with four field goals for San Jose State, which recorded its first shutout since 2003.
“They’re human beings like everybody else,” slotback Bo Snelson said of the defense. “If you put them out there to run sprints for 60 minutes, eventually they’re going to tire out and the opposite team’s offense is going to make plays. I was very impressed with the way they played. They were keeping us in the game, without a doubt.”
The Navy offense, meanwhile, punted on five straight possessions after Miller’s turnover and did not have a gain of more than 15 yards after Howell left on the game’s fourth play.
It was a punchless performance for the Mids, who finally found themselves in a bellwether game after opening with blowout losses against far deeper outfits from Notre Dame and Penn State and then a predictable pummeling of VMI last week.
San Jose State, a much-improved program in recent years, warranted some of the credit for Navy’s foibles. But the turnover troubles are cause for concern as the Mids fell to 1-3 for the first time since 2002 and face a trek to Air Force next week.
That could mean a closer examination of a quarterback who has overseen a unit with 12 giveaways – nearly as many as the 15 the Mids had in a dozen games last season.
“We’re definitely going to have to look at it,” Niumatalolo said. “We have to sit down as a staff and just do what’s right for our program. I still in my heart believe he gives us the best chance to win but not if we turn the ball over.”