A few things to look for as Navy (1-0) visits Western Kentucky (0-1) tonight …
1. Bobby Rainey will run for at least 100 yards for Western Kentucky. Of course he will. Rainey, after all, has hit that plateau 10 times in the last 13 games (and 16 of the last 22) for the Hilltoppers. Some of that’s opportunity-based; in 13 games under coach Willie Taggart, Rainey has received at least 21 carries in all of them.
2. Navy will lose at least one fumble. The Hilltoppers spent the week talking about how hitting hard is the answer to playing the triple option. We’ll see if that’s a viable long-term strategy, but at some point the team that held Kentucky to less than 200 yards —- and began the hilarious “They supposed to be SEC” meme —- will deliver a hit that puts the ball on the ground.
3. Speaking of physical play, Navy has an answer to that —- a 100-yard day from Alexander Teich. The senior fullback’s last 100-yard rushing outing came last November against East Carolina. Even though the Hilltoppers held Kentucky to less than 100 yards on the ground, expect a power vs. power approach to yield dividends for the Midshipmen.
4. Still, Kriss Proctor will throw more —- attempts, completions and for more yardage —- than the opener. This doesn’t have the look of a game Navy will fully cruise in. Perhaps the final margin will be comfortable, but it will take a while to get into that territory. Expect Proctor’s attempts (seven), completions (four) and yardage (46) to all increase over the Delaware game.
5. Navy will win to get to 2-0 on the season. Navy needs to replicate its disciplined play (no penalties, one benign turnover) from last week throughout the season. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, had the most penalty yards (120) and tied for the most penalties (12) in the country during the season’s first weekend. It may not be artistry, but the Mids will improve to 4-0 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt (including victories over North Texas in 2007, Western Kentucky in 2009 and Arkansas State in 2010).
—- Patrick Stevens