SAN DIEGO — Navy is back in a Navy town, ready to take on San Diego State in what’s essentially another home game for the Aztecs.
And Rocky Long will be in his element during Tuesday night’s Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium.
As a quarterback at New Mexico, Long ran a triple-option offense. As San Diego State’s defensive-minded coach, he’ll use his 3-3-5 alignment to try to stop junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds and the rest of the Midshipmen.
“If you’re a football purist this will be the best football game you have ever seen,” Long said Monday.
“It’s the best offense ever designed,” Long added. “Veer, wishbone — there are about six different options they have off that.
I have no idea how to stop it. You can stop it on the grease board. Now it’s about execution.
“We do know how to line up. But what it comes down to is if we can handle it as a team.”
Navy leads the nation with 345.1 yards rushing per game and San Diego State’s defense allows 145.6 yards rushing.
The Midshipmen will have their hands full, too. San Diego State sophomore Donnel Pumphrey has 1,755 yards, needing 88 to break SDSU’s single-season rushing record of 1,842 set by George Jones in 1995. Pumphrey ranks fourth in the nation with 146.25 yards rushing per game.
“They are going to run the football, establish the run,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “So they put you in a bind because he is such a good back. They have physical linemen. But if you go up to stop the run, they really good at throwing the football.”
The Middies also play an unrelenting defense.
“Their defense is old-school, too,” Long said. “They have good, tough kids that are going to line up and try to kick your butt. They don’t try to confuse you. There is no doubt how well-coached their defense is — that’s something special.”
San Diego State beat Navy 35-14 in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. Workers had to pump out 1.5 million gallons of rainwater that had flooded Qualcomm Stadium in the days before the game.
The Aztecs are playing in their school-record fifth straight bowl game while the Midshipmen are trying to win a bowl game in back-to-back years for just the second time in school history.
Navy beat Middle Tennessee in last year’s Armed Forces Bowl. Navy is in the Poinsettia Bowl for the fourth time, while the Aztecs are in their hometown bowl a third time.