ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Navy is looking to reach .500 after a difficult start and San Jose State is once again standing in the way.
The Spartans sealed a losing record for Midshipmen last season. Navy was 4-6 last season and still hopeful of continuing its run of eight straight bowl berths. Those dreams ended on a chilly November afternoon in northern California, when San Jose State pulled out a 27-24 victory.
San Jose State appears even more formidable this season, having pushed Stanford to the limit before losing 20-17 in the season opener for both teams. The Spartans have since won three straight, including last week's 38-34 come-from-behind victory at San Diego State.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said he would hope that the Midshipmen (1-2) understand the importance of Saturday's game.
``We're playing a very good team that's 3-1, beat us last year and played Stanford close,'' he said. ``These are smart kids. If they can't figure that out, we're in trouble.''
San Jose State quarterback David Fales, a junior college transfer, has completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,123 yards and nine touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound California native originally signed with Nevada, but instead attended Monterey Peninsula College and was a two-time, first team All-Coast Conference selection.
Fales ``is big-time and playing as well as any quarterback we've faced. The last 10 passes he hit at the end of the San Diego State game were amazing,'' Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. ``He knows where to go with the ball and is making great decisions. He doesn't make bad throws and has picked teams apart.''
San Jose State, which is averaging 35 points and 431.5 total yards a game this season, also possesses a strong rushing game. Starting tailback De'Leon Eskridge has 298 yards rushing while backup Tyler Ervin has also been effective.
This game features a contrast of offensive styles as Navy employs the triple-option and currently ranks ninth nationally in rushing offense with 269 yards per game. Quarterback Trey Miller is the trigger man of the offense, which rolled up 403 yards on the ground in last Saturday's 41-3 rout of Virginia Military Institute.
``It's assignment football. You have to read your keys and know where you're supposed to be. You can't follow the football. That's what they want you to do - all the deception with the option,'' San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre said. ``It's going to be critical that we make open field tackles.''
San Jose State's run defense looked vulnerable against San Diego State, which gained 271 yards on the ground. Slotback Gee Gee Greene leads Navy in rushing with 182 yards followed by fullback Noah Copeland with 170 and Miller with 153.
MacIntyre said his defense must also be wary of the play-action pass, noting that Miller has completed 58.7 percent of attempts and thrown for 316 yards in three games.
``They're a better passing team than they were in previous years,'' he said. ``I know they'll try to establish the run, but (Miller) has a very good arm and they're going to try to exploit us in the passing game also.''