Next man up for Navy: Worth steps in at QB vs Connecticut
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) For the third time in three games, Navy will have a different starting quarterback operating the complex triple option.
Keenan Reynolds capped off last season in his final game at Navy. Tago Smith replaced the record-setting QB last week against Fordham in the season opener and lasted into the second quarter before a torn ACL ended his season.
Now, 6-foot-1 senior Will Worth is poised to make his first career start Saturday against Connecticut (1-0).
''Will is ready. He's persevered and improved to the point he was the clear-cut No. 2,'' Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. ''Now Will is the starting quarterback and all eyes are on him. I'm pretty sure he didn't want to get the job this way, but that's football.''
Worth was a third-stringer in 2015 and did not see any action at quarterback. He did play in all 13 games as a holder on kicks, and garnered two games of experience in his first two years at Navy.
''I've got big shoes to fill with Keenan being gone and Tago getting injured,'' Worth said. ''I definitely put a lot of responsibility on myself to keep this thing running.''
Some things to look for when Navy (1-0) and Connecticut square off in the American Athletic Conference opener for both schools.
STOPPING THE OPTION: Connecticut coach Bob Diaco has significant experience going against the Navy triple-option. Diaco served as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame from 2010-13, so this is the sixth straight season he has game-planned for the Midshipmen. ''Coach Diaco is one of the best defensive minds in the country and knows exactly what he's doing with his game-plan,'' Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. ''His teams are always well-prepared, assignment sound and dialed into what they do.'' That being said, Navy rushed for 303 yards in last year's 28-18 win over the Huskies.
FAMILY TIES: Tom Forrestal was the starting quarterback and offensive captain of the 1957 Navy football team that posted a 9-1-1 record and defeated Rice, 20-7, in the Cotton Bowl. John ''Jack'' Shirreffs Jr. was an outstanding end on tha team. Their grandsons will be on opposite sides on Saturday. Patrick Forrestal is the starting nose guard for Navy and Bryant Shirreffs is the starting quarterback for Connecticut.
HIGH TIMES: Chris High had an impressive debut as starting fullback for Navy, rushing for 176 yards on just 10 carries. The 6-foot, 224-pound junior averaged 17.6 yards per carry and broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown. High was the backup entering preseason camp, but moved up when projected starter Shawn White suffered an ankle injury. The Oklahoma City native excelled in the No. 1 role and White could not get the job back after returning to practice.
WINNING STREAK: Navy has won 11 straight games in Annapolis and is closing in on a record wins at home. The Midshipmen won 21 straight home games from 1953 through 1964, but only 13 of those came after construction of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Beating Connecticut on Saturday and Houston on Oct. 18 would tie the record for most consecutive victories at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Midshipmen could potentially break the mark against Memphis on Oct. 22.
SERIES HISTORY: Navy leads the series with Connecticut, 7-1. This is the first time the Huskies have come to Annapolis since 2002, when they shut out the Midshipmen 38-0. That was one of the worst offensive performance Navy had under former head coach Paul Johnson. The Midshipmen managed just 82 total yards – 47 passing and 35 rushing.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org