Tulsa-Navy meet for 1st place in AAC West Division
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Navy will seek to extend an historic winning streak Saturday while seizing control of the West Division of the American Athletic Conference.
Coming off a 28-27 victory over Notre Dame, the Midshipmen (6-2, 4-1) host Tulsa (7-2, 4-1). The winner will have the inside track toward representing the division in the AAC title game next month.
''Now we press forward to face a Tulsa team that's playing really, really well,'' Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. ''Obviously, this is a huge game for both programs.''
Navy has already beaten two of the top contenders in the division: Houston (46-40 on Oct. 8) and Memphis (42-28 on Oct. 22).
Tulsa is riding a three-game winning streak and is already bowl eligible under second-year coach Philip Montgomery.
Navy has won a record 14 games in a row at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. That's the second-longest home streak in the nation behind Clemson, which has won 20 straight.
Some other things to know about the Tulsa-Navy matchup:
ANOTHER EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: Tulsa leads the AAC in total offense and ranks second in scoring offense with 512 yards and 42.4 points per game. Montgomery has built an offense that is extremely balanced – the Hurricane is averaging 253 yards rushing and 259 yards passing. ''They were explosive last year on offense and have taken it up to another level,'' Niumatalolo said. ''Defensively, they're doing a lot of good things. It's a really good football team. They're not where they are by accident.'' Tulsa routed Memphis 59-30 and has scored 50 points or more in two other games this season. The Golden Hurricane boast the league's best one-two tailback combination in James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer, who have rushed for 1,080 and 983 yards, respectively.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: Navy has not lost at home since Sept. 27, 2014. ''First and foremost, our guys recognize that this is our home and it's a special place,'' Niumatalolo said.
FRIENDSHIP RENEWED: Tulsa associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood is best friends with Niumatalolo. The Navy coach and Norwood played football together for three years at Radford High and remained teammates at the University of Hawaii. They have been extremely close ever since and were members of the same coaching staff as assistants under head coach Charlie Weatherbie at Navy. Norwood's in-depth understanding of the triple option did not help the Tulsa defense last season, Navy rolled up 524 total yards in a 44-21 win.
ANOTHER MILESTONE: Navy's seniors boast a 35-13 career record and can tie the school's record for wins by a class on Saturday. That mark of 36 career wins was set by the Class of 1909 and tied by the Class of 2016. ''What this senior class is doing right now is exactly who we are,'' Navy defensive captain Daniel Gonzales said. ''We were overshadowed by the success of last year's senior class. I think this year's senior class took that as a challenge. We were going to prove who we are and what we're about.''
RECORD PACE: Evans needs 360 passing yards to become the school's record holder in that category. Paul Smith (2003-2007) holds the record with 10,935. Evans is averaging almost 250 passing yards per game.
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