The time has come.
Monday night promises to deliver the only college football game worth watching this Labor Day weekend (sorry, Army, but MTSU didn’t put up much of a fight). The Navy vs. Brigham Young University match-up has everything you want: action, suspense and the feel good story of two best friends from Hawaii who will go toe-to-toe on the gridiron.
There is a lot of novelty in the game as well. Let’s start with the fact that a significant chunk of college football programs aren’t even considering playing games for at least another month, if at all. If you didn’t appreciate the triple option before, you’re sure to become a fan, as you slowly realize what you’ve been missing out on over the last two decades. You won’t get the pageantry you’re used to on game day (thanks a lot, COVID), but it will be a site to behold, nonetheless.
Night games in Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium are also a rarity, as the last time the venue hosted a nighttime contest was in 2005 when Navy played Stanford. It was a hard fought battle but the Mids ultimately fell 41-38.
Even more uncommon is the Navy-BYU match-up. The two teams have only faced each other two times in the long history of the programs. Their last meeting was 31 years ago when the Cougars traveled to Annapolis and defeated the Midshipmen 31-10. The only other time the teams have faced off was in the Holiday Bowl back in 1978; an affair Navy won 23-16.
I’m not going to do a whole season preview because Mitch already covered it here and you need to take a look. I do however, want to talk about Navy’s new man-under-center: Dalen Morris. Most folks thought that one of the younger talents on the team was going to seize the starting QB job, but Morris stepped up to the challenge and proved a lot of people wrong. Morris must have a hearing problem, because the doubters never affected his drive; he is now the Maestro of the Navy Triple Option Attack.
He’s got a tough act to follow amid this already challenging season, but Morris seems up to the task. Malcolm Perry accounted for more than 3,000 yards of total offense last season, which is a lot to live up to, but Morris is in fantastic company. A few years back, Will Worth had to follow Keenan Reynolds; arguably the greatest Navy Football player of all time. Worth did just fine defeating No. 6 Houston, winning against Notre Dame in Jacksonville, and leading the Mids to their first appearance in the AAC Championship game before going down with a season ending injury, finishing 9-3 as the starter. All this to say that grooming “new” quarterbacks is kind of Ivin Jasper’s thing; just look at his body of work over the last 20 years. Morris earned the top spot, and he has the complete trust and confidence of his coaches, the Brotherhood and Navy Football Nation. Monday night in prime-time will be his coming out party. He’s got a cast of studs surrounding him in the backfield — CJ Williams and Jamale Carothers specifically — on the O-Line and in Mychal Cooper, a receiver who is one of Navy’s greatest deep threats in recent memory.
No deep dive is necessary for the controlled-chaos of Brian Newberry’s defense, which returns several players, including the anchor on that side of the ball in Diego Fagot as well as Captain, and heart and soul of the Brotherhood, Cameron Kinley. Look for that side of the ball to make a big step forward and build on an incredible 2019 campaign.
The Cougars return two-year starter Zach Wilson under center and their entire starting O-Line. No running back has emerged as the bell-cow back. The Cougars have a stable of solid linebackers, which may be necessary as their weakness in 2019 was stopping the run game. That can be a problem when facing a team like Navy, which run the ball almost exclusively. It remains to be seen whether or not they have addressed that weakness for the 2020 season. The Labor Day match-up will be excellent preparation for Army in two weeks, regardless of how the Cougars play on Monday night.
How To Watch
When: Monday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. EST
Where: Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland
Watch: ESPN | Kirk Herbstreit and Rece Davis will have the call. Allison Williams will report from the sideline. (The Armed Forces Network will also carry the game. Streaming is available via the WatchESPN app)
The Line is -1.5 in favor of BYU, which is an interesting spread. That tells me the odds-makers expect it to be a pretty even match-up, but they’re giving the edge to BYU probably because of the returners on offense and the fact the home field advantage essentially gets chopped since the game will be played with no fans present in the stadium.
I don’t know either way, but I am excited to officially start the college football season. I expect it to be a close game, with lots of mistakes made by both teams early. I predict Navy wins by less than a touchdown.