Sep 10, 2022; Annapolis, Maryland, USA;  Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo walks through the bench during the first half against the Memphis Tigers at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo out after 15-plus seasons

Navy parted ways with football coach Ken Niumatalolo after 15-plus seasons on Sunday.

His tenure ended with Midshipmen’s 20-17 double-overtime loss to Army on Saturday in Philadelphia.

That defeat capped a second straight 4-8 season for Navy and left Niumatalolo with a 109-83 record. He is the winningest head coach in the history of the U.S. Naval Academy.

“Our sincerest gratitude to Coach Ken for what has been a distinguished and impactful legacy at the Naval Academy,” athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a news release. “Navy football flourished for many years under his leadership. He will forever be remembered for the influence he has had on the lives of those who played for him. We all have great respect and appreciation for his 25 years of service to the Academy.”

Niumatalolo, 57, was promoted to head coach on Dec. 8, 2007 and lost in the Poinsettia Bowl that season.

The Middies went 6-5 in bowl games and posted three seasons with double-digit wins (2009, 2015, 2019) under his direction.

He was the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2015, 2016 and 2019 but Navy produced only one winning season in the past five years.

“The Naval Academy will now move forward with continued high ambitions and embrace a new era of reaffirmed expectations for Navy football and our midshipmen,” Gladchuk said.

Before replacing Paul Johnson as head coach, Niumatalolo worked as an assistant coach at Navy (1995-98, 2002-07) and UNLV (1999-2001).

–Field Level Media

Dec 14, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; (editors note; tilt shift lens used to create effect) General view as Army Cadets march onto the field before a game between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

‘Electricity’ awaits as Army, Navy meet for 123rd time

The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy will not be on the line, but that will not lessen the mystique or the emotions of the annual Army-Navy game when the two service academies take the field Saturday in Philadelphia.

Air Force won the three-way rivalry’s trophy for the first time since 2016 by beating Army (5-6) and Navy (4-7) earlier this season.

Still, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has seen the Army-Navy row up close for 15 years and knows what it means.

“They’re representing our country … It’s not a regional game,” said Niumatalolo, who is 10-4 against Army. “What I think both schools represent, what both schools’ players will do after they play and it being a game that touches all of America, it makes it different. It makes it special.”

Part of the tradition is the collision of two triple-option flexbone offenses, which keep the ball on the ground most, if not all, of the time. Army ranked second in FBS in rushing yards per game this season (304.4), while Navy was seventh (239.5). Sportsbooks have pinned the over/under at 33 points; only once in the past five editions of the series has either team eclipsed 17.

Navy leads the series 62-53-7. The Midshipmen have won two of the past three meetings after Army pulled off a three-game winning streak (2016-2018).

Navy has been idle since Nov. 19, when it dominated then-No. 20 UCF on the ground and earned a 17-14 upset win.

The Midshipmen have used Xavier Arline and Maasai Maynor at quarterback since starter Tai Lavatai sustained a season-ending injury in late October. Fullback Daba Fofana leads the team with 749 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Army softened the end of a disappointing season with consecutive wins over UConn, 34-17, and UMass, 44-7. Quarterback Tyhier Tyler leads the Black Knights with 601 rushing yards and 12 rushing scores, including five touchdowns in his past two games.

“It’s an intense, incredible contest,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “From the moment that the competitors arrive at the stadium, there’s an electricity there that is unrivaled. It’s truly awesome and I’m looking forward to being out there and just having a chance to compete.”

Army’s uniforms honor the 1st Armored Division and feature a “mud splatter” effect. Navy unveiled an astronaut-themed uniform, noting that 54 academy graduates have become astronauts, the most of any institution.

The game returns to Philadelphia for the first time since 2019 and is there for the 90th time overall.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Navy Midshipmen quarterback Xavier Arline (7) hands off to Navy Midshipmen fullback Daba Fofana (45) during the first quarter at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Navy’s potent rushing attack sinks No. 20 UCF

Daba Fofana ran 20 times for 114 rushing yards and John Marshall set a single-game program record with four sacks as Navy upset No. 20 UCF 17-14 on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

The Midshipmen (4-7) defeated UCF for the second straight season. Fofana fronted a Navy rushing attack that wound up with 248 yards on 63 carries.

UCF (8-3) entered Saturday as the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the College Football Playoff rankings. But Navy’s defense kept the Knights at bay and put a dent in their chances of reaching the AAC championship game.

Starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee was ineffective in the first half and UCF replaced him at halftime with Mikey Keene looking to spark a comeback. Keene finished with 123 yards and a touchdown on 11-for-18 passing. Javon Baker caught six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Navy was a perfect 4 for 4 on fourth-down conversions, including one on its final drive that chewed up the final 5:54 of game clock to secure the win.

Set up by a 46-yard dash by Fofana on the opening drive, quarterback Xavier Arline — who threw one pass the entire game — powered in for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1.

UCF reached the red zone on its second and third drives, but Navy stuffed the Knights and forced them to settle for 21- and 31-yard field goals by Colton Boomer.

After the second field goal cut it to 7-6, the Midshipmen responded with a 13-play, 84-yard drive that ate up 6:47 of clock. Vincent Terrell Jr. ran around the left end for an 8-yard touchdown with 1:33 before halftime. Terrell finished with 41 yards on eight carries.

Plumlee was intercepted by Mbiti Williams Jr. on a Hail Mary bomb short of the end zone on the last play of the half, keeping it 14-6 Navy.

Keene came on to open the second half and guided the Knights 75 yards in five plays, tossing a 28-yard touchdown to Baker just 1:35 into the third quarter. Plumlee came in for the two-point conversion and connected with Baker to tie the game.

But on UCF’s next possession, Marshall strip-sacked Keene and Colin Ramos recovered for Navy at UCF’s 34-yard line. Four plays later, the Midshipmen went back ahead on a 45-yard field goal by Bijan Nichols.

Keene led another Knights drive in the fourth quarter, but on fourth-and-4 at Navy’s 43, his pass was broken up as Williams nearly grabbed his second pick of the game.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; UCF Knights running back Johnny Richardson (0) runs the ball against the Tulane Green Wave during the fourth quarter at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rebecca Warren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 UCF keeping focus squarely on Navy

By picking up its biggest win of the season, UCF took over the driver’s seat for the Group of Five conferences’ New Year’s Six berth.

After the Knights moved up two spots to No. 20 in Tuesday night’s rankings, they won’t get caught looking any further ahead than their next game against Navy on Saturday morning in Orlando, Fla.

The highest-ranked champion from the non-Power Five conferences will earn a berth to a New Year’s Six bowl. Last week, the team in line for that honor was then-No. 17 Tulane, but UCF went into New Orleans and pulled out a 38-31 victory.

Now UCF (8-2, 5-1 AAC) is tied with Cincinnati and Tulane atop the American Athletic Conference and owns the head-to-head tiebreakers over both. The Knights will host the conference championship game so long as they win out.

“That’s what I told our guys the other day: We’re not talking about anything (else),” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “We’ve got our hands full with this group (Navy). Last home game is really important for our seniors, really important for our program. It happens to be a really, really important game in the conference, so run with it.”

After missing the previous game due to injury, starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee returned against Tulane and ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 18 attempts, in addition to throwing for 132 yards and another score. He broke off a 67-yard rushing score in the first quarter.

“There’s not a lot of quarterbacks around the country that are running like him as a run threat,” Malzahn said. “He’s really opened up things, and opened up some things on the perimeter later in the game. He played at a really high level.”

Navy (3-7, 3-4) knows a thing or two about running quarterbacks through its well-established triple-option offense. Malzahn pointed out that the Midshipmen are ranked not only 10th in FBS in rushing offense (238.7 yards per game) but also sixth in the country in defending the run (85.8 yards per game).

“You look at them this year, very similar,” Malzahn said. “Offensively they do a few more things. They’ve kind of opened up their offense a little bit as far as that goes.”

The main way the Midshipmen have opened it up has been by passing more often than normal. They’ve thrown for eight touchdowns, already higher than their total of six in each of the past two seasons. They’re on pace to attempt more passes than any season since at least 2016.

One week after Clemson was manhandled by Notre Dame and shut out for three quarters, Navy quarterbacks Xavier Arline and Maasai Maynor each threw for a touchdown before Notre Dame ultimately hung on 35-32. Notre Dame led 35-13 at halftime but Navy generated a stirring comeback that fell one score short.

UCF has a 2-1 edge in the all-time series, but in last year’s meeting, the Midshipmen rallied from a 30-17 fourth-quarter deficit to win 34-30 at home.

“We know (they have) a lot of good players, we know how fast they are,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We saw them in person last year, but again they’ve got some new players too. They’re playing really well now, that’s the tough part. They’re playing really well right now.

“So it’s gonna be a great challenge for us. We’re watching last year’s tapes … hopefully it’ll give us some tangible evidence that it can be done.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane wide receiver Keylon Stokes (2) runs after a catch during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Cincinnati won 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa, after consecutive losses, aims to bounce back at Navy

Tulsa will try to avoid a third straight defeat when it meets Navy in an American Athletic Conference matchup on Saturday in Annapolis, Md.

Tulsa (2-3, 0-1 AAC) fell 31-21 at home to Cincinnati in its conference opener last week, one game after taking a 35-27 loss at then-No. 16 Ole Miss. Cincinnati is now back in the AP poll at No. 24 while undefeated Ole Miss has soared to No. 9.

The Golden Hurricane managed just 36 rushing yards on 45 carries against Cincinnati. Tulsa quarterbacks Davis Brin and Braylon Braxton lost a combined 72 yards as the Bearcats racked up 11 sacks.

One bright spot for Tulsa was the season debut of Deneric Prince, who missed September due to an undisclosed injury. Prince rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 18 attempts.

“First game back, so (he’s) got to knock a little rust off, but it was obviously good to have him back and I think his presence is gonna help us tremendously throughout the rest of the year as long as we continue to keep growing,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said.

Brin, a senior, played through an undisclosed injury to complete 18 of 36 passes for 237 yards with two interceptions. Montgomery said Brin remains day-to-day, adding the QB was “not any worse for wear” than last week.

Navy (1-3, 1-1) couldn’t build on the success of a 23-20, double-overtime win over East Carolina on Sept. 24. The Midshipmen lost 13-10 at Air Force last Saturday and are ranked 129th of 131 teams in scoring offense (13.3 points per game).

“What I told our guys is we’re not far off,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got some resilient kids, and we’re looking forward to bouncing back against Tulsa.”

In a rarity for the service academy, Navy gained more yards through the air (129) than on the ground (114) last week. Quarterback Tai Lavatai has gone 26-for-50 passing through four games after attempting 61 passes last season. He already has thrown for 515 yards, eclipsing last year’s total of 449.

“I don’t see us throwing the ball 35 times or stuff like that, but we’ve definitely got to take advantage of his arm,” Niumatalolo said. “Maybe if there’s one bright spot, the pass protection’s been decent for us. (But) we don’t want to make a living off throwing the ball a ton. That’s not who we are.”

Navy leads the all-time series 7-2, including a 20-17 win last year at Tulsa. Both of the Golden Hurricanes’ victories came in Annapolis.

–Field Level Media

Dec 11, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Navy Midshipmen running back Maquel Haywood (24) gets stuffed on a carry against the Army Black Knights during the second quarter of the 122nd Army-Navy game. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Navy comes through on key plays, beats Army 17-13

Navy scored on its opening drives of both halves and its defense did the rest Saturday, shutting down the potent rushing attack of Army in a 17-13 victory in East Rutherford, N.Y. in the 122nd edition of the storied rivalry.

With the victory, the three service academies, including Air Force, finished tied for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, sharing the trophy for the first time since 1993. Last year’s champion Army retains the trophy.

Quarterback Tai Lavatai scored both touchdowns for Navy (4-8), on runs of eight and two yards. He carried 20 times for 62 yards and was 4-of-6 passing for 82 yards on a day in which Navy seemed to have the answers on all the game’s key plays.

The Midshipmen earned the victory in part by milking more than half of the fourth quarter – an 8:55 drive that covered 49 yards in 15 plays and was capped by a 43-yard field goal by Bijan Nichols with 6:10 to go.

The drive was extended by a fake punt at their own 34 yard-line when linebacker Diego Fagot gained four yards on fourth-and-1 early in the drive.

Army (8-4) had two more possessions but failed to get into scoring position. With 1:27 left, Navy wrapped it up on a fourth-and-3 play as Jacob Busic and Fagot combined to stop Army quarterback Christian Anderson a yard short of a first down at the Navy 46.

Army, gunning for its fifth win over Navy in the last six years, had entered the game averaging 301 yards rushing, but was held to 196 yards by the fired-up Navy defense.

Anderson scored on a 56-yard touchdown run on the fourth snap of the game to give Army a 7-0 lead. But after that, the Mids defense, led by Fagot (nine tackles), bottled up the Black Knights triple-option attack.

Navy retaliated with an 83-yard drive. The Mids converted two key third-down plays in Black Knights’ territory as wideout Jayden Umbarger ripped off 27 yards on an end around. Three plays later, on third and goal, Lavatai surprised Army with an 8-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw.

Army led 13-7 at halftime, but Navy drove 74 yards following the second half kickoff.

Lavatai got the Mids into Black Knights territory with a 28-yard completion to Maquel Haywood. Then on 4th-and-4, Chance Warren took a handoff on a reverse and streaked up the right sideline for 26 yards to set up a 2-yard scoring run by Lavatai.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken leads his team out onto the field before a game against the Bucknell Bisons at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Army looking to beat Navy for fifth time in 6 years

Eight years ago, after Army lost to Navy for the 12th straight time, the Black Knights decided the only way to compete with the Midshipmen was to be like them.

So they hired a former Navy assistant coach and went about the business of mimicking the success of their service academy rival.

Mission accomplished.

Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J., when Army (8-3) meets Navy (3-8) for 122nd time, the Black Knights will try to best the Mids for the fifth time in the past six years and capture their fourth Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in the last five seasons.

The author of Army’s turnaround is Jeff Monken, 54. He coached at Navy from 2002-07 under Paul Johnson, helping the Mids to five CIC trophies and five bowl games. When Johnson departed for Georgia Tech, Monken followed, while fellow Navy assistant Ken Niumatalolo stayed on board to take over the program.

Niumatalolo has guided the Midshipmen to six more CIC titles and 10 bowl games. Navy has struggled this year but a lot of that has been the level of competition. The Mids have had the misfortune of facing six of the nation’s top 22 defenses as ranked by Pro Football Focus, including Notre Dame and Cincinnati.

“We’ve been improving,” Niumatalolo said. “But if you’re a boxer and you’re fighting Floyd Mayweather, you might have gotten better but you’ve got six black eyes.”

The Army defense will be tough to solve for Navy as well. The Black Knights have five starters back from last year’s defense that pitched a shutout in a 15-0 win against the Midshipmen. Linebacker Arik Smith leads the team in tackles (67), while Andre Carter II (14.5 sacks) has blossomed as a pass rusher.

“This is the biggest game of the year,” said Army defensive back Marquel Broughton. “This is the biggest rivalry in football, the most intense rivalry in college football.”

Army ranks second in the nation in rushing (301.2 yards per game) and features a balanced attack with Tyrell Robinson (582 yards), who averages 9.9 yards per carry, Tyhier Tyler (470 yards) and quarterback Christian Anderson (519 yards).

Navy, which ranks No. 7 in the country in rushing (228.2), counters with the inside power of Isaac Ruoss (608 yards) and the outside speed of Carlinos Acie (546 yards), who averages 9.6 yards per rush.

During the game, the teams will honor the memory of Navy SEAL commander Brian Bourgeois, 43, who tragically died in a training accident on Saturday while fast-roping from a helicopter. Bourgeois played four seasons for Navy.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Navy Midshipmen running back Carlinos Acie (25) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety DJ Brown (2) in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Temple ends turbulent season with finale against Navy

It was a win that held such promise for Temple — 34-31 over Memphis in its American Athletic Conference opener — as their gifted new quarterback threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns.

With D’Wan Mathis — a 6-foot-6, dual-threat transfer from Georgia — running the show, it was exciting to consider the possibilities for the Owls.

But eight weeks later, Temple (3-8, 1-6) can’t wait for the season to end. The Owls have lost six straight games, none by fewer than 20 points, and their quarterback with the tantalizing talent has an uncertain future after announcing he was leaving the school and then reversing course a few days later.

Mathis was one of six scholarship players this year to declare he was departing a program that has fallen into disrepair under third-year coach Rod Carey. On their way out, some of the players have ripped Carey and his staff via social media.

It’s been a humbling downward spiral for Temple, which finishes its season Saturday against visiting Navy (2-8, 2-5).

“Guys, they leave for different reasons — reasons that, a lot of them, they haven’t really talked to me about,” Carey said. “That’s OK. That’s their business.”

It’s been a trying season as well for Navy, encapsulated by a 38-35 loss last Saturday to visiting East Carolina. The Midshipmen were on the verge of an upset of the bowl-bound Pirates, leading by eight points with six minutes left, but lost on a 54-yard field goal at the gun by Owen Daffer.

“This is a hard one,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “There’s been some tough losses this year. This one was obviously No. 1.”

With Army (7-3) still on the schedule, Navy still has much to play for. The positive for the Mids on Saturday was the play of their offense, which ranks last in the AAC but rolled up 345 yards rushing — led by Carlinos Acie’s 155 yards on six carries.

Temple will counter with quarterback Justin Lynch, who held the job early in the year, then lost it before regaining it when Mathis went down with an ankle injury.

–Field Level Media