Nov 28, 2020; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; A general view of the Navy Midshipmen logo on a water tower near the stadium is seen before the game between the Navy Midshipmen and the Memphis Tigers at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Navy offers reprieve to one coach, another out over lack of vax

The United States Naval Academy football program has endured a wild couple of days of coaching drama following a 23-3 loss to Air Force on Saturday.

Navy fired longtime offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper, reinstated him in a reduced role, and had another assistant coach — Billy Ray Stutzmann — allege that he was let go for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the weekend it was revealed that Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk had fired Jasper after the poor performance against the Falcons on Saturday. Jasper, who had been the team’s offensive coordinator since 2008, was also the team’s quarterback coach, a position he had held since 2002.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo met with Gladchuk and reversed that decision on Monday, saying Jasper would be retained in a reduced role as quarterbacks coach only, the role he held from 2002-07. Niumatalolo plans to call the plays himself.

“Losing him was not the right answer,” Niumatalolo said in his Monday news conference. “We’re better with him. He’s the best option coach around.”

Gladchuk mirrored that sentiment, calling Jasper an “outstanding quarterbacks coach.”

Navy has struggled on offense this season, continuing a trend from 2020 in which the team averaged just 275 yards a game, among the worst in the FBS. This year, the team has averaged just 233, also near the bottom of the national rankings.

The loss to Air Force represented a low point for Navy’s offense, as the Midshipmen amassed just 68 total yards, their lowest total since 1966.

Those struggles have followed a stellar season in 2019, when Navy ranked 12th in the country in points per game and went 11-2 behind quarterback Malcolm Perry.

“This is a frickin’ ruthless profession,” Niumatalolo said.

That was on display on social media again Monday as another Navy assistant, Stutzmann, revealed he was let go for not adhering to the Academy’s COVID-19 protocols, which now mandate vaccination.

“After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy,” he said in his statement.

Stutzmann was in his third season as an offensive assistant. Niumatalolo said Stutzmann left the staff for “personal reasons.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Navy Midshipmen takes the field before the game against the Air Force Falcons at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Navy fires longtime OC Ivin Jasper after loss to Air Force

Navy fired longtime offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper following Saturday’s 23-3 loss to rival Air Force, multiple outlets reported.

The Midshipmen managed just 68 yards of total offense — including 36 on the ground for the run-first offense — against Air Force.

That followed a 49-7 loss last week to Marshall. Against the Thundering Herd, Navy ran for 337 of its 398 total yards but had trouble finding the end zone. The Midshipmen didn’t score until their 10th drive of the game.

Jasper was in his 22nd year at Navy and in his 20th season as quarterbacks coach and 14th as offensive coordinator. He was the second-longest tenured coordinator in the country.

Ken Niumatalolo named Jasper the offensive coordinator when he took over the program in 2008. Under their leadership, Navy has a 101-69 record, 10 winning seasons and 10 bowl bids.

Navy finished 11-2 in 2019 and No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll, but tumbled to 3-7 last season. In 2020, Navy scored just 166 points for an average of 16.6 per game, ranking them 122nd of 128 FBS teams.

Ivin and Jasper were teammates at Hawaii in the early 1990s and longtime friends. The Washington Post reported it was athletic director Chet Gladchuk who fired Jasper.

–Field Level Media

May 14, 2021; Tampa Bay, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner back Cameron Kinley (26) practices during rookie mini-camp at AdventHealth Training Center Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Pentagon says Bucs rookie can attend training camp

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has granted permission for Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley to attend training camp, the player’s agents announced Tuesday.

The 2021 Naval Academy graduate’s initial request to delay his military service was denied on June 7, prompting U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and others to appeal to President Joe Biden and other officials in Washington on Kinley’s behalf.

“I am extremely appreciative of Secretary Austin’s decision and I am excited to represent our fine military in the National Football League,” Kinley said in a statement released by his agents at Divine Sports and Entertainment. “This past month has been very challenging and I am thankful for everyone who has supported me in any way.”

Kinley was a starter at cornerback and the Naval Academy class president in his senior season. He was not selected in the 2021 NFL Draft and signed a free-agent contract with the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.

–Field Level Media

May 14, 2021; Tampa Bay, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner back Cameron Kinley (26) practices during rookie mini-camp at AdventHealth Training Center Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Sen. Marco Rubio asks for military delay for Bucs’ rookie

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is appealing to President Joe Biden and other Washington officials, asking them to allow Naval Academy graduate Cameron Kinley to delay his military service and pursue an NFL career.

Kinley was a starter at cornerback and the Naval Academy class president in his senior season, but went undrafted and accepted a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His request to be allowed to play this season with the Bucs was denied on June 7.

Kinley is due to report Monday, as things stand.

“Here’s the bottom line. People got to do it last year,” Rubio said on “Fox & Friends.” “There are people playing in the NFL now — Malcolm Perry, that came out of Navy, plays for the Miami Dolphins — so last year they were allowed. So this sounds arbitrary … He’s not saying he’s not going to do his service. He will.”

Instead of lining up against Tom Brady in training camp, Kinley could be an ensign and serving as an information warfare officer.

“It’s definitely tough,” Kinley said Tuesday on “Fox & Friends.” “Kinda living a double life where I’m preparing to be an NFL player still just in case things get reversed and I’m also preparing for my career as an officer in the Navy.”

On Sunday, Rubio sent a letter to Biden asking for his assistance.

“Mr. Kinley is not seeking to terminate his commitment to the Navy. Far from it. He wishes to promote service to our great nation from one of the country’s largest stages. I implore you to right this wrong,” Rubio said.

“Grant Mr. Kinley’s waiver to play in the NFL, and send a message to future academy graduates that the United States is a country where Americans can follow their dreams and be true to their commitment.”

Kinley said he has passion for both careers.

“I definitely made the commitment … and I’m still willing to honor that commitment,” Kinley said. “I just want to be able to delay my commission to play in the NFL first and be that ambassador for the Navy and help recruit. And after my time in the NFL, go serve as an officer in the Navy. I’m definitely looking forward to that career.”

–Field Level Media

May 14, 2021; Tampa Bay, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner back Cameron Kinley (26) practices during rookie mini-camp at AdventHealth Training Center Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Navy denies Bucs CB Cameron Kinley’s delay request

The U.S. Navy has denied a request by cornerback Cameron Kinley to delay his service duty in order to try to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster.

Kinley was a starter at corner and the Naval Academy class president in his senior season, but went undrafted and accepted a free-agent contract with the Super Bowl champs.

While he had hoped to make the team’s cornerback rotation, he’ll instead join the Navy as an ensign and serve as an information warfare officer.

Kinley’s agent, Ryan Williams-Jenkins, is also a former Naval Academy grad and spoke out about the decision.

“As a Naval Academy graduate, football player and decorated combat veteran I understand Cameron’s commitment,” his statement begins. “I also understand there are ways he can fulfill his commitment while representing the Navy and playing professional sports.

“I played with three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Cardona, who still serves our country as a Navy reservist. If there is a directive and precedent allowing other service academy athletes to pursue this opportunity, what makes Cameron different? It is important to note that this could have a long-term impact on his mental health going forward. He wants to fulfill both of his childhood dreams, playing in the NFL and honorably serving his country.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 8, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Navy Midshipmen pose for photos on the center field logo at Lincoln Financial Field before the game against the Army Black Knights. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

COVID forces another Navy PPD, this time vs. Memphis

The Navy-Memphis game scheduled for Saturday has been postponed, the second consecutive week that COVID-19 has nixed a Midshipmen game.

Navy’s game with Tulsa last weekend was also postponed due to the outbreak at the Naval Academy.

“We are disappointed to have to postpone a second game, however protocols and guidelines are very comprehensive both at the Naval Academy and within the American Athletic Conference,” Naval Academy director of athletics Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “There are a number of medical personnel that have reviewed all the related issues and, in the end, an administrative decision has been made that clearly reflects the safety and welfare of all involved with both institutions.”

Football activities remain paused and the Middies haven’t held a regular practice since Oct. 29.

The American Athletic Conference is determined to make up the game, though Navy and Memphis do not share any open dates through the rest of the season. The same is true for Navy and Tulsa.

Memphis had a game against Houston postponed to December and a contest vs. UTSA canceled due to an outbreak.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Tigers head coach Ryan Silverfield during the first half against the South Florida Bulls  at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis, Navy ready for Saturday, but COVID looms

As has been the case with so many games this college football season, the big question for Memphis and Navy entering their scheduled Saturday afternoon game at Navy is whether the game actually will take place.

As of Tuesday, the matchup was on, but some uncertainty remained.

Two days before Navy’s scheduled game against Tulsa on Nov. 7, the contest was postponed due to several positive COVID-19 cases on Navy’s team.

If Saturday’s game is played, it will be a battle between two teams that want to keep winning records in the American Athletic Conference.

The Tigers (4-2, 3-2 AAC) and Midshipmen (3-4, 3-2) enter the game tied for fourth in the league standings.

Memphis can relate to Navy’s issues with COVID, given the Tigers had games against Houston (rescheduled) and UTSA (canceled) nixed earlier in the year due to positive tests on the Memphis roster.

Memphis has won three of its past four games, with the only loss being at unbeaten Cincinnati.

Memphis is coming off a 34-33 home win over South Florida but is 0-2 on the road this year, with defeats at SMU and Cincinnati.

The Tigers have one of the league’s best quarterbacks in senior Brady White, who has completed 62 percent of his passes (155 of 250) for 2,128 yards and 22 touchdowns, with five interceptions.

However, Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield came away from the South Florida game concerned about the running game, given the Tigers only had 98 rushing yards on 33 carries.

“I do think we are getting teams that are loading the box, but no excuses,” Silverfield said. “We’ve got to find better ways to run the football, for sure.”

Speaking of running games, Navy traditionally features one of the country’s top rushing attacks with its triple-option offense.

The Midshipmen are averaging 187 yards rushing per game this year, and Silverfield said extra preparation was done throughout the offseason by his defensive staff to try and familiarize the team with Navy’s offense.

“If you are not exactly where you need to be, Navy can make you look silly,” Silverfield said. “Those are the challenges it presents. It’s just constantly harping on where you need to be at this point, and here’s where you need to be on your assignments. If we do that, we’ll be just fine.”

Leading the way for Navy offensively is senior running back Nelson Smith, who has rushed for 447 yards and seven touchdowns on 76 carries. Junior running back Jamale Carothers has 337 yards and two touchdowns on 88 carries.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said before the Tulsa game was postponed that his team is still striving for consistency.

“We have to be more consistent on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We are very inconsistent everywhere. We are just flashes here and there. We can’t string things together.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Navy Midshipmen running back Chance Warren (13) runs the ball against Southern Methodist Mustangs during the second half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

Navy-Tulsa game off after outbreak among Midshipmen

The American Athletic Conference called off this weekend’s game between Navy and Tulsa after positive tests for COVID-19 among Midshipmen players.

The AAC will look at rescheduling the game between the Golden Hurricane (3-1) and Navy (3-4), scheduled to be played in Annapolis, Md.

Navy has paused all football activities. The Capital Gazette reported that Navy has a “minimal” amount of actual cases but that contact tracing would rule out many more players.

“We are disappointed not to face Tulsa this weekend. However, protocols and guidelines are very comprehensive both at the Naval Academy and within the American Athletic Conference,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement.

“There are a number of medical personnel that have reviewed all the related issues and, in the end, an administrative decision has been made that clearly reflects the safety and welfare of all involved with both institutions.”

Navy reported zero positive cases last week ahead of its game against SMU. However, Monday’s round of testing turned up positives and resulted in as many as 20 players being put into quarantine, the newspaper reported.

The game has not been canceled, but Navy and Tulsa do not have any mutual open dates.

Navy is scheduled to face Memphis on Nov. 14. Tulsa is set to host SMU that day.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Shane Buechele (7) looks down field against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the second half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 SMU, Navy look to bounce back after losses

Surviving the wide-open American Athletic Conference race is a tricky task.

One loss is survivable. Two can spoil the season.

That’s the perch Navy and SMU sit on as they match up this week in what has become a competitive AAC rivalry. The Midshipmen visit the 22nd-ranked Mustangs on Saturday evening.

Both teams lost last week, wrecking any plans for a smooth path to the AAC championship game. Getting back on the right track is on top of the to-do list for both.

For the Mustangs (5-1, 2-1 AAC), that means continuing to evolve with a reshuffled deck on offense. They are expected to again be without receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. and tailback TJ McDaniel, both of whom were hurt in a win against Memphis on Oct. 3.

Without those two and against a Cincinnati defense that is as stingy as any in the AAC, SMU managed only 290 yards last week — its lowest total since the second game of 2018 — during a 42-13 defeat.

SMU coach Sonny Dykes didn’t mince words about his team’s performance and what the Mustangs must do to avoid a repeat.

“I was disappointed with the way that we played,” Dykes said. “We just didn’t do the routine things that we typically do that would’ve given us a chance to be at least in the game.

“I think we have to regroup, and we’re going to have to play better against Navy or the same thing will happen.”

The Midshipmen (3-3, 3-1) can relate.

In a 37-21 loss to Houston, the Cougars’ fast-paced offense exposed some defensive problems for Navy. Houston junior quarterback Clayton Tune peppered the Midshipmen defense for 316 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Now the Midshipmen have to brace for a better passing attack engineered by a veteran quarterback who has been with his coaching staff longer.

SMU senior Shane Buechele, the 2019 All-AAC quarterback, has thrown for 1,926 yards and 13 touchdowns this season despite playing without Roberson the past two games.

Their struggles against Cincinnati notwithstanding, the Mustangs rank 11th nationally in total offense (517.7 yards per game) and are churning out 37.7 points a game.

“It helps when you have a veteran quarterback that is very steady and knows what’s going on,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He’s very accurate and as good as any quarterback we’ve seen in years.”

As much as the Midshipmen have their hands full with Buechele and company, there remains a pressing need for them to get their offense going.

Navy has generated only 288.2 total yards a game and its flexbone running game ranks just 31st nationally. Houston limited the Midshipmen to 166 yards on the ground, the fourth game this season in which Navy failed to top 204.

“We have to continue to get better offensively,” Niumatalolo said. “We have to find a way to get better quickly.”

If Navy can do that and manage to keep the game close, that bodes well. The Midshipmen’s three victories this season have come by a total of nine points.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Brigham Young Cougars at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston visits Navy in battle of AAC unbeatens

The Houston Cougars and Navy Midshipmen meet Saturday afternoon at Annapolis, Md., in a clash between two of the five unbeaten teams in the American Athletic Conference.

Despite blowout nonconference losses against BYU and Air Force, Navy (3-2, 3-0 in the AAC) sits atop the standings after defeating Tulane, Temple and East Carolina, with all of those games decided by four points or fewer.

The Midshipmen have two other upcoming games against other teams that are currently undefeated in the AAC, facing SMU and Tulsa in succession after taking on the Cougars.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said of the team’s two-game winning streak, “It’s given us hope to keep playing. Those two losses were crushing losses. To see our guys bounce back with hard-fought wins, it gives us hope. I’m encouraged that we’ve found ways to win ugly games.”

Meanwhile, Houston (1-1, 1-0 AAC) led then-No. 14 BYU by as many as 12 points Friday and held an advantage into the fourth quarter before falling apart and losing 43-26.

Junior quarterback Clayton Tune threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, but Houston’s defense surrendered 29 unanswered points over the final 16 minutes.

Houston was held to only 22 yards in the fourth quarter after totaling 416 yards over the first three.

“Their big plays were just too big,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday. “We had about the same amount, but they doubled ours in yards. Things just broke down in the fourth quarter.”

Despite playing only two games this season due to COVID-19 postponements and cancellations, the Cougars rank 20th among FBS teams in total yards per game (457) and are averaging 37.5 points per game.

Tune’s 9.8 yards per pass attempt is tied for eighth among FBS quarterbacks, and he has thrown for 629 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions with a 64.1 completion percentage.

However, Holgorsen said his team was still trying to find its identity and lamented the 10 penalties for 113 yards it committed against BYU.

Navy needed a resilient performance last week to beat East Carolina as backup quarterback Tyger Goslin stepped in for starter Dalen Morris, who exited with a concussion.

Goslin directed the game-winning drive as Navy converted a pair of fourth downs, one that put the Midshipmen ahead and the other to hold off a late Pirates comeback attempt.

Niumatalolo said he expected Morris to be ready for Saturday’s game even though the senior was still in the concussion protocol early in the week.

Navy’s signature triple-option offense, which has amassed 952 rushing yards, is led by fullbacks Nelson Smith (55 carries for 342 yards and six touchdowns) and Jamale Carothers (75 carries, 311 yards, two touchdowns).

“We did a decent job against it last year other than the QB run,” Holgorsen said of slowing the Midshipmen’s ground attack. “The one thing we have to focus on is being more disciplined, and this is the week to do it because you better be disciplined when you go up against what they do.”

Navy’s defense is allowing the sixth-fewest passing yards per game among FBS teams (154.6) but the second-most rushing yards per game (273.8). The Midshipmen received a boost last week when inside linebacker Diego Fagot returned from injury to record 12 tackles.

“Diego’s got everything you’re looking for in a linebacker,” Niumatalolo said. “He can cover. He can blitz. He keeps coming out there and fighting. The kid is a warrior.”

–Field Level Media