At Penn State, uncharacteristic mistakes contribute to undoing of Navy

Sports,Campus Confidential,Kevin Dunleavy

Navy’s second straight lopsided loss, 34-7, to Penn State was filled with turnovers (four) and penalties (seven) for the Midshipmen. Coach Ken Niumatalolo has always maintained that the Mids margin for error is slim, even against the weaker teams on its schedule. When mistakes happen against a Notre Dame, which beat Navy 50-10 two weeks ago, or a Penn State, they can lead to disaster.

“We’re gonna have a hard time beating high school teams if we don’t take care of the football,” Niumatalolo said. “Playing Notre Dame, playing Penn State, we got play almost perfect to have a chance.”

The last time Navy lost consecutive games by more than 27 points was in 1994.

“Our kids are crushed,” Niumatalolo said. “We didn’t come here for Military Appreciation Day. We came to win.”

Navy was undone in part by the huge Penn State crowd of 98,792 at Beaver Stadium. The Mids reached the Nittany Lions 30-yard-line six times and scored only once, on a 12-yard scamper by slot back Gee Gee Green (6 carries, 53 yards).

Communication often appeared to be a problem, especially when Navy neared the goal line. The slot backs, lined up just off the tackles, had to lean in toward quarterback Trey Miller to hear his signals. Twice the Mids were flagged for false starts.

“I think I could have been louder. I could have helped them out a little more,” Miller said. “It was just all around. We had a lot of missed assignments. We really weren’t focused out there today.”

Navy had anticipated the noise, practicing with loud speakers last week.

“This isn’t study hall where people are going to be quiet,” Niumatalolo said. “We knew there was going to be noise. You gotta deal with it.”

It was another rough game for Miller, who rushed 18 times for 21 yards and completed 6 of 12 passes for 17 yards. The junior also had two fumbles and was intercepted in the end zone by Nittany Lions linebacker Gerald Hodges.

“Everything that happened wasn’t Trey’s fault. He was running for his life back there,” Niumatalolo said. “Trey will be the first to tell you, he’s gotta take care of the football. That’s the nature of our offense. The ball is always going to be in his hands.”

Miller was replaced in the third period by freshman Keenan Reynolds who guided Navy to its lone touchdown. Niumatalolo said Miller was still his starter. He’ll get a better chance to operate next week against VMI of the FCS.

“None of these guys are going anywhere,” Navy linebacker Keegan Wetzel said. “They’re at this school because they’re fighters, they’re scrappers. That’s how they got recruited. Most of all we got great leadership.”

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