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Miller still the one at Navy

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Sports,Campus Confidential,Kevin Dunleavy

Through the first month of the season, Navy (1-3) is not off to the start it wanted, especially with its vaunted triple-option offense, and the focus has fallen on junior quarterback Trey Miller. On Monday, Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo stood by Miller, declaring him the starter for Saturday’s game at bitter rival Air Force (2-2).

“Trey’s gonna be our quarterback. I have faith in Trey,” Niumataololo said. “He could have played better, but I have faith he can get it done.”

The quarterback is the engine that drives the unique offense of Navy, dependent on timing and precision. But Miller has been low on fuel, committing 10 turnovers, and rushing 69 times for 181 yards. The Mids’ brain-trust isn’t sure how much of it is Miller, and how much of it is on an inexperienced line. Many of Navy’s plays have had no chance from the start. Take away his 116 yards rushing against FCS team Virginia Military, and Miller doesn’t have many more yards rushing (65), than carries (52).

As a result, Navy has sputtered offensively. In Saturday’s 12-0 loss at home to San Jose State, the Mids gained only 144 yards, their second-lowest output since installing the option a decade ago.

Freshman backup Keenan Reynolds has played well in relief. But perhaps a factor preventing a switch is his inexperience. Unlike many Navy players, Reynolds, doesn’t have the benefit of a season at the Naval Academy Prep School. Starting him Saturday at rival Air Force (2-2) would be a risky proposition.

“I think Trey gives us our best chance of winning,” Niumatalolo said.

Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper believes in Miller’s talent, saying it’s only a lack of confidence that is holding him back. In the last two games, Navy has moved impressively on its first two possessions, before surrendering the ball on Miller turnovers in opponent territory. Losses to Notre Dame and Penn State followed a similar pattern as long first-period drives failed to produce points. When mistakes have happened early, things have snowballed.

“Our confidence is shot right now,” Jasper said. “It’s my job as a coordinator to fix it.”

Howell done for the year. Senior slot back John Howell will miss the rest of the year with a knee injury. It is one of the few positions of depth with experienced seniors Gee Gee Greene and Bo Snelson backed up by junior Darius Staten.

Air Force. Next up for Navy is Air Force (2-2). The Falcons lead the nation in rushing, averaging 396 yards per game behind undersized senior back Cody Getz (5-7, 175), who has rushed 83 times for 683 yards and seven touchdowns.

Not Rock Bottom. Navy linebacker Keegan Wetzel, who leads the team with three sacks, says the Mids are still upbeat despite three humbling losses. The mood is nothing like last year when Navy lost six straight, including four by a field goal or less.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a low point. We’re pulling all the positives out of it,” Wetzel said. “The mood in the locker room isn’t like when we lost the six games in a row last year. It’s not that, because we’ve seen improvements in each game in facets of our game. We just need to put the whole thing together.”

Kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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