Posted on December 30, 2019, by Travis Pulver
Under head coach Ken Niumatalolo, the Navy Midshipmen have been an excellent program. They hit a rough patch in the last two seasons. But with ten wins, including the first victory in four years over Army, it is safe to say the program is back among the better ones in the country.
However, with a win in the Liberty Bowl, they have a chance to do something extraordinary at the Academy. Should they beat the Wildcats, they can become just the second team in program history to finish the year with 11 wins.
While Navy may be favored in the game (-2.5 points via DraftKings), Kansas State is not going to roll over for them.
“There’s always the euphoria of making the bowl game,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said, via ESPN. “Then, you see your opponent, and you’re like, ‘Oh, crap.’ We know we have a great challenge.”
Kanas State will not have the legendary Bill Snyder on the sideline anymore. But the university managed to find a great replacement for him in former North Dakota State head coach, Chris Klieman (who had guided North Dakota State to four of the last five FCS national championships).
Rather than slip when a new head coach took over like programs often do, the Wildcats improved to 8-4 on the year and recorded a huge upset over then-No.5 Oklahoma. However, if they are going to record win No. 9 for the year and keep Navy from winning their 11th, they are going to have their hands full stopping the No.1 rushing attack in the country.
Pass attempts are rare from the Midshipmen, but when you average 363.7 yards a game on the ground, you don’t need to pass too often. According to K-State’s season stats, it doesn’t look like the Wildcats are going to have much luck stopping the Navy run game (60th ranked run defense; 152.3 yards/game allowed).
Klieman knows stopping Navy will not be easy, but he has prepared the team as well as he could leading up to the game (via ESPN):
“It’s had us up late at night and doing a lot more game-planning, probably taking away a little bit from the developmental side of things we want with some of the younger guys. (It’s) a new formation that we’re trying to get everybody aligned to. This is foreign territory. We haven’t faced this in a long time.”
So their best bet may be to try to keep the Navy offense off the field. While they do average close to 200 yards a game (189.0), they are going to find it difficult running against the Midshipmen defense (No. 14 in the country; 110.8 yards a game allowed).
So—who’s going to win the Liberty Bowl and the first-ever meeting between these two schools?
Kansas State does not appear to have the personnel they will need to counter the Navy run game or to get their own run game going against the Navy defense.
It will not be a high-scoring game, but it will be one Navy wins, against the spread (-2.5) and straight up.