Navy re­serves to fill key spots against Army

Quar­ter­back, run­ning back out with in­juries

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY DAVID GINS­BURG

BAL­TI­MORE | Navy’s triple op­tion will have to rely on spare parts Satur­day against Army, a less-thanideal po­si­tion for a team seek­ing to beat its big­gest ri­val for the 15th time in a row.

Record-set­ting quar­ter­back Will Worth and slot back To­neo Gul­ley both sus­tained sea­son-end­ing foot in­juries last week in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship, a 34-10 loss to Tem­ple.

Sopho­more Zach Abey will get his first col­lege start at quar­ter­back in the most im­por­tant game of the year for Navy (9-3) and sel­dom-used Calvin Cass Jr. will re­place Gul­ley, the team’s co-cap­tain and third-lead­ing rusher.

“You don’t want to make ex­cuses,” Navy coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said Tues­day, “but it’s not the most ideal sit­u­a­tion.”

Not only that, but the Mid­ship­men have only one week to pre­pare. Army (6-5), in con­trast, hasn’t played since Nov. 19.

When Navy joined the AAC two years ago, it was well aware of the pos­si­bil­ity of this hap­pen­ing. Hav­ing just one week to get ready for Army is bad enough, but los­ing two key play­ers in the ti­tle game made things a whole lot worse.

“Ob­vi­ously you’d like some time be­tween games,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “You don’t want your big ri­valry game af­ter a cham­pi­onship game, but what can you do? You’ve just got to make the best of it.”

Army coach Jeff Monken fully un­der­stands Navy’s plight. The third-year coach ex­pe­ri­enced a se­vere par­ing of his de­fen­sive back­field be­cause of in­juries and the death of Bran­don Jack­son, who was killed in a car crash in Septem­ber.

The Black Knights have two con­verted safeties at cor­ner­back: fresh­men Jay­lon McClin­ton and Eli­jah Ri­ley.

“We’ve lost our four top cor­ners,” Monken lamented. “You call most de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors around the coun­try and tell them I’m go­ing to take away your top four cor­ners, and they couldn’t func­tion as a de­fense. So, every­body is feel­ing that this time of year.”

Still, Monken feels com­pas­sion for Worth and Gul­ley, se­niors who will miss their last chance to ful­fill the battle cry, “Beat Army!”

“I feel ter­ri­ble for the guys that got in­jured in that last game,” Monken said. “Those kids have had great sea­sons. They mean so much to their team, and play­ing in this game means so much to them. It’s tough to lose play­ers like that, but Kenny does such a great job that he’ll have some­body step in at each one of those po­si­tions and they’ll be ready to go.”

Abey will be the third quar­ter­back to play for Navy this sea­son. Tago Smith won the job in the pre­sea­son but tore his right ACL in the sec­ond quar­ter of the opener against Ford­ham. He was re­placed by Worth, who had an NCAAhigh 25 rush­ing touch­downs and set a school record with 2,595 yards in to­tal offense be­fore break­ing a bone in his foot last Satur­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo seeks to lead Navy to its 15th straight win over Army on Satur­day.

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