Navy, Louisiana Tech slip into bowl

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY STEPHEN HAWKINS

FORT WORTH, TEXAS | Navy is try­ing to fin­ish back-to-back 10-win sea­sons for the first time. Louisiana Tech can get to nine wins for the third year in a row, some­thing the Bull­dogs have never done in Divi­sion I.

For all their re­cent suc­cesses, though, both teams carry two-game los­ing streaks into the Armed Forces Bowl on Fri­day, in­clud­ing losses in their re­spec­tive con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship games.

“It’s been a rough cou­ple of weeks for both of us,” Louisiana Tech re­ceiver Trent Tay­lor said. “Both of these teams are go­ing to come out with some fire, ready to win the game.”

Since leav­ing the Dal­las-Fort Worth area af­ter a 75-31 vic­tory at SMU on Thanks­giv­ing week­end, Navy has lost the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence ti­tle game to Tem­ple and fell to Army for the first time since 2001. The triple-op­tion Mid­ship­men (9-4) also lost start­ing quar­ter­back Will Worth and key run­ning back To­neo Gul­ley to in­juries.

“Look at both of our teams, very sim­i­lar. Had some tough losses down

the road. Doesn’t take away from the great sea­son both of us have had for our seniors,” Navy coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “Like ev­ery­body else, you have in­juries and ad­ver­sity. And just been proud of our young men and how they have en­dured this year.”

Navy handed then-No. 6 Hous­ton its first loss in October, and later beat Notre Dame. The Mid­ship­men were in line to pos­si­bly play in the Cot­ton Bowl rep­re­sent­ing the Group of Five be­fore their first con­sec­u­tive losses since the 2014 sea­son.

Louisiana Tech (8-5), in its fourth sea­son with coach Skip Holtz, had a seven-game win­ning streak be­fore los­ing its reg­u­lar-sea­son finale at South­ern Miss and then to West­ern Kentucky in the Con­fer­ence USA ti­tle game.

“As a se­nior, I don’t want to end on a three-game los­ing streak and I don’t want to lose my last game,” Bull­dogs safety Xavier Woods said. “It adds some wood to the fire a lit­tle bit just to go out on a good note.”

Some other things to know about the Armed Forces Bowl, which is played on the TCU cam­pus:

Run­ning and pass­ing: With its triple-op­tion of­fense, Navy ranks fourth nationally with 311 yards rush­ing per game. Louisiana Tech is third with 360 yards rush­ing per game, but also runs for 156 yards per game. “Coach Holtz talked about a cou­ple more days of prac­tice. We would like a cou­ple more play­ers on the field to stop them de­fen­sively,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “No­body has been able to stop them. One of the best of­fenses in the coun­try.”

’Dog catch­ers: The Bull­dogs re­ceiv­ing duo of Trent Tay­lor and Car­los Henderson have com­bined for 6,695 yards re­ceiv­ing in their ca­reers — the sec­ond most among ac­tive teams (West­ern Kentucky is first). Tay­lor, a 5-foot-8 se­nior, is one of the nation’s top ac­tive re­ceivers with 315 ca­reer catches for 3,946 yards and 30 TDs. He has 124 catches for 1,570 yards this sea­son with 10 touch­downs, while ju­nior Henderson has 72 catches for 1,406 yards and 17 TDs.

Good bowl­ing: Navy, play­ing in its 13th bowl game in 14 sea­sons, has won its last three bowl games. That streak started with a win over Mid­dle Ten­nessee State in its only Armed Forces Bowl ap­pear­ance three years ago. Louisiana Tech is play­ing in a bowl for the third straight sea­son for the first time, and won the last two.

3K trio: Louisiana Tech is the only school to have three dif­fer­ent quar­ter­backs with 3,000 yards pass­ing in a span of three sea­sons. Ryan Hig­gins has 4,208 yards this sea­son, af­ter Jeff Driskel’s 4,033 last year and Cody Sokol’s 3,436 in 2014.

Win­ningest class: The se­nior class for Navy has a 37-15 record mak­ing it the win­ningest class in academy his­tory. The Mid­ship­men are 26-7 their last 33 games.


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