ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Navy rides the momentum of a stirring fourth-quarter comeback victory into its home meeting with Lehigh on Saturday in their first encounter since 1987, but it won't be taking its FCS opponent lightly. Junior Malcolm Perry and senior Zach Abey, who form the Midshipmen's two-pronged quarterback attack, each scored a touchdown in the final period with Abey's coming with 2:37 left in the 22-21 victory over Memphis.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: None
“Whether FBS or FCS, every team has good athletes, good coaches, good strength programs, good nutrition programs,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo told reporters. “We’re the Naval Academy. We don’t act like we’re any better than anyone else. We just come to work every week. It would be very foolish for us to think any differently about who we are.” Perry, who took over from Abey as the starter late last season, has averaged 5.2 yards on 53 carries with three touchdowns this year -- one for 75 yards -- while Abey, who is listed as a wide receiver on the roster, has 23 yards with five of his 10 carries resulting in TDs. “Everybody knows what’s going to happen,'' Niumatalolo said. "It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what we’re going to do. (Abey) just finds a way to get first downs and touchdowns.” Lehigh is led by senior running back Dominick Bragalone, the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year who led the FCS with 1,388 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing last season.
ABOUT LEHIGH (1-1)
Senior quarterback Brad Mayes, an all-Patriot preseason team selection, has completed 59.6 percent of his passes with one touchdown and an interception this season after recording 31 TD passes and 12 interceptions as a junior. Bragalone, the first Mountain Hawk to reach 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, has totaled 155 with three touchdowns this season after being held to 18 yards on seven carries in last week's 31-9 loss to Villanova. Senior defensive back Sam McCloskey has a team-high three pass breakups and shares the club lead with 15 tackles.
ABOUT NAVY (1-1)
Perry rushed for 166 yards on a career-high 36 carries last week but it was the defense that carried the Midshipmen. After yielding 522 yards -- 436 passing -- in a season-opening 59-41 loss at Hawaii, Navy forced four turnovers (three fumbles, interception) against Memphis while holding the Tigers to 145 passing yards, perhaps aided by a steady rain. Leading the way are senior safety Sean Williams, who has a team-high 14 tackles and forced two fumbles last week, and senior linebacker Taylor Heflin (13 tackles), who recorded a sack in each of the first two games.
1. Navy is averaging 295 rushing yards -- 14th nationally -- after finishing second in the country with 351.4 last season.
2. Lehigh, which is playing an FBS opponent for the first time since 2003, totaled 176 yards versus Villanova -- it's lowest total since recording 129 against New Hampshire in 2010.
3. Abey shares the FBS lead in rushing touchdowns with Heisman Trophy hopeful Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin and Cincinnati's Michael Warren II.
PREDICTION: Navy 35, Lehigh 7
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