FACTS & STATS: Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (34,000) -- Annapolis, Maryland. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Pitt 3-1, Navy 2-0. Away Record: Pitt 1-1, Navy 1-3. Neutral Record: Pitt 0-0, Navy 0-0. Conference Record: Pitt 2-2, Navy 0-0. Series Record: Pittsburgh leads, 22-13-3.
GAME NOTES: The Navy Midshipmen try to stay perfect at home this season, as they contend against the visiting Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday afternoon.
Winners of both of their home dates thus far, the Midshipmen are actually trying to snap what has become a two-game slide, stemming from trips to Duke and Toledo. After being blown away by the Blue Devils (35-7) on Oct. 12, the Midshipmen responded by taking the Rockets to double-overtime before bowing in a 45-44 final.
On a more positive note for Navy, the team has lost more than two straight games only once since 2003.
As for the Panthers, now members of the ACC after spending time in the Big East, they are getting back to action against another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision after taking down Old Dominion last Saturday, 35-24, at home. The victory was the fourth in the last five games for the squad, but still the team is just average in league play at 2-2.
In a relationship that traces back more than a century, Navy trails the Panthers by a 22-13-3 mark. The most recent matchup took place in 2009 with Pitt taking a 27-14 home win.
The star of the game for the Panthers against ODU last weekend was Isaac Bennett who ran for a career-best 240 yards and tallied three touchdowns in the double-digit victory. Pittsburgh amassed a total of 266 yards and four scores on 45 rushing attempts, while quarterback Tom Savage played conservatively in completing 11-of-18 passes for 104 yards and a score to Manasseh Garner.
Tyler Boyd caught a team-best six passes for 46 yards, but not one was stretched beyond nine yards.
Defensively, the Panthers held ODU's Taylor Heinicke (2012 Walter Payton Award Winner -- the nation's top FCS player as presented by The Sports Network), to 312 yards and two TDs. Ray Vinopal produced a modest seven tackles for the hosts and also picked off a pass and returned it 20 yards.
The Pittsburgh offense should get a lift this week with the return of receiver Devin Street who missed the last game with an injury. Street is currently second on the school's all-time list for receptions with 177, needing just two more to take over the top spot from Latef Grim who had 178 grabs between 1998-2000.
Getting the ball to Street will be the responsibility of Savage who is connecting on 56.8 percent of his passes for 223.8 ypg and has tossed 11 TDs, against six interceptions. Providing Savage with plenty of support in the backfield will be Bennett (450 yards, five TDs), while James Conner (354 yards, four TDs) remains a question mark with a shoulder injury.
Losers of three of the last four games, the Midshipmen actually took the lead in the second overtime thanks to a six-yard TD run by Geoffrey Whiteside, but the ensuing PAT failed, opening the door for Toledo to respond and capture the one-point decision.
The Midshipmen ran a whopping 106 offensive plays, leading to 514 yards, the bulk of those coming on the ground (419) while Keenan Reynolds converted 5- of-12 passes for 95 yards and a score in the losing cause. Reynolds, who was sacked five times, ran the ball 29 times for only 34 net yards, but also three touchdowns. Noah Copeland registered 28 attempts for a team-best 153 yards as the squad kept the ball on the ground for 93 plays.
Believe it or not, even with their rushing output against the Rockets, the Midshipmen come into this week actually ranked sixth in the nation in that department with 304.2 ypg. While he may be considered the quarterback for Navy, Reynolds is the one who gets to kick start the triple option, which is why he is also the leading rusher for the Academy with 126 carries for 453 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In the pocket, Keenan has also shown the ability to send the ball down the field with his 55.4 percent accuracy and three touchdowns, but few opponents will be game-planning for an aerial attack that accounts for just 103.7 ypg (120th in the nation).
As long as the Midshipmen can maintain possession of the ball for large chunks of time and tire out the Pittsburgh defense with incessant runs, there's a good chance Navy can come out on top in this battle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 24, Pittsburgh 17
Saturday, October 26, 1 p.m. (et).