College Football
Preview
Virginia at Navy
When: 1:30 PM ET, Thursday, December 28, 2017
Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland



MILITARY BOWL PRESENTED BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN STORYLINES

1. It may be difficult for Navy to bounce back from an emotional loss to Army when it meets Virginia on Dec. 28 in the Military Bowl at Annapolis, Md. The Midshipmen, though, will at least be playing in the friendly confines of what could be a sold-out Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, but the Cavaliers should be well-represented in the stands with their campus some 150 miles away and the Virginia border less than 50 miles from the venue. Navy started the season 5-0, but limps into the contest with three straight losses and six in its last seven games after its 14-13 setback to Army on Dec. 9 when Bennett Moehring missed a 48-yard field goal on the final play amid snowy conditions.

2. The Cavaliers are also moving in the wrong direction with three straight losses and five in their last six games, including a 10-0 setback to Virginia Tech on Nov. 24, but coach Bronco Mendenhall won't let that dampen the enthusiasm of their first bowl appearance in six years. “This is a defining moment for those players who have worked tirelessly to accomplish this goal of returning Virginia to a bowl game,” Mendenhall said in a prepared statement. "Seeing the joy on the faces of these players when they became bowl-eligible after the Georgia Tech win was an incredible moment. The only members of our team who have been to a bowl game are three graduate transfers.” Virginia makes its first bowl appearance since a 43-24 loss to Auburn in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl while Navy plays in its sixth straight bowl and 14th in the last 15 seasons after losing to Louisiana Tech 48-45 in the 2016 Armed Forces Bowl.

3. The teams haven't met since 1994, but there is plenty of admiration as Mendenhall coached Va'A Niumatalolo -- the son of Midshipmen coach Ken -- while the two were at BYU. “I’ve known Kenny (Niumatalolo) and his family and what they stand for … for a long time and he’s all that’s right with college football in my opinion and runs a class program,” Mendenhall told reporters. “I couldn’t think of a more fitting and worthy opponent.” At the top of Mendenhall's to-do list is to figure out a way to stop Navy's No. 2 rushing offense (343 yards per game) with his 80th-ranked run defense that allows an average 178.3 yards.

TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Pick

ABOUT VIRGINIA (6-6, 3-5 ACC): Senior quarterback Kurt Benkert (25 touchdowns, eight interceptions) passed for 186 yards against Virginia Tech and has 3,062 this season, breaking Matt Schaub's school record of 2,976 set in 2002. Junior running back Jordan Ellis (team-high 799 yards, six TDs) could be the key in the Cavaliers' offense using ball control to keep Navy's strong ground attack off the field while junior H-Back Olamide Zaccheaus (club-most 80 catches, 833 yards, five TDs) is Benkert's favorite target. Senior linebacker Micah Kiser leads the ACC and is tied for fifth nationally with 134 tackles and his 385 since the start of the 2015 season are the most in the country, while senior safety Quin Blanding's school-record 474 career tackles are the most among active FBS players.

ABOUT NAVY (6-6, 4-4 American Athletic Conference): Sophomore Malcolm Perry rushed for 250 yards and a touchdown against Army while playing quarterback for the second time this season after running for 282 and four scores in a 43-40 victory over SMU on Nov. 11 in his first contest as the signal-caller. Perry replaced junior Zach Abey, who has been slowed by a shoulder injury and rushed for 123 yards in his last three games after totaling 126 or more in each of his first seven games this season. The Midshipmen have attempted only 101 passes this season but the element of surprise has yielded an average reception of 23.2 yards.



PREDICTION: Navy 28, Virginia 27
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Virginia 6-6 L3 23.8 26.7 4-3 2-3 5-5 0-0 3-5
Navy 6-6 L3 28.9 27.9 4-2 2-4 1-2 0-1 4-4
Last Meeting
Virginia Navy
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
9/10/94 UVA 47 NAVY 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Virginia N/A
Navy N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Virginia N/A
Navy N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Virginia N/A
Navy N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
Virginia N/A
Navy N/A
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Virginia K. Benkert 59.6 3062 25 8
Navy Z. Abey 43.7 805 7 7
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Virginia J. Ellis 204 799 3.9 6
Navy Z. Abey 280 1325 4.7 14
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Virginia O. Zaccheaus 80 833 10.4 5
Navy T. Carmona 14 381 27.2 4
Touchdowns Player TD
Virginia J. Ellis 7
Navy Z. Abey 15
Quickchart Matchup
Virginia Virginia Off vs  Navy Navy Def
Virginia 356.2 yards
Navy 386.6 yards
Virginia 3.2 yards/rush
Navy 4.6 yards/rush
Virginia 6.4 yards/attempt
Navy 9 yards/attempt
Navy Navy Off vs  Virginia Virginia Def
Navy 426.8 yards
Virginia 358.7 yards
Navy 5.5 yards/rush
Virginia 4.5 yards/rush
Navy 10.2 yards/attempt
Virginia 6.7 yards/attempt