Navy Midshipmen set sail for BHAFB beginning with Indiana

With an objective of winning at least six games to become bowl eligible, the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen football team launches its arduous 12-game journey to December’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, with a trip to Bloomington, Ind. for their season-opener against Indiana University (1-0).

Pending their bowl eligibility (six wins), Navy has agreed to meet a representative of the 12-team Mountain West Conference in the 2013 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl to be played in Fort Worth, on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013. The 11th edition of this postseason college football bowl game will kick off at 10:45 a.m. (CT) from Amon G. Carter Stadium on the campus of TCU. The game will air on ESPN, ESPN Radio and be carried worldwide on the Armed Forces Radio Network.

“We will be watching the Navy football season with even more interest this year as we anxiously await the hosting of the Midshipmen,” commented Brant Ringler, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl executive director. Coach (Ken) Niumatalolo has another excellent team, a very tough schedule, but we believe the Mids have more than enough to earn eligibility and a spot in our bowl game. We will be honored to host Navy in December.”

While the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl is played in honor of the armed forces and has previously hosted the U.S. Military Academy (2010) and the U.S. Air Force Academy (2007, 2008, 2009, 2012), this is the first year that the bowl is contracted with the Naval Academy.

Coming off of a bowl appearance and an 8-5 record in 2012, Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo begins his sixth season at the helm of the Midshipmen and 16th overall with Navy football with a team that on paper appears to be the best he has had at the Academy in Annapolis, Md.. During his first five years as head coach at Navy, Niumatalolo’s Mids have compiled a record of 40-26 including a pair of wins over Notre Dame and appearances in four post-season bowl games. His 40 wins are most by any coach in their first five seasons as the Navy head coach.

Last year, Navy scored 10 points in the last 5 minutes, 30 seconds to shock Indiana, 31-30 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. This Saturday, Navy takes to the road traveling to Bloomington to face the 1-0 Hoosiers who are fresh from an impressive 73-35 season-opening victory at home over Indiana State. Kickoff Saturday is set for 6 p.m. (ET) at Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and carried on the Navy Radio Network and on Sirius Satellite Radio.

For 2013, Navy returns 42 lettermen including six offensive, seven defensive and all five specialist starters on its roster entering Saturday’s game. Among the returning lettermen are 20 players from Texas including three listed as starters prior to Saturday’s opener—senior slotback Darius Staten (Carrollton, Texas), junior fullback Noah Copeland (San Antonio, Texas) and pre-season All-America junior punter Pablo Beltran (Humble, Texas).

Known for its highly-successful triple-option offensive attack since 2002, leading Navy this season will be talented sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who is on the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback award watch list. Reynolds, from Antioch, Tenn., came off the bench last season as a freshman to start in eight games, contributed 1,547 yards in total offense (649 yards rushing, 898 yards passing) for an average of 119 yards per game. He also ran for 10 touchdowns and passed for nine more.

With Navy averaging 278.5 yards per game on the ground in 2012 (6th in the nation), in addition to Reynolds (49.9 yards per game), two of the other top returning rushers are a pair of fullbacks, junior Noah Copeland (San Antonio, Texas) and sophomore Chris Swain (Macon, Ga.). Last season, Copeland played in all 13 games, rushing for 738 yards for an average of 56.8 yards per game and scoring five touchdowns. Playing four games in his first season with Navy, Swain ran for 154 yards (10.3 yards per carry) for an average of 38.5 yards per game and one touchdown.

Navy has five sets of brothers on its 2013 roster, which is tied with Wisconsin and Army for the most sets of brothers on one team in the FBS this season.

The brother tandems include freshmen Kendrick Mouton (SB) and Kenneth Mouton (QB) from Naples, Fla.; sophomore Blaze Ryder (C) and senior Wave Ryder (S) from Kaneohe, Hawai'i; freshman Myles Swain (SB) and sophomore Chris Swain (FB) from Macon, Ga.; freshman Nnamdi Uzoma (OLB) and junior Obi Uzoma (OLB) from Wake Forest, N.C. and freshman Will Worth (QB) and junior Joe Worth (LB) Worth from Valrico, Fla.

Navy is one of just two schools (Michigan is the other) to produce a President of the United States (Jimmy Carter), a Heisman Trophy winner (Joe Bellino-1960 and Roger Staubach-1963) and a Naismith Award winner (David Robinson-1987).

This will mark the third time in its 11-year history that the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will be held on December 30, as the 2010 and 2011 contests were both held on that date. The most recent Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl was played Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 featuring a match-up between the Rice Owls and U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons, in which the Owls claimed the bowl victory 33-14. Last year’s showcase drew an attendance of 40,754 and the largest TV audience in the game’s history with an average of 2,584,000 households. The ESPN telecast had a 2.6 average household coverage rating – marking the bowl’s second-highest rating in the first 10 years of the popular event.

Owned and operated by ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl has featured the “armed forces” theme since 2006. Patriotic overtones recognizing all five branches of the service are prevalent throughout the game. Past Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowls have included fan-fest areas showcasing armed forces hardware; flyovers; demonstrations by several of the military's top skydiving teams; custom homes awarded to wounded warriors; on-field induction ceremonies; armed forces bands and honor guards; the annual Great American Patriot Award presented by Armed Forces Insurance; and the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.