Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo talks WKU

Brad Stephens

Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo saw his Navy Midshipmen defeat former coach David Elson’s WKU team 38-22 two seasons ago in Annapolis.

But he said his team will be facing a far different WKU squad when the Midshipmen (1-0) go into Smith Stadium to play Willie Taggart’s Toppers (0-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

“Their kids have bought into Coach Taggart’s methods,” Niumatalolo said Thursday. “They play physical and believe in what he is preaching.”

While Navy will be facing Taggart for the first time, they are familiar with the Toppers’ junior quarterback, Kawaun Jakes.

Jakes made his first career start in 2009 against the Midshipmen and played well, going 22-of-28 for 276 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Niumatalolo said dealing with Jakes’ athleticism will be key to beating WKU.

“He can beat you with his legs but he can also beat you with his arm,” he said. “A dual threat quarterback like him definitely concerns you.”

Niumatalolo also addressed the need for his defense to contain senior running back Bobby Rainey, WKU’s main offensive threat.

“It’s no secret that they’re going to run him. It’s no secret we’re going to try to stop him,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to do a good job getting off blocks and find a way to tackle him.”

On offense, the Midshipmen are known for running the option, a rare attack in modern college football.

Navy has run the option with success throughout the past decade, reaching bowl games in eight straight years.

Niumatalolo said that particular offense has helped shape the identity of the Midshipmen program.

“The option has been a factor in allowing the program to be successful,” he said. “That’s who we are.”

How well Navy’s option is able to chew clock and keep Rainey off the field will go a long way in determining Saturday’s winner.

But regardless of who wins, the game will take a backseat to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which falls on Sunday.

As coach of players that will one day serve the United States as naval officers, Niumatalolo said the weekend will be important for the Midshipmen — but no more so than it will be for any other team.

“Our young men will be the first to tell you that they don’t want to be viewed better than anyone else,” he said. “They want to be viewed as Americans that have answered the call to serve their country.”