ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The last time Dennis Franchione brought a team to Maryland, the school was a national powerhouse and featured one of the finest running backs in the country.
It was 2000, and Franchione was head coach at Texas Christian University. Led by eventual Doak Walker Award winner LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU rolled to a 24-0 victory.
Franchione returns Saturday as head coach of Texas State, which is playing its first season at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. His top running back this time around is Marcus Curry, a transfer from Navy who voluntarily resigned from the academy in 2010 following a variety of off-field issues — including testing positive for marijuana.
Curry, now a fifth-year senior, leads Texas State in yards rushing with 513 yards and has scored nine touchdowns.
“It is pretty ironic. Never thought I’d be going back to Navy for a game,” Curry said. “I’m just trying to embrace the situation and make the most of the opportunity.”
The Bobcats (3-6) are heavy underdogs against the Midshipmen (6-4), who have already secured their ninth bowl berth in the past 10 seasons. Navy can clinch its ninth winning season since 2003 by beating Texas State on Senior Day.
“There are a lot of our seniors that are great leaders and all of our guys look up to, so hopefully we can send them out the right way,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “It’s not just going to happen though. We can’t tell Texas State it’s our senior day, can you take it easy on us. We have to come ready to play.”
Both teams are coming off tough losses in wild shootouts. Texas State amassed 577 total yards but allowed a whopping 627 in falling, 62-55, to Louisiana Tech. It was a similar story for Navy, which gained 487 yards and gave up 597 in a 41-31 defeat at Troy.
Texas State quarterback Shaun Rutherford is the trigger man of a diverse attack that 26.2 points and 359.1 yards per game.
“Every offense that we have faced for the last six weeks has put up a lot of points and big yardage numbers. Texas State is no different,” Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. “They have a really, really good plan and plenty of talent. They hung 55 points on the 19th-ranked team in the country. So we’re facing another offense that is capable of putting up big numbers.”
Rutherford has completed 129 of 200 passes (64.5 percent) for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. The speedy and athletic 6-foot, 187-pound senior is also Texas State’s second-leading rusher with 388 yards and four touchdowns, routinely working the double-option with Curry.
“They have the option factor involved. They run the option out of pistol formation. They’ll spread you out and run the option,” Green said. “They have a really good inside running game plus a great play-action bootleg game that keeps you off-balance. They can also drop back and throw the ball downfield. So they do it all. They have a ton of formations and are very versatile. It’s tough to lock in on any one thing they’re going to do. They have a great plan.”
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is the catalyst of Navy’s triple-option offense, which is putting up 25.9 points and 391.3 yards per game. The freshman has passed for 719 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 535 yards and nine scores.
Reynolds and slotback Gee Gee Greene (679 yards) are the key figures in a rushing offense that ranks sixth nationally with an average of 274.3 yards. This figures to be a tough matchup for Texas State, which is giving up 211.7 yards per game on the ground.
“You have to beat Navy because Navy won’t beat itself, and that’s the mark of a good team,” Franchione said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)