September 08, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo and Tulane counterpart Willie Fritz are two of the nation's foremost practitioners of the option offense.

Niumatalolo played quarterback in the triple-option at Hawaii then served as an assistant under option architect Paul Johnson for 13 years. Fritz pioneered the zone option and has employed that type of attack throughout his successful 24-year career as a head coach.

Those backgrounds explain why the Midshipmen (1-0) and Green Wave (1-0) are quite adept at stopping opposing option offenses. Both coaching staffs fully understand all the nuances of the option and know how to prepare their defenses to face it.

The team that does it best Saturday will likely win this American Athletic Conference opener for both schools.

''We anticipate a similar type of game as last year,'' Niumatalolo said, referring to Navy's 21-14 victory. ''You're not going to trick anybody. It's going to be a physical game.''

Tulane managed only 240 total yards and two touchdowns in last season's matchup.

''I've played Navy twice now and they've done an excellent job of defending us. They understand option principles,'' said Fritz, who was head coach at Georgia Southern in 2014 when it traveled to Annapolis and was beaten, 52-19.

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Some other things to know about the AAC opener for Navy and Tulane:

SPOTLIGHT ON QUARTERBACKS: Zach Abey erased any lingering doubts about his ability to lead Navy's triple-option during Friday night's season opener at Florida Atlantic. Abey set an AAC record for yards rushing yards by a quarterback with 235. Tulane junior college transfer Jonathan Banks accounted for 254 yards of total offense and four touchdowns last week in a 43-14 rout of Grambling State.

SOMETHING TO PROVE: Tulane, which was picked last in the West Division by an American Athletic Conference preseason media poll, is hoping to make a statement. ''The stakes have now been raised,'' said Fritz, coming off a 4-8 first season with the Green Wave.

STRONG AT HOME: Navy is 8-1 in home openers during the Niumatalolo era. However, seven of those games came against Football Championship Subdivision opponents. This will be the first time the Midshipmen have faced an AAC opponent in their home opener. Navy is 39-10 overall at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium under Niumatalolo. ''We've had a pretty good home-field advantage the last few years,'' Niumatalolo said. ''The stadium is awesome now, we always have a good crowd and the Brigade of Midshipmen is behind us.''

PROGRAM BUILDER: Fritz has authored significant turnarounds in his second season as head coach at every stop along the way. Georgia Southern earned its first FBS bowl berth, Blinn College captured the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship, Central Missouri went from 5-6 to 8-3 and Sam Houston State improved from 6-5 to 14-1. Fritz boasts a 160-77 career record, along with two junior college national championships and four conference championships.

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