DALLAS (AP) — Zach Abey still gets a chance to score touchdowns for Navy even though he is no longer the starting quarterback.
Abey doesn't have a catch as a starting receiver, but still takes snaps in short-yardage and goal-line situations and has six rushing touchdowns on 15 carries. That is tied for second-most among FBS players with Malcolm Perry, the Midshipmen's sprinting starting quarterback.
"It shows you want kind of young man he is, very selfless," coach Ken Niumatalolo said of Abey, who ran for 1,413 yards and 19 TDs last season. "For him to accept his role is pretty remarkable. ... He's really helped us."
The Midshipmen (2-1, 1-0 AAC) will keep using the bigger Abey and quicker Perry when they play Saturday at SMU (0-3), which is playing its American Athletic Conference opener for new coach Sonny Dykes. Navy has won eight in a row in the series.
SMU has given up at least 42 points in all three games, but is also the only team to face two top 20 teams in non-conference games the first three weeks. The Mustangs lost 45-20 on Saturday at then-No. 19 Michigan after a 42-12 loss to then-No. 16 TCU in its only home game so far.
"There's a lot of points there that are probably not attributed to our defense," he said.
SMU has given up defensive touchdowns in all three games, including a 73-yard interception return on the final play of the first half at Michigan. There have also been two special teams scores, a 78-yard punt return for a TD by TCU and a 96-yard kickoff return by North Texas.
Now the Mustangs face Navy's triple-option offense that provides quite a challenge for any defense.
Perry rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns last November when Navy beat SMU 43-40. He is coming off a 223-yard, three-TD performance last week in a 51-21 home win over Lehigh, and has rushed 151 times for 1,143 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and 13 TDs in his six career starts at quarterback.
"To play well against Navy, it's a yearlong preparation," Dykes said. "This is a preparation that really needs to start in February, and we're behind and trying to get caught up."
Some other things to know going into what could be another rainy home game for the Mustangs, two weeks after the start of their home opener against TCU was delayed two hours by weather:
SMU was down only 14-7 at Michigan with a chance to add some points before that half-ending interception return by the Wolverines on Saturday.
"At times we were a little bit physically overmatched, but our guys never concerned themselves too much with that. They just played hard," Dykes said. "We were driving to have a chance to maybe make it 14-14, or worse case 14-10. Then throw the pick. ... Obviously pretty demoralizing."
NAVY ON THE ROAD
The Midshipmen have lost five consecutive road games, including their season opener 59-41 at Hawaii.
CATCHING AND RUNNING
SMU junior James Proche had career-high 11 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan. The Mustangs are one of only four FBS teams with three running backs with more than 1,000 career yards rushing — Braeden West (2,059), Xavier Jones (1,924) and Ke'Mon Freeman (1,219). The other FBS teams with 1,000-yard trios are Ball State, Georgia Tech and Syracuse.
There is a trophy that goes to the Navy-SMU winner. The Gansz Trophy was created in 2009 for former special teams coach Frank Gansz, a former Navy center and linebacker who spent time on both coaching staffs. Gansz was 70 and had finished one season on SMU's staff when he died in April 2009 of complications following knee replacement surgery. The Midshipmen are 6-0 since the trophy was introduced.
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