The Navy Midshipmen aren’t going to win the national championship.
They might capture the American Athletic Conference crown, maybe the best moment for Navy since Roger Staubach was on campus (or, frankly, any time it beat Army).
The Midshipmen (5-1, 4-0) are in position to do just that, and the next step is Friday night’s road game against the University of South Florida Bulls (6-2, 3-1).
Navy success is nothing new. The Midshipmen are 73-38 in Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s nine seasons, including an 11-2 mark in 2015.
But who thought Navy could be bearing down on an AAC title while playing in the same division as Houston?
One season after the departure of brilliant quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who set a Division I record for career touchdowns (88) and rushing yards by a quarterback (4,559)?
After losing starting quarterback Tago Smith to a season-ending injury in the first game?
And replacing him with a senior who had barely played in his career?
Introducing Navy quarterback Will Worth, who has steadied the ship. He accumulated 191 total yards in a 46-40 win against Houston, marking Navy’s first win against a top 10-ranked team in 32 years. Worth rushed for a career-high 201 yards and accounted for five touchdowns in a 42-28 win against Memphis.
Friday night represents a homecoming for Worth, who played at Newsome High School, about a 40-minute drive from Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
“Here’s a kid who was a backup, kept his mouth quiet,’’ Niumatalolo said. “Now he’s doing great things.’’
And it’s being noticed.
“He has done an unbelievable job to come in and not expect to be the starter,’’ USF coach Willie Taggart said. “To me, it tells you what kind of kid he is. He’s always preparing himself for an opportunity.
“We always taught our guys about that as well. Prepare yourself for an opportunity because you never know when it’s going to come.’’
Worth does not have imposing size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), but he possesses an imposing will.
“He keeps going and gets right back up,’’’ Taggart said. “You’re like, ‘Geez!’ You want to hit the quarterback, but it doesn’t matter with him.
“He’s a winner. He’s a competitor. He’s tough and he has a great understanding of what they’re doing offensively.’’
Navy’s triple-option has been formidable for quite some time. The Midshipmen have rushed for an average of 327, 338 and 325 yards per game in the past three seasons.
Worth has plugged in perfectly. His leadership has been inspirational.
“He’s just one of those leaders that, if you’re the offensive line or a wide receiver or slot back or anybody else — even on defense — and you see your quarterback running over linebackers and playing with great physicality, it just ups the physicality of your whole team,’’ Niumatalolo said.
The Midshipmen are winning.
With wins in hand against Houston and Memphis — perhaps the two biggest threats in the AAC’s West Division — Navy is closing in on an opportunity to play for a conference championship.
And the quarterback, the former backup who has accounted for 1,187 total yards and 15 touchdowns in his five career starts?
He’s worth watching.