Navy, Louisiana Tech both slip into Armed Forces Bowl
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Navy is trying to finish back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time. Louisiana Tech can get to nine wins for the third year in a row, something the Bulldogs have never done in Division I.
For all their recent successes, though, both teams carry two-game losing streaks into the Armed Forces Bowl on Friday, including losses in their respective conference championship games.
"It's been a rough couple of weeks for both of us," Louisiana Tech receiver Trent Taylor said. "Both of these teams are going to come out with some fire, ready to win the game."
Since leaving the Dallas-Fort Worth area after a 75-31 victory at SMU on Thanksgiving weekend, Navy lost the American Athletic Conference title game to Temple and fell to Army for the first time since 2001. The triple-option Midshipmen (9-4) also lost starting quarterback Will Worth and key running back Toneo Gulley to injuries.
"Look at both of our teams, very similar. Had some tough losses down the road. Doesn't take away from the great season both of us have had for our seniors," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Like everybody else, you have injuries and adversity. And just been proud of our young men and how they have endured this year."
Navy handed then-No. 6 Houston its first loss in October, and later beat Notre Dame. The Midshipmen were in line to possibly play in the Cotton Bowl representing the Group of Five before their first consecutive losses since the 2014 season.
Louisiana Tech (8-5), in its fourth season with coach Skip Holtz, had a seven-game winning streak before losing its regular-season finale at Southern Miss and then to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA title game.
"As a senior, I don't want to end on a three-game losing streak and I don't want to lose my last game," Bulldogs safety Xavier Woods said. "It adds some wood to the fire a little bit just to go out on a good note."
Some other things to know about the Armed Forces Bowl, which is played on the TCU campus:
RUNNING AND PASSING
With its triple-option offense, Navy ranks fourth nationally with 311 yards rushing per game. Louisiana Tech is third with 360 yards rushing per game, but also runs for 156 yards per game. "Coach Holtz talked about a couple more days of practice. We would like a couple more players on the field to stop them defensively," Niumatalolo said. "Nobody has been able to stop them. One of the best offenses in the country."
The Bulldogs receiving duo of Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson have combined for 6,695 yards receiving in their careers — the second most among active teams (Western Kentucky is first). Taylor, a 5-foot-8 senior, is one of the nation's top active receivers with 315 career catches for 3,946 yards and 30 TDs. He has 124 catches for 1,570 yards this season with 10 touchdowns, while junior Henderson has 72 catches for 1,406 yards and 17 TDs.
Navy, playing in its 13th bowl game in 14 seasons, has won its last three bowl games. That streak started with a win over Middle Tennessee State in its only Armed Forces Bowl appearance three years ago. Louisiana Tech is playing in a bowl for the third straight season for the first time, and won the last two.
Louisiana Tech is the only school to have three quarterbacks with 3,000 yards passing in a span of three seasons. Ryan Higgins has 4,208 yards this season, after Jeff Driskel's 4,033 last year and Cody Sokol's 3,436 in 2014.
The senior class for Navy has a 37-15 record, making it the winningest class in academy history. The Midshipmen are 26-7 their last 33 games.