Navy is now 0-2 as the Memphis Tigers came out on top Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marines Corps Memorial Stadium and scored 37 points to the Midshipmen’s 13. The Tigers handed Navy its second consecutive home loss to begin the season as Memphis sophomore QB Seth Heningan threw for 415 yards.
After Delaware defeated Navy in its season opener, one major national publication depicted the Mids as “demoralized,” which does not accurately reflect Navy football this year or any other year. While the losses to Delaware and Memphis are very disappointing and frustrating, to be sure, the Midshipmen are anything but. Following Saturday’s game against the Tigers, Navy’s head coach Ken Niumatalolo said, “We have some tough kids and resilient people. We are not going anywhere. We are not waiving the white flag; we are going to work. We have some tough kids in our locker room. Great young men.”
Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield said, “It’s always a hard-fought game.” Indeed, it was.
But it does bring up a good question: Will the Midshipmen bounce back after back-to-back home losses with a grueling schedule looming?
The big picture answer and the only answer is an emphatic yes! Why? Because the Naval Academy always succeeds; because Navy football is built for winning, it has done so 729 times before, which ties them for 24th for most wins in FBS; because Ken Niumatalolo, now in his 15th season at the helm in Annapolis and his staff, because Kip Frankland anchors the Mids.
The Mids’ recipe for success revolves around a controlled, run-heavy offensive scheme; therefore, a productive and efficient O-line play is particularly vital to its success. Once the offensive line finds chemistry, success will follow. The line play improved this Saturday and will continue to improve with more experience. This is a talented group up front, and except for Frankland and junior left guard Josh Pena, it is a very inexperienced unit. “We just have to work harder; we are in a fine spot, not a great spot. It’s about being consistent. Consistently putting together drives, putting together blocks. We have to practice harder; we have to get after it. We have to know our assignments. We just have to be consistent. I don’t think Saturday’s performance [against Delaware] indicates what we can do the rest of this year.” Said Frankland before the Memphis game.
Frankland’s determination, grit, and leadership cannot be understated. His desire to win is a healthy flirt with the uncanny. The senior offensive guard started in all of Navy’s games this past season and played more than anyone else, despite battling knee and shoulder injuries that would have sidelined most men.
Frankland is from Germantown, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis, and Navy’s team captain…and the Captain of Captains for the 35 varsity teams at the Academy; the greatest honor a Navy athlete can achieve. He is as tough as he is determined. He is as kind as he is funny. Frankland is the leader to feel good about, on and off the football and thereafter.
“I am not at all surprised at Kip’s success at the Naval Academy; he’s always been a winner.” Said James Thomas, Head football coach at Houston High School (Germantown, TN), where Thomas coached Frankland all four years; three years as an assistant and one as the head coach. Frankland started all four years and was team captain for the Houston High School Mustangs. “When Kip is not on the football field, he is the kindest person with a great sense of humor, but the moment that Kip steps onto the field look out because his intensity and competitive nature take over; he is nasty.” Said Thomas.
Thomas fondly recalls a time when Frankland’s sense of humor and competitive spirit crossed paths during a high school game. The week before game day, they had worked on a play for Frankland to score. But the game got out of hand early, with Houston High School leading significantly. Here was the dilemma brewing on the sidelines, “You give Kip the ball and say he scores, then that would give the appearance of bad sportsmanship. So, what does Kip do on the next defensive series? He just went and ripped the football from the running back and took it back for six. It was great to see Kip smile.” Said Thomas. Frankland has a way of solving problems.
The 6’ 1”, 300+ pounds Frankland, in a media interview last week before the Memphis game
lit up with a smirk for his fondness for Rugby and Memphis BBQ. Frankland recalled his rugby playing days at Germantown Rugby [now called 901 Rugby]. “I think that I played for three years, a great growing sport in the Memphis area. I highly encourage it. I love rugby; I got to score points and run over people; it is a great opportunity to get better in the off-season. They do a great job at recruiting people.” said Frankland with a smile. Now that Rugby is a varsity sport at the Academy, Frankland plans on attending rugby matches and said, “Ryan Bullock, one of their players, went to Houston High School with me. I’m really close to him. I’m excited to see what he can do.”
Navy fans are excited at what Kip can do and will achieve. It is still early in the season, and the grueling schedule looms. I am not suggesting that the Academy will right this ship into the winning column overnight. I suggest that it is way too early to abandon the ship. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Kip Frankland and the Midshipmen is that in the end, they’ll find a way. Why? Because they always do.
“It is an honor to come, any chance you get, to play at the Naval Academy. It’s an honor, right? We know those cadets, those men and women in the stands and the players on the field, what they’re doing to honor our country, so we’re grateful for them…” Ryan Silverfield, Memphis Tigers head coach.