When the Navy football team kicks off its season, the nation will be watching.
The Midshipmen’s originally-scheduled season opener against Notre Dame was canceled as part of the COVID-triggered reshuffling of the college football schedule; the Fighting Irish are playing an ACC-only schedule in 2020. But Navy quickly regrouped by scheduling BYU, which is coming off two consecutive 7-6 seasons.
The Midshipmen and Cougars will play at 8 p.m. Sept. 7 at Navy Marine-Corps Stadium with Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit on the call. Senior Dalen Morris will start at quarterback for Navy after winning the starting job in camp. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound Morris has only appeared in four games the past two years, but he’s ready for his first start.
Though no fans will be present for the game, it’ll be a prime-time television event on Labor Day – always a big event on the early-season college football calendar.
“I haven’t really thought about it much yet, but when you talk about it I get chills,” Morris said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 26. “As a kid, I watched the game — all the time in high school growing up. It’s going to be the football game on television. It’s going to be a lot of eyes on that game, and hopefully we can execute and get a win and give the people [who are watching] a show.”
Navy is coming off an 11-2 season, its best mark since 2015, and beat Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl to cap off the season. Quarterback Malcolm Perry, now a receiver with the Miami Dolphins, had a historic year for the Midshipmen. Perry ran for 2,017 yards on the year, an FBS record, and rushed for 304 yards in a win against Army.
Morris is trying to follow the likes of Perry, Keenan Reynolds and Ricky Dobbs as legendary conductors of Navy’s triple-option offense. Last year, the bulk of the work behind Perry went to Perry Olsen; Morris had carries of 7 and 9 yards against Connecticut and Holy Cross, respectively, last season.
Olsen was considered the favorite for the job before Morris earned the spot.
“Going all the way back to March, we didn’t have spring ball because of the pandemic that we’re in, and I knew that this team was has been in the offense for a while,” Morris said. “When I went home, I worked out every day, was in the playbook every day and did my best when we came back. Just come out here and have fun with it and let the chips fall where they may. The chips fell my way this year.”
Morris, a native of Huntsville, Ala., said Navy didn’t pop up on his radar until late December during his senior year at Madison County High School. He joked that he was initially planning to follow the lead of his friends and “go off and party for four years,” but the package Navy offered was too much to pass up, from the education to the job security after college.
And after waiting three years for his opportunity, it’s here. Morris admires the season last year’s senior class put together, and he thinks this year’s senior class can follow suit.
“Winning is everything for us right now,” Morris said. “We had a very successful season last season, but we feel like we can be better than that. I know myself and my fellow seniors, this is it for us. After this season, we’re in the military serving our country. Every week, every day, we won’t get this back. Winning is the only thing on our minds. You’ve got to go 1-0 every day.”
For more from Morris, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Navy Athletics