In what Niumatalolo described Monday as Navy's most disappointing defeat "in a long time," the Midshipmen were blown out by the Blue Devils, 35-7, after a scoreless first quarter.
"We got our butts whipped from Notre Dame in Ireland [last year], but they have a few first-round draft picks," Niumatalolo said after practice in Annapolis. "Duke's a good team. I just wish we had played well. We didn't play well offensively, we didn't play well defensively, special teams. The only thing we can do now is press forward and get ready for Toledo."
Above all, Niumatalolo blamed himself for what was one of his team's worst overall performances since he took over as head coach in 2008.
"It starts with me," he said. "We weren't ready to play as a team and that's my job."
Navy (3-2) will go back on the road Saturday to play Toledo, a 3-3 Mid-American Conference team that was fairly competitive at a pair of Southeastern Conference opponents, Florida (a 24-6 loss) and Missouri (38-23).
"To this point, to me this is the best team we've played this season," Niumatalolo said of the Rockets.
As much as Niumatalolo blames himself for not getting the Midshipmen ready for their game last week, sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds is willing to share in that blame.
Reynolds said Monday that it was the worst game he has played since becoming a starter five games into his freshman year. It matched the fewest points Navy has scored in a game since Reynolds took over.
Navy only scored a touchdown in a 19-7 loss at Western Kentucky last month in which Reynolds was knocked out with a concussion. Reynolds was taken out in the fourth quarter Saturday after the game got out of hand.
"Without a doubt, I didn't do what I needed to do," Reynolds said. "I turned the ball over in the red zone, threw an interception trying to get something going late in the game. I did a poor job doing my job."
Reynolds gained just 31 yards on 16 carries while completing six of 13 passes for 89 yards.
Reynolds fumbled at Duke's 10-yard line late in the first half as he dropped back to pass with the Midshipmen trailing 14-7. But Reynolds wasn't alone in letting his team down.
The least-penalized team in the Football Bowl Subdivision committed five penalties — four in the first half — and has as many turnovers (three) as it had in its first four games.
Senior linebacker and co-captain Cody Peterson was pretty harsh in his assessment.
"We came out flat and we weren't prepared," Peterson said Monday. "All we can do is move on make sure it doesn't happen again."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun