ANNAPOLIS, Md. — After months of uncertainty and weeks and weeks of meticulously managed practices, the wait is almost over.
Navy is set to open their season on Monday.
"It’s really surreal. I didn’t think we would get here. But we’re here. We’re excited," said Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo.
"It’s an amazing feeling. I couldn’t stop smiling all week, honestly. I’m just excited," added Navy senior nose guard Mike Flowers.
The Midshipmen kick off the 2020 season on Labor Day night, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, against BYU. After a COVID adjusted preseason like no other, Niumatalolo is a little apprehensive about what he’ll see from his Mids.
"Will we be ready football-wise? I’m super nervous," he said. "I know defensively our coaches are concerned about tackling. Offensively we’re concerned about blocking. We haven’t done anything live."
What he won’t see are fans. No spectators. No Brigade of Midshipmen in attendance.
"We’re playing in an empty stadium but that’s the best we can do," said Niumatalolo. "Keeping people safe, coming back in a responsible way, being able to play a game that we love."
The fact that the game is proceeding is a credit to the discipline and determination of players and coaches to follow the protocols and make the necessary sacrifices to be able to take the field.
And when they do, it will be emotional.
"I know I’m going to be crying. I cry for everything. It’s going to be an emotional deal. I know tears will be flowing in that locker room," said Niumatalolo.
"I guess it kind of shows just how important college football really is to the players and to the coaches," added Flowers. "It’s a really big part of our lives and how much we really care about getting this done."
Monday’s game will be the first night game inside Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since 2005. It will be nationally televised on ESPN. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m.