The emotions and energy Navy puts into its annual game against Air Force typically takes a lot out of the Midshipmen for their next game.
A year ago, after a controversial overtime loss to the Falcons in Annapolis, Navy was throttled the next week at home by Southern Mississippi, losing by 28 points.
Beating its bitter rival, as Navy did last week in Colorado Springs, can also cause what Niumatalolo calls "being on Cloud 9" to linger. It happened in Niumatalolo's first season as head coach five years ago when the Midshipmen lost at home to Pittsburgh two weeks after a six-point win at Falcon Stadium.
Which is why Niumatalolo is hoping there is no letdown Friday night when Navy (2-3) plays at Central Michigan (2-3). It is also why Niumatalolo has made sure at practice this week that his players had come down from their Rocky Mountain high after a 28-21 win that helped revive the season.
On Monday, Niumatalolo stopped drills a couple times and, in his trademark high-pitched bark, told the Midshipmen to run harder. When a few of them didn't, he made them do bear crawls across the practice field to make sure they got the message.
"There is definitely a different air about us [after the Air Force game]," Niumatalolo said Wednesday. "We were down after losing those games [to San Jose State, Penn State and Notre Dame by a combined 96-17]. Just like our losses we have to move on, your wins you have to move on. There's nothing we can do about Air Force. That game is history. It would be a travesty for us to play really well against our rival and come back this week and lay an egg."
Said senior slotback Bo Snelson: "We're obviously feeling excited because that's the first step to one of our first goals [of winning the Commander in Chief's Trophy], but like coach always says that success is harder to handle than adversity because adversity, by its nature, brings teams together and causes people to rely on each other while success starts to pump some individuals up and creates a false sense of security. We're 2-3, so there's nothing for us to talk about yet."
While the atmosphere at Central Michigan will likely not be the same as it was at Air Force, the challenge for the Midshipmen will still be there. The Chippewas beat Iowa earlier in the season but have since struggled to stop anyone.
Navy will be going into the game with Keenan Reynolds at quarterback, the first plebe to start at quarterback in 21 seasons. Reynolds came off the bench with nine minutes left to replace an injured Trey Miller and led the Midshipmen to score the final 15 points last week.
Reynolds has drawn comparisons to former Navy star Ricky Dobbs, who after leading the Midshipmen to two victories coming off the bench as a sophomore in 2008 made his first start at Northern Illinois. Navy won, 16-0.
While he is trying not to make a big deal about being the first freshman to start at Navy since Jim Kubiak started five games in 1991, Reynolds knows much of the focus will be on him. The game is being televised nationally on ESPN2.
"I'm excited, but like I said Monday, the preparation doesn't stop, it still keeps going, you've got to stay focused and keep working off the field and looking at the defense [on film], learning the game plan and staying sound on the things I needed to take care of," Reynolds said after practice Wednesday.
Said Niumatalolo: "I remember Steve Mariucci saying this about Tom Brady and I think it's very appropriate for a quarterback. They tested his 40, his vertical, his bench press, but they didn't check out his heart and his brain. That's Keenan. He grasps things, he's got a high football IQ, he's a heckuva football player."
NAVY (2-3) AT CENTRAL MICHIGAN (2-3)
Time: Friday, 8 p.m.
Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, Mich.
TV: ESPN2, 1090 AM, 1430 AM
Series: Navy leads 2-0
Last meeting: Navy won, 38-37, on Nov. 13, 2010 in Annapolis
Line: Central Michigan favored by 2 points