The Midshipmen (5-0; 3-0 American Athletic Conference) did snatch victory from the jaws of defeat last Saturday, as they blew an 21-point second half lead and found themselves trailing 45-41 with 1:53 left to play against Air Force. But, they would go 75 yards in 11 plays in just 1:38 of game time and QB Zach Abey would find TE Tyler Carmona in the end zone for a 16-yd TD pass to seal the victory.
If Navy is going to hold on to their recent ascent into the Top 25 FBS Polls (#25 AP/#24 Coaches), they are going to have to these three things.
Key #1 … Navy must step up it’s pass defense!
If there is truly one huge weakness on this year’s squad, it’s defending the pass. Both Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore and Air Force Arion Worthman have torched Navy for 658 passing yards and throwing five touchdowns in the process. Also, Navy has only registered one interception in the first five games. The secondary needs to be more discipline and not allow Memphis’ (4-1; 1-1) wide receivers to open up space between them and the ball.
Key #2 … Navy must continue it’s precision of the triple read option
Let’s be honest, a lot of people out there are not fans of the triple read option and teams that rely heavily on running the ball. For Navy, it’s their mantra. Coming into Saturday’s game, Navy is ranked #1 rushing offense in the FBS (414.2 yards of rushing offense). Abey’s ability to quickly scan and read the defense is critical in whether he keeps the balls, passes it off to one of his slot-backs (Chris High and Malcolm Perry) or throw to his favorite receiver (Carmona). When run effectively, it sustains long drives and eats up game clock. This should not be a problem, as the Tigers are giving up 187.2 rushing yards per game.
Key #3 … Navy must utilize it’s passing game more
Again, I’ve said this last week as well. Actually, I said that Abey needed to thrown the ball more than five times (he actually attempted a season-high 11 pass attempts against Air Force). Though, he’s only 16 for 40 overall passing, nearly one-third of those attempts (five) has resulted in a touchdown. He needs to let Carmona run his routes and actually thrown between three to four times when we all think they’re going to run. The element of surprise will kick Memphis guessing and should open up Navy’s running game, even more.
My Prediction … Navy in yet another close one 34-31
This should have been Navy’s first true test of the season, though Air Force already gave the Midshipmen a scare I’m sure they don’t likely want to feel again. But, open against a team that likes to throw the ball, if Navy doesn’t play better in pass defense, it may be a long, sad for the Midshipmen. As the last two games have shown though, I think Navy will either make another late fourth-quarter comeback or it’s defense will hold Memphis on a 4th and 3 at Navy’s 28 yard line to end the game. Either way, I see a 6-0 record come Saturday night!