Oct. 13, 2016
Who is Navy and how did they beat Houston?
As Naval Officers poured onto the field in Annapolis, Maryland, America stared in awe as one of college football's behemoths fell at the hands of an unranked conference opponent. Greg Ward Jr. and his Houston Cougars suffered a crippling defeat to the Navy Midshipmen by a score of 40-46. It was a loss no one saw coming. Heisman candidate Ward Jr. was playing at the top of his game, seemingly the only challenger to superstar Lamar Jackson. His Heisman dreams have now been effectively dashed by Navy. The question is, how did they do it? Remember that guy Keenan Reynolds? The man who, in my humble opinion, was deserving of last year's Heisman? Yeah, him. Well, he is gone, going through a position change with the Baltimore Ravens. The new man under center is Will Worth. Who? Are you not familiar? Not to worry, me either. How did Navy bring down a Houston team with a team full of no names? It's quite simple really, Navy played the perfect football game.
Navy was the absolute definition of precision that Saturday. Remember that no name Worth guy playing quarterback? The kid only threw the ball five times, and completed three of them. Before your hysterical laughter, be mindful that two of his three completions were touchdowns. That is precision, making every play count. Your next question, I'm sure, is how did Houston, the number six team in the nation, allow Navy to be this efficient through the air? The answer: Navy runs the ball an absurd amount. Navy had 63 rushing attempts that day. That is not a typo, 63 times. Navy's offense is one of the most entertaining and risky offenses in all of football. They run the triple option, which is almost exclusively run based. The concept of the offense is for the quarterback to option a hand off to the fullback, and then roll out into a speed option with the tailback. What makes the offense so effective is that it keeps the defense on their toes. The fullback, tailback, or quarterback could be the ball carrier, and it is all based off of reads on the defense. Not to mention, the play action passes out of the triple option are almost always touchdowns. The offense is arguably the hardest in football to game plan for and stop. Navy practices their offense to exhausting lengths to perfect it. The high risk high reward offense showed the program favor in the early twentieth century, but as of recent has not yielded the fruits of victory. Anyways, back to the game.
The running game of Navy was downright scary that day. Here's that Worth kid again, rushing for 115 yards on 32 carries, scoring once. He is the quarterback. A majority of colleges won't let their signal caller leave the pocket, let alone call his number 32 times in a game. As for the guys who are actually supposed to carry the ball, Toneo Gulley rushed 6 times for 63 yards and Dishan Romine ran 6 times for 40 yards. And it's not like Houston has struggled defending the run this season. The most yards they gave up before week 6 was against Oklahoma week 1 when they gave up 70. Most teams struggled to surpass 50. That's an impressive stretch of strong defensive performances, and then Navy absolutely destroys them for 306 yards on the ground. That is a testament to Navy's underrated rushing attack, which torched this stingy Cougar defense. Navy's precision also extended into the more important facets of the game. Navy had one penalty on the day, totaling to 5 yards. As for Houston, they had 4 for 30 yards. Navy also dominated the turnover plus minus. Ward Jr. tossed two picks on the night and also coughed up a fumble. Navy was perfect. On a ridiculous 63 rushing attempts, two balls were fumbled but both were recovered. I guess that's just the Naval Academy discipline shining through it's athletes.
The Midshipmen looked like a top 15 caliber team against Houston that Saturday. Looking forward, Navy can almost definitely win out. The rest of the schedule is laced with winnable games, including a game against floundering Notre Dame in neutral site action. If Navy manages to win out, who knows? Their one loss is an ugly one, a 14-28 loss to Air Force. If they are impressive enough through the remainder of their games and a myriad of talented teams lose, we may have a new playoff contender on our hands.