Navy stayed perfect on the season with a 31-21 over Tulsa on Saturday. Here is the Navy report card:
Rushing Offense: B
What a strange game from an offensive standpoint for the Mids. Navy gained just 71 yards in the first quarter and as a result, the team was quickly down 14-0 and seemingly against the ropes. Navy managed to do just about everything wrong through the first 20 minutes or so of this one, including getting called for a couple of big penalties of the type head coach Ken Niumatalolo just won’t tolerate. Throw in an incredibly ineffective set of downs with goal to go at the Tulsa six-yard-line and you can see why Navy was held scoreless for so long in this one.
Then the offense found itself. The Mids rushing attack exploded for 421 yards by the end of the game, with quarterback Zach Abey again putting his body on the line for the cause. Abey had 185 yards rushing on 36 carries and managed to score three touchdowns as the Navy attack wore down the Tulsa defense. Slotback Malcolm Perry also had a huge game, rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown at over 10 yards per carry.
Passing Offense: B-
The passing offense was everything it needed to be as soon as the rushing game got going. Abey only completed three passes – he only threw four all game – but they were enough to keep the Tulsa defense off balance. The rushing attack worked so well after the first quarter and a half that the Mids rarely had to put the ball in the air, though it would be nice if Navy could find a receiver who has the talent and size to stretch the field and score touchdowns on their receptions on a more frequent basis.
Rushing Defense: C
The Tulsa rushing defense was able to do far too much against a Navy defensive unit that has been pretty good so far this season. The Mids did a good job of shutting down talented Tulsa running back D’Angelo Brewer who was only able to pick up 65 yards on his 22 carries and picked up one touchdown. The problem was that with the focus on Brewer, Tulsa quarterback Chad President was able to run wild. President had 151 yards on 12 carries, including one scamper of 71 yards from his own 14-yard line that led directly to Tulsa’s second touchdown.
Ironically though, the biggest play of the day on defense occurred after a successful Tulsa run. Brewer rushed for a first down with Navy up by just three points and Tulsa driving. The run was a fourth down carry and as Brewer was churning for more yards the ball was stripped and bounced backward. A Tulsa player recovered, but it was behind the line to gain and Navy gleefully accepted the turnover. A quick score later and this one was over.
Passing Defense: B
President is a dual-threat type quarterback who does a much damage with his legs as he does passing the ball. With that in mind, it was important that Navy make Tulsa as one-dimensional as possible. The passing defense made this a reality as they held President to 115 yards and one touchdown on 12-of-18 through the air. The most important part of the Navy passing defensive strategy was to limit the big plays through the air. President his Justin Hobbs for on 31 yard gain and Nigel Carter for a gain of 22 yards, but that was about it in terms of chunk yardage through the air. Even the Tulsa passing touchdown came after the Mids had rattled off 31 straight points and the game was decided.
Special Teams: C-
Another week means another special teams blunder by the Mids. Navy is a good team in 2017 – and they have the room for improvement to be a very good team by the time we get to the tail end of AAC play – but special teams mistakes will eventually be a big problem. This time it was a gimme 26-yard field goal that was the issue as Navy tried to make this a 7-3 game near the end of the first quarter. Bennett Moehring was all set to do just that, when Tulsa special teamer Reggie Robinson II came unblocked from the edge to block a field goal he should never have got close to. This is an area that must be improved quickly.
The problems early on in this one and the continued issues on special teams are concerning. Niumatalolo is normally an expert at getting the Mids in the right frame of mind to come out early and strike first, but they were playing catch-up against Tulsa after the Golden Hurricane started as by far the better of the two squads. Navy always had the talent to run Tulsa down, but against the better teams on the schedule, a slow start like this will be the end of the Mids perfect record. Niumatalolo did keep Navy on task and they eventually got back into the game. That is the only reason this isn’t a failing grade.