A rested Navy squad faces a Cincinnati team playing its third road game on the bounce in Annapolis on Saturday. It is the first meeting between the two AAC schools since 1956 and it is a game the Mids must win if they are to make a run at the conference title this season.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Make sure to finish the game
Some teams are just good at coming back from seemingly impossible situations to win games. It is too early to tell is Cincinnati is one of those teams in 2017, but their win last week over Miami-Ohio in the Victory Bell series certainly seems to suggest they have that moxie about them.
The Bearcats were down and out at the end of the game. Then they scored 15 unanswered points over the last three minutes of regulation to beat the RedHawks 21-17 and stun the homecoming crowd in Oxford.
Knowing that you can come back from a seemingly inescapable hole is big for a team. This means that the Bearcats will not give up if they are down and that the Mids have to play accordingly. There can be no let-up here, even if it seems that the Mids have the contest won.
Keep the Cincinnati offense ineffective
The flip side of the Bearcats late comeback is that they clearly hadn’t been able to do much of anything with the ball over the first 57 minutes of the game. Before that output, they had just six points thanks to a couple of Josh Pasley field goals. This is not a team that is going to beat you in a shootout. They have to keep the game low scoring if they are going to win.
The Bearcats go have a playmaking wide receiver in Khalil Lewis. Lewis had seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown against the RedHawks. Quarterback Hayden Moore will put the ball up there too. He had 43 passing attempts (a season’s worth for Navy) in the same game. Even with all that, the team ranks 122nd in total offense (269.7 yards) and 109th in scoring offense (20.3 points).
Get a body on Jaylyin Minor
The quickest way to stop the option is with a linebacker who is a tackling machine. Cincinnati has one of those in Jaylyin Minor, a player who has put up 31 tackles in the Bearcats’ first three games.
Minor leads a defense that Ken Niumatalolo has called “athletic and physical”, two more traits that are useful when the Navy triple-option is in your immediate future. Minor is the guy to get a body on, but safety Malik Clements is another who has shown flashes as a playmaker in the back third of the defense. Clements made the game-changing play with an interception return last Saturday, but it will be his effectiveness in run support that is tested this weekend.