The Navy Midshipmen are right in the thick of the AAC West race. They know that if they can beat Tulane, they will have a chance to win the division if they can beat SMU later this season.
By Matt Zemek
Memphis and Tulane have both lost AAC games. Navy owns a loss to Memphis but nothing more. This contest against Tulane is, in essence, a division elimination game. The loser is out of the race while the winner can still catch Memphis or SMU for the title. Let’s see what the Mids need to do to prevail.
1 – Misdirection on defense; staying on assignments
The Air Force game is likely the game Tulane coach Willie Fritz will study in an attempt to seize on Navy’s defensive weaknesses and flawed tendencies. Navy got caught out of position on misdirection passes which led to big gains during Air Force’s rally in that contest.
Tulane has shown an ability to be balanced and unpredictable on offense. The Green Wave can throw well and for scores (not just yards or first downs) when it needs to. It would prefer to run the ball first, but Tulane can win with either the run or the pass. The key is to make Tulane more predictable and especially in the passing game. That is when the Green Wave are more vulnerable; the Memphis game showed as much. If the defense can be very alert and on task in the first half of this game, not allowing any big plays and making the process of moving the ball harder for Tulane, it should be able to shape this game the way it wants to.
2 – Get a lead
Memphis showed that getting a lead is the best defense against the Tulane offense. The Green Wave had to throw the ball more, and in more situations when they would have preferred to have the more honest threat of a running play. Memphis pounced and collected turnovers which greatly aided its cause. Getting an early lead (a touchdown or more) will make it a little bit harder for Tulane to stay within its game plan. It makes the Green Wave more vulnerable and strengthens Navy’s hand on defense. Not all games are games in which a big first quarter is badly needed, but this is one of them. Tulane has built itself as a program to the point where a 10- or 14-point lead in the second quarter will not lead to a fourth-quarter collapse. Tulane is actually a good team now, so Navy has to punch the Green Wave in the teeth in the first 15 to 20 minutes.
3 – Big-play passing
The Navy passing game will need to come up with three or four long passing plays. Memphis scored five passing touchdowns against Tulane, averaging 17 yards per completion. You can throw on Tulane, which means that as much as Navy loves to run the ball, the quick strike needs to be part of Navy’s winning formula on Saturday. Handling South Florida was easy; Tulane will be a very difficult opponent to topple.