Navy Three Keys: Houston

Three keys Navy

This isn’t Halloween, but the Navy Midshipmen are going into their own House of Horrors in H-Town.

By Matt Zemek

Houston has been a tough place for Navy to play as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Midshipmen faced Houston in 2015 for the AAC West championship and were soundly outplayed. The Midshipmen went to Houston in 2017 and were shut down on offense. Navy scored just 14 points and was shut out in the second half.

Here is the good news for Navy: Each of the past two times the Midshipmen have gone to Houston, they have played on a Friday in the afternoon. In 2017, Navy played Houston after a road trip to Tulsa. The Midshipmen were done absolutely no favors by the schedule makers. This year, Navy is playing Houston on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the game is at night, giving Navy a normal and full week of game preparation. Let’s see if the Midshipmen can make the most of this opportunity.

If Memphis beats Cincinnati on Friday, Navy would be eliminated from the AAC West race. Yet, regardless of the outcome of Memphis-Cincinnati, Navy should relish the chance to play for a 10-win regular season.

1 – Hit somebody

Legally, of course.

Navy has been outhit and outworked in each of its previous two visits to Houston. Yes, the 2017 Houston defense had Ed Oliver, and the 2015 Houston team beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Nevertheless, Navy has come to Houston in recent years and not been the aggressor. That has to change here. Navy just withstood SMU’s best punch with grit and resilience. Those fighting qualities need to emerge here for a group of Midshipmen which has to send a physical message to Houston at the start of this game.

2 – Pitch game

Malcolm Perry is an amazing player turning in a terrific season. Having the ball in Perry’s hands is good for Navy, to be sure. Yet, Perry had 38 carries last weekend against SMU. Surely, Houston will key on Perry within the framework of the triple option offense. Just as surely, Perry can’t subject his body to too many hits – not with a possible AAC Championship Game to play on Dec. 7 before the Army game on the 14th. The pitch-based portion of the triple option needs to be a more central factor in this game. The Navy linemen and receivers need to do their part to make pitch plays work.

3 – Red-zone defense

Houston was involved in a first-half shootout with Memphis at home a few weeks ago. Then Memphis, trailing 17-14, stopped Houston in the red zone, forcing a field goal. The Cougars took a 20-14 lead with that field goal… and scored only seven more points the rest of the day, losing 45-27. Getting multiple red-zone stops will limit Houston’s output and also discourage the Cougars. This is one of the central pillars of a winning scenario for Navy.

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