Navy kicks off its 2020 college football schedule on Monday, Labor Day evening, as the Midshipmen clash with BYU at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
In one of the weirdest years for generations, it has taken some extreme logistical maneuvering to get here – and we honestly don’t know how long football will last – so let’s all enjoy the ride as much as we can as Navy looks to kick on from a very impressive 11-2 record last season (it seems SO LONG AGO).
Here are the three keys:
Can Navy move forward without Malcolm Perry
To say that Perry gave the Navy offense a burst of explosiveness is to completely undersell what he meant to the team. Perry was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year last season when he set an FBS record for quarterback rushing yards in a season with 2,017. He topped his Mids career by rushing for 304 more yards and two touchdowns in a 31-7 romp over Army.
Perry is now a Miami Dolphin after being selected in the 7th Round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The QB spot at Navy – and the unenviable job of replacing a superstar – falls to senior Dalen Morris. Morris has been around the program so he knows the plays and the system, but he isn’t Perry and Navy will have to win in a different way than just letting the QB run wild in 2020.
Navy rushing attack vs. BYU defensive front seven
It is really more of a front six with a rover safety, but the BYU run defense is no joke. The unit held their opposition to just 4.2 yards per carry last season and they are strong – and deep – all along their front six. This is especially true in the linebacking corps where they have a slew of players to rotate in that will give the Cougars fresh bodies to pursue the Mids triple-option slot backs from sideline to sideline.
Navy scored 36.5 points per game last season and ranked 11th in the country in scoring. It is going to be hard to repeat that against a defense as strong as the unit that BYU will throw out in front of them.
Win in the secondary
The battle of the Navy defense against the BYU offense will come down to how big of an impact non-starting players from last year make. Navy lost four defensive backs to the transfer portal – including Jake Springer to Ole Miss and Chelen Garnes to Wake Forest – and those players will have to be replaced. This is especially a problem at the ‘striker’ hybrid position where the top three players are all gone.
BYU lost their top three WRs from last season and that seemed like it was going to put even more pressure on talented tight end Matt Bushman to help quarterback Zach Wilson improve on his 11 touchdowns from 2019. Then Bushman went down last week with an Achilles injury and now the cupboard in the pass-catching department is looking even more depleted. A win in this area will be huge for the Mids chances of winning the game.