The Navy Midshipmen (3-3) dropped their first AAC game of the season last Saturday as they fell 37-21 to the Houston Cougars. The Mids can get right back in the conference race with a win this weekend, however, when they face the No. 22 SMU Mustangs (5-1). Here are the three keys to a Navy win.
Get the offense going
The struggles of the Mids offense this season has been pretty mystifying. Even in the good games this is not the Navy team of the last few years, with the Mids really not moving the ball on the ground as effectively as we are used to seeing. Navy ranks near the bottom of the FBS in total offense with just 288.2 yards per game and in scoring at just 19.3 points per game. This is an offense that is always in the top three in rushing yards, but this season the Mids are 31st in yards on the ground per game due to a combination of a lack of explosiveness and of missed blocking assignments. It has to be better for a win to happen here.
Can SMU replace Reggie Robinson Jr?
The Mustangs were able to best Memphis 30-27 back on October 3rd, but their offensive output took a huge hit in that game when wide receiver Reggie Robinson Jr. was ruled out for the season. His non-contact knee injury on a day where he had caught five passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns was a crushing blow for the Mustangs, depriving them of their best and most explosive player for the rest of the season. Robinson was a first-team All-AAC pick preseason and Navy should be able to key on the other wide receivers in the SMU lineup without his talent on the field.
Win the basics
If Navy is going to upset a ranked opponent here then the first key for the Mids is to not beat themselves. This is a team that needs to win the time of possession battle – by being better on the ground – and that needs to have a turnover advantage at the end of the game. This won’t be easy when you factor in that SMU has the leading interception maker in the country in Brandon Crossley (three) which is also the amount of picks the quarterback Shane Buechele has thrown this year. Finally, Navy has to win the penalty count, playing disciplined football that allows the Mids to maximize attacking and defensive opportunities for big plays.
Saturday’s Navy football game kicks off at 7:30 PM ET. You can watch on the ESPN2 Network.