Navy lost to Houston in 2015, in what was a battle for the AAC West championship. since its move to the American Athletic Conference in football. Next year, Navy bounced back and won the AAC West Division title.
Navy has been defined by its resilience in the Ken Niumatalolo era. When this program has taken a punch, it has regularly bounced back.
That resilience is being sorely tested this season, and it will be severely challenged this weekend in Houston.
Two years ago, a Navy team headed for an 11-win season went into Houston and tamed the Cougars, roaring for 56 points in a 56-41 win. As Navy returns to one of America’s biggest cities, the outlook for the Midshipmen and the nature of their team could not be more different.
Ivin Jasper, the offensive coordinator who presided over that 56-point masterpiece in Houston, is now out. Niumatalolo felt he had to make the move after Navy began the 2021 season with a combined total of 10 points in two games.
Navy’s offensive line, so brilliant against Houston in 2019, is lost and searching for answers.
Navy had Malcolm “Commodore” Perry at quarterback, the latest in a long line of brilliant triple-option quarterbacks Niumatalolo has been able to bring to Annapolis. Navy is currently lost at sea at quarterback, desperately trying to shake things up and find a spark at football’s most important position.
This is an upside-down reality compared to what Navy faced when it last traveled to Houston to play a college football game. After a week off, let’s see if meaningful and positive changes will occur for the Midshipmen.
1 – Passion and pride
It starts with the offensive line, but it applies to everyone on this offense. Navy’s offensive unit needs to come out of the tunnel firing on all cylinders. This is more than just a game. This is a time to reestablish a reputation and an identity for Navy football. The past few weeks, much like the 2020 season, were humiliating. Navy can’t put up with this. Everyone needs to feel personally outraged by what has happened, and play accordingly. Winning or losing this game is important, but the ultimate goal is to get back to setting a standard Navy football can be proud of. Everything else about this game is secondary.
2 – New coordinator, new start
Firing Ivin Jasper might seem to be unfair. Jasper did a remarkable job at Navy, squeezing the most out of the Midshipmen’s resources year after year. He was a huge part of this golden era for Navy football. The offensive line completely falling apart is not a failure he should uniquely have to bear or pay for. Yet, it is true that sometimes coaches have to make decisions not so much because they think a person needs to be sacked, but because the locker room needs to be changed. Players need to wake up and realize how accountable they need to be. Jasper being fired is Niumatalolo’s way of trying to get his players to find a new sense of urgency. We will see if that informs and improves Navy’s offense on Saturday.
3 – Takeaways
Navy’s defense did all it realistically could to keep the Air Force game competitive, but the reality is that Navy can’t win games unless the defense comes up with huge turnovers which lead to points. Pick-sixes or long returns which set up points will be needed in the short run for Navy to be able to steal a win against a more talented opponent.