The Navy Midshipmen gave it their all against the No. 2 team in the United States, but fell just short against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Now the Midshipmen need to quickly turn the page and prepare for a Friday night game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
The wins haven’t been emerging, but Navy – in the face of formidable opposition from the best teams in the AAC, SMU and Cincinnati – has competed extremely well. This forms the basis for this week’s three keys:
1 – The work will pay off
It’s a simple concept to grasp; Navy just has to apply it: If the Midshipmen play as well against Tulsa as they did against Cincinnati and also SMU, they will win this game. The Midshipmen have clearly emerged from their funk at the start of the season, when their offense was body-snatched and they had trouble doing anything of note. Now they’re much more locked in on both sides of the ball, forcing unbeaten teams to play complete 60-minute games to narrowly defeat them. The schedule has been brutal, and Notre Dame still looms on the slate in November, but against Tulsa – a middle-of-the-pack team in the AAC – a solid Navy performance akin to what we saw versus Cincinnati should be enough to get the job done.
Navy didn’t handle its last weeknight game particularly well, and it also absorbed some bad injury luck (Tai Lavatai getting hurt) on the road in Memphis. Navy didn’t perform nearly as well against Memphis as it had versus SMU. The same pattern needs to be avoided against Tulsa. The level of play in the Cincinnati game needs to carry over to Tulsa. If it does, Navy will be in very good shape.
2 – Turnovers
The most important statistic in football other than the final score is turnover differential. Tulsa was outgained by Memphis by roughly 200 yards two weeks ago, but it won because of a plus-three turnover differential. Tulsa roughly doubled South Florida’s yardage this past weekend, 535-268, but had to scramble back from a 31-20 deficit and pull out a shaky 32-31 win because it was minus-two in turnover differential. Navy has been able to stay close to SMU and Cincinnati by making huge defensive plays. If it makes more big defensive plays versus Tulsa and takes the ball away a few times, it should be able to pull out a victory.
3 – Keep the good starts coming
Navy started well against both SMU and Cincinnati. Flowing from the notion that the same effort against Tulsa will produce a victory (unlike the SMU and Cincy games), the Midshipmen can’t have an early-game lull. They need to get on top of this contest and put maximum pressure on Tulsa in the first half. If the Cincinnati game really does carry over into this game, Navy will come out roaring in the first quarter.