It is a difficult time to be a Navy football player or coach. For the third straight season, the Midshipmen’s offense has started very poorly in the month of September.
By Matt Zemek
The offensive line is not getting the job done. Pieces which might seem to fit on paper are not meshing in actual reality. The defense is doing what it can, but the offense is leaving it out to dry once again.
Navy’s offense obviously flourished in the 11-win seasons authored by decorated quarterbacks Keenan Reynolds and Malcolm “Commodore” Perry, but even when Navy wasn’t winning 11 games per season, the program could generally count on winning eight games and making a bowl, which is a solid and very respectable standard the Midshipmen set for nearly two decades with only a few exceptions. That consistency came from knowing the offense could generally be relied upon to score 30 points per game – not every week, but certainly most weeks. The defense didn’t need to stand on its head to win; it must needed to get a few stops and force a few red-zone field goals. That was often enough.
These days, it’s not remotely close to giving the Mids a victory. The offense is so poor that the Navy defense has to become the 1985 Chicago Bears defense in order to win games. That’s just not realistic.
Navy is now in the middle of a season which is once again heading south. The program is watching its track record of admirable consistency dissolve into impotence, and it’s all on the offensive side of the ball. Let’s look at the foremost keys for this week’s game against East Carolina:
1 – Off week teaching and revisions
Navy had the previous week off. The coaching staff had a chance to evaluate everything which is failing on offense and come up with a different plan. We all know that establishing the fullback and the between-the-tackles running game is a centerpiece component of the triple option offense, but if the offensive line isn’t good enough to carve out holes, and if defenses know that taking away the middle of the line will force Navy into 2nd and 8 or 3rd and 7 situations in which it must pass, maybe the middle-focused approach needs to be shelved or, at the very least, adjusted. The staff has to find a way to put the offense in good second-down situations. Down and distance matters so much to the triple option, and Navy is falling behind schedule all the time. With a week off, let’s see what the coaching staff found in terms of better play sequencing and tactics.
2 – Offensive line: time to show pride
Navy’s offensive linemen have spent the offseason, and now the first three weeks of the new season, hearing about how they’re not measuring up. The criticism is warranted, but its incessant nature could reasonably be seen as annoying to the guys up front. Okay, fine: Do something about it. Do something to quiet all these complaints. The Navy offense has a reputation for being consistently good. The Ken Niumatalolo era is part of a larger story at Navy in which this offense bounces back from bad games and eventually figures things out. The past two years have been exceptions. Can 2022 become a story of revival and rediscovery? Every offensive lineman needs to show some pride and turn this ship around.
3 – Tai Lavatai
If the Navy O-line has a lot to prove, so does quarterback Tai Lavatai. If the power running game is being taken away, a quarterback has the ability to make plays with his legs and his arm. Lavatai has to find a way to change the equation for the Navy offense. If he can produce eye-popping plays which get the attention of opposing defenses, then the aspects of the running game and the triple option which have been smothered through the first two games of the season might be able to come to life against East Carolina … and beyond.