Where did that come from? Where did Navy suddenly find a spark on offense? Where did the Midshipmen turn for 53 points against Tulsa?
By Matt Zemek
Is it a case of Tulsa simply being a lot worse than previously thought or playing a horrible game, or did Navy finally crack the code and realize what it needed to do on offense and getting the offensive line play it had long sought? While everyone wrestles with those questions, we can say one thing for sure: If Navy wants to prove that it has solved this nagging, annoying, frustrating puzzle on offense – something which has dogged the program for the past two and a half years – stacking together consecutive strong performances on offense would go a long way toward proving that the Midshipmen are ready to restore themselves on offense. With that in mind, let’s look at the three keys against SMU in Week 7:
1 – Offensive line confidence
The offensive line has been Navy’s most underperforming unit over the past two and a half seasons. After rolling up nearly 500 yards against Tulsa, Navy has reason to think that its offensive line has finally rediscovered how to play. Every offensive lineman should be confident in his abilities heading into this game. That confidence has to translate into another powerful and effective display in which players fire off the ball, pancake the opposing defensive lineman or linebacker, and deliver the results Ken Niumatalolo expects from his triple-option offense. Confidence translating into improved habits, reactions and results is the cornerstone key for this game and, by extension, for the rest of the 2022 season.
2 – Force more turnovers
Navy’s defense created several turnovers against Tulsa, making the game easier for everyone. Now let’s see if Navy – once again a considerable underdog on the road – can come up with more high-impact plays on defense. The Mids aren’t going to win this game by 32. They might need several takeaways just to win this game at all, by the slightest of margins. This is part of the larger reality facing Navy: One great game certainly feels wonderful, but good teams make sure that great performances aren’t isolated aberrations. That Tulsa game needs to be habit-forming, and getting more takeaways is one of the central ways in which Navy needs to replicate tendencies and establish winning patterns which remain entrenched for the weeks ahead.
3 – Splash plays for the Navy
Navy is all about navigating waters and handling choppy seas. What better way to do that than by making a splash? Navy found big plays against Tulsa. That reduces the burden on the offense and gets the whole team fired up. Once again: Can Navy take what happened against Tulsa and repeat the recipe against SMU? Then we’ll really be cooking with gas, and Navy can get on a hot streak which changes the trajectory of both the 2022 season and the program as a whole.