Navy Football Three Keys: Houston

Navy football three keys

The Navy Midshipmen played a lot of low-scoring games in the early part of the 2022 season. Now they’re playing high-scoring games. Each of Navy’s last two games have involved 74 total points.

By Matt Zemek

The Midshipmen’s offense has taken some steps forward, though the 40-34 loss to SMU featured a late rally which had no real chance of victory. Navy was down 40-20 and then scored 14 points in the final 2:35 to make the final score appear closer than it actually was. Navy allowed 20 straight points in the third quarter after playing SMU on even terms in the game’s first 34 minutes. The defense, which did so well against Delaware, Air Force, and in other games in the first part of the season, did not hit its marks or standards against SMU.

Navy needs to figure out a way to put all the pieces together versus the Houston Cougars, who pay a visit to Annapolis this coming Saturday.

1 – Turnovers

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first: Navy is not good enough to withstand a minus-two turnover differential, which is what it had against SMU. The margins are way too small for this Navy team; other Navy teams (and offenses) could withstand one or even two mistakes, but this one cannot. There has to be a total commitment to ball security from everyone on this offense. Any path to victory starts there.

2 – Big plays allowed and created

Navy allowed way too may big plays on defense against SMU. After the Midshipmen took a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter, SMU scored within the next 35 seconds on two plays, getting a 60-yard run from its quarterback. The Mustangs later scored on a two-play, 80-yard drive. Navy allowed a 47-yard play and then a 33-yard touchdown pass. That simply cannot continue to happen. Houston has struggled to create big plays in its passing game, so Navy should be able to do reasonably well in this particular category. The Midshipmen did more than enough on defense to win games through early October. The SMU game was a clunker. Hopefully it’s an outlier. The Midshipmen need to prove it was in fact an outlier in this game.

3 – Second half ball control

Houston has trailed in the second half in a majority of its games this season. Even its victories over UTSA and Memphis were scramble situations in which the Cougars appeared to be in deep trouble. Navy should be able to build a lead in this game. The key is to prevent Houston from making a comeback. Second-half ball control and third-down conversions are likely to be very important for Navy in this game.

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