The Mids will face Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl on Friday, December 23.
The battered and bruised Navy Midshipmen football team must pick themselves up after a couple of frustrating, and costly, losses to take on the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl two days before Christmas. Here is a first look at what the Bulldogs will be bringing to the party in Fort Worth.
Season so far
The Bulldogs finished the season with an 8-5 (6-2) record after winning C-USA West and, like Navy, losing in their conference championship game.
The Bulldogs may have reached a bowl game in 2016, but their season did not begin well. Louisiana Tech almost produced a major upset on the opening weekend of the year, but they were just unable to pull off a shock result and fell 21-20 on the road at Arkansas. A comfortable win over South Carolina State (FCS) put a check in the win column, but then came losses on the road at high-scoring Texas Tech and Middle Tennessee State to leave the Bulldogs floundering at 1-3 at the end of September.
It was an October 1 win over UTEP (28-7) that got the season turned around for Louisiana Tech. That was the first of seven straight victories that saw Louisiana Tech climb to the top of C-USA West. It was an impressive run by the Bulldogs that included wins over eventually conference champion Western Kentucky (55-52), North Texas (45-24), and UTSA (63-35).
The season though ended on a sour note as Louisiana Tech, like Navy, has lost their previous two outings. A loss on the final day of the conference regular season to Southern Miss ended up not costing the Bulldogs too much as they still won their division. This brought about a rematch with Western Kentucky, who this time had too much offense for Louisiana Tech as the Hilltoppers took the title.
Injuries and Suspensions
The Bulldogs have a couple of players out for the season in WR Marcus Gaines and backup RB Isreal Tucker. These are both players that have been out since October, so the Louisiana Tech staff has had plenty of time to replace their production.
The biggest injury and suspension issues coming into this game, therefore, are on defense. The secondary could be impacted by the neck injury to S Secdrick Cooper, while Bulldogs' LB duo Dalton Santos and Jordan Harris are question marks with academic problems. IF all three are out then the Navy rushing attack could have a field day against backups not yet ready for primetime.
The obvious challenge here is going to be getting the offense going under QB Zach Abey. The Mids were awful offensively against Army in the first half, but Abey didn't give up and made some big plays in the third and fourth quarters. If he is able to continue that progress through practice then he should have a much better day against a Lousiana Tech defense that does not have the playmakers (especially at linebacker) that Army does. Defensively Navy will have to watch for the passing prowess of Bulldogs QB Ryan Higgins, who is third in the country in passing yards with over 4,200 of them to go along with 37 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.