Navy has a chance to end a weird season on a positive note with the Armed Forces Bowl clash against Louisiana Tech on December 23. After losses in the American Athletic Conference Championship game and the Army-Navy game, it is important for Ken Niumatalolo and the team to reach double-digit wins on the year.
Here are the three keys to beating the Bulldogs:
1) Slow down the passing attack
Louisiana Tech may not be a well know school outside of the bayou, but the Bulldogs are fun to watch and incredibly dangerous to play against. The team boasts a top-five scoring offense and quarterback Ryan Higgins is a prolific passer in the attack who threw for over 4,200 yards in 2016. Perhaps more impressively, Higgins threw for 37 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, a pretty remarkable ratio considering how often the Bulldogs put the ball in the air.
Louisiana Tech is so dangerous through the air in large part because they have two wide receivers that are as good as any in the country. Senior Trent Taylor is second in the nation in receptions with 124 catches for a crazy 1,570 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is complimented perfectly by junior Carlos Henderson who has over 1,400 receiving yards himself and an incredible 17 touchdowns. Henderson, in particular, is capable of monster games, as evidenced by his 326-yard performance earlier this year against UMass.
2) Get some continuity in the offense
Navy quarterback Zach Abey has been thrust into an impossible situation. After entering the game against a touch Temple defense, he then had to face a rested Army squad that features one of the best sets of linebackers in the country. Now all he has to do in his third game is lead the Mids into a bowl game.
Mids fans will be hoping that the extra practice time since the Army game has allowed Abey to pick up a firmer grasp of the quarterback led Navy option attack. The offense seemed slow and ponderous against Army and it was telling that the Mids didn’t have a single run credited to a slot back. For Navy to win there must be more of an outside run presence and the fullbacks have to share a greater load. If Abey can share the ball more then Navy will have a better shot at winning the game.
3) Win the turnover battle
The biggest single problem against Army was that Navy couldn’t hold on to the ball. Army gave the football to Navy four times, but the Mids had three turnovers of their own, all at bad times, and thus were never able to get a run of points going on the Black Knights. It started early with a Shawn White fumble before two awful Abey interceptions condemned Navy to defeat.
Against Louisiana Tech, Navy has to win the turnover battle. Abey is still going to need help with field position and the best way to do that is by taking the ball away from the Bulldogs. As noted earlier, Louisiana Tech puts the ball in the air often, so there will be chances for Navy to pick off passes. If Navy can be plus one or plus two in the turnover column then the Mids will win.