The Mids dropped a tight game 31-21 to UCF on Saturday to fall to 5-2 on the season. Here is the Navy report card:
Rushing Offense: C+
This one was a case of what might have been as the Mids proved yet again that a triple-option attack is only successful based on the skill and decision making of its quarterback.
Navy was very much in this game when starting quarterback Zach Abey had to leave the contest after taking a helmet to helmet shot in the third quarter. Abey was proving to be a thorn in the side of undefeated UCF on the ground as he had already rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries when he was forced to the sidelines. It was always a worry something like this would happen given Abey’s running style and the amount of contacts the quarterback takes in a game, but it was still incredibly frustrating to see him leave a game Navy could have won.
Backup Garret Lewis came in and did ok. His rushing wasn’t as dynamic as that of Abey and he made a huge mistake in the fourth quarter on a late pitch that finished Navy off in this game. Lewis can be a solid quarterback if he is on the team for any length of time – and therefore getting the practice reps – but on this day he wasn’t quite good enough to finish the job Abey had started.
Passing Offense: D
Navy got big plays and big mistakes out of its passing game on Saturday. Abey only threw four passes before he left the game, but one of those went for a touchdown. The only problem was that another of his passes was intercepted by UCF defensive back Kyle Gibson at his own goal line, preventing Navy from a score that would have tied the game right before the half.
Lewis also threw an interception late as Navy was trying to chase down a 10 point lead with their backup quarterback running the offense. Malcolm Perry had a 75-yard touchdown catch, while Tyler Carmona was the only true wide receiver to register as he had three catches for 66 yards in a pretty productive game.
Rushing Defense: C-
The UCF rushing game has been very good this year, but at the end of the day on Saturday the Mids had rushed for just one more yard than the Knights. Adrian Killins Jr. was the main man for UCF as he carried the ball 15 times for 122 yards and a couple of touchdowns. His stats on the day were massively boosted by a 79-yard touchdown rush with UCF’s first play from scrimmage in the second half. It was a demoralizing play as the Mids had just tied the game with a touchdown drive of their own, but Killins broke free for the score to give UCF the momentum back immediately. When Navy was then stopped on downs on the next series, problems were beginning to mount for Ken Niumatalolo and his crew.
Passing Defense: B-
Niumatalolo will be quietly impressed with how his passing defense coped against a side that came into the matchup averaging over 50 points per game and winning by an average of 33.8 points. The catalyst for that level of play has been quarterback McKenzie Milton and the Mids did a pretty good job of shutting down the dual-threat passer.
Milton finished the day going 15-of-23 through the air with one touchdown and one interception. He also added another 47 yards on the ground on 11 carried. Milton spread the ball around to seven different targets, with no wide receiver having more than three catches on the day. Milton threw a bad fourth-quarter interception that gave Navy a shot at driving for a go-ahead score and all credit goes to the defense for putting the team in a position to win against such a high power offense
Special Teams: C
Just your average day for the special teams here with not much going on. Navy didn’t attempt a field goal in the game and all three times that the Mids attempted to go for it on fourth down they were well outside of realistic kicking range for even the best college kickers in the country. Malcolm Perry flashed in the return game without ever breaking one for massive yardage, while the rest of the special team’s units did exactly what you would expect with little fuss or fanfare.
It is difficult getting two option quarterbacks ready to play in the same game. I am sure Ken Niumatalolo believes in Garret Lewis and – depending on Zach Abey and the concussion protocol – we might get to see more of the backup quarterback in the near future. The Mids were down seven when Abey left the game and actually pulled it back to a three-point game with Lewis under center. With his options limited though, Niumatalolo couldn’t muster up one of those huge late-game comebacks that have become his trademark on the Navy sideline.