Navy opens its 2018 season in paradise, as game one of a year that will test the Mids travel credentials kicks off in Hawaii. Ken Niumatalolo has high hopes for the team – and specifically for quarterback Malcolm Perry – and this will be a good initial test of the Mids readiness for the long road ahead.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Control the controllable
Honolulu is a 10-hour flight from Annapolis, meaning that Navy starts the 2018 season with a monster road trip that will test every aspects of the Mids ability to prepare and execute a football game plan. Niumatalolo has been preaching the keys to approaching a game like this, noting that factors like hydration, nutrition, and sleep will be important in order to have the Mids ready to play.
One aspect playing in the Mids favor will be that this is the opening game of the season. It is not like Navy has to turn around from playing another opponent – either at home or on the road – then roll out to play in Hawaii. Instead the preparation will have been much smoother, with Navy having plenty of time to get to Hawaii and get acclimatized before the kickoff on Saturday night.
Be ready for a team that has already played
The Mountain West conference does things a little differently. While most of the FBS was enjoying one last off week last Saturday, the MWC was kicking off with conference play. Heading straight into conference games is weird enough as a concept, but to do it while the rest of the college football world is just chilling on a couch is stranger still.
Hawaii kicked off its season by travelling to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State. This was a game that the Rams were supposed to win convincingly, but instead the Rainbow Warriors were able to pull off a major upset. They achieved this is stylish fashion too, building up a big lead before holding off a comeback attempt to win 43-34.
Navy will have to shut down Cole McDonald and the surprisingly potent Hawaii passing attack if they want to win on the road this weekend. McDonald passed for 418 yards and three touchdowns, while also accounting for 96 yards rushing and two more scores in the win. The Hawaii run-and-shoot is back and it has a week of experience on this new season.
Control the clock
The best way to beat a run-and-shoot team is to keep them off of the field. Hawaii can pile up points quickly – especially early in games – so Navy needs to use the triple-option to keep that offense on the sidelines. By completing drives with touchdowns the Mids will put pressure on a Hawaii offense still in its formative stages, and that should be enough to cause McDonald problems when forcing the issue.
This game will be one of the greatest offensive styles clashes of the entire season. Navy wants to run the ball on every down and take time off of the clock to shorten the game. Hawaii wants to pass the ball as much as possible, picking up chunk plays and breaking off huge gains. Perry will be massive in this game as his ability to beat defenders and pick up first downs will be tested, but expect Perry to rush for over 200 yards in a dominating display.