This feels like a season defining game for Navy. The Mids were outplayed, outworked, and outfought last week when they went down 35-7 to Air Force in Colorado Springs. The Mids can still make something of the 2018 season, but if that is to happen it needs to begin this weekend with the visit of Temple.
Here are the three keys:
Get back to basics
The triple-option offense isn’t one that has to be complicated. Sure, the offensive system uses a lot of motion and misdirection in its plays, but the basics of the offense are tough running from the fullback position and correct decision making from the quarterback.
The Navy offense managed just six first downs and 119 total yards in the first three quarters of the game against Air Force. The Falcons are a little different to most Navy rivals as they see a version of the triple-option in practice every day, but this simply isn’t an acceptable output from Ken Niumatalolo’s offensive unit.
Malcolm Perry hasn’t quite clicked with the offense for some reason. He has the running skills to make the position of quarterback his own, but there needs to be more from him in terms of playmaking and keeping drives going. Finding more balance should also be a key as Perry has carried to ball 69 times more than the second highest carrier on the Mids squad.
Cool off Anthony Russo
Temple quarterback Russo was about as good as you can possibly be last time out against East Carolina. Starting his fourth straight game for the Owls, Russo completed 21-of-25 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns. The sophomore didn’t start the season for the Owls, but he has already emerged into a team leader and he is coming off of easily his best game as a college quarterback.
The 6-foot-4, 228-pounder is a load to bring down in the pocket even if Navy can get through the Temple offensive line to put a shot on the player. Confidence is an important factor in football and while the Navy squad is devoid of it after the Air Force debacle, Russo has it flowing through his veins.
Russo is prone to a turnover – he has thrown six interceptions in his short college career – so getting pressure on him and making him make ill-advised throws would benefit Navy.
Beware of the non-offensive score
Scoring from a unit that is not the offense is a massive bonus in any game. Temple has made that something of a team specialty in 2018, scoring a non-offensive touchdown in each of its six games on the season.
Last week it was the turn of the punt return unit, with junior returner Isaiah Wright taking a punt back 59 yards to the house. That return was one of five that Wright had on the day for 129 yards, flipping field position consistently and setting the Owls up with outstanding field position throughout the contest.
Navy will have to be aware of the Owls ability to score in all phases, knowing that a defensive of special teams touchdown would be killer to the Mids hopes of halting their slide.