Navy stayed perfect on the season with a 42-32 win over Cincinnati on Saturday. Here is the report card:
Rushing Offense: A
If there was ever an option to run out the clock with quarterback sneaks then this would have been the day to do so. Navy was unbelievable on the ground on Saturday as the Mids rushed for 569 yards, the second highest total in school history. Navy actually had 572 yards with a couple of snaps left in the game, a number that would have tied the record if not for a combined three yards lost on two Zach Abey kneel downs to kill the clock and end the game.
Abey was the Mids leading rusher as he took 20 of the 72 total carries for 128 yards and a couple of scores. His long run of 53 yards for a touchdown again shows how vital he is to the Navy option attack. The only reason this was not given an A+ is because of a Jahmaal Daniel fumble at the end of a run that kept Cincinnati close in the first half. If Daniel holds onto the ball, then Navy takes a hard to come back from 21-7 lead against a team that cannot stop the running game. Instead the Bearcats scored a field goal on the drive to narrow the lead to 14-10.
Passing Offense: B
The passing offense could have been completely left at home for all Navy needed to use it to beat Cincinnati. Abey completed two of his three pass attempts for 53 yards and a touchdown. Both passes went to Tyler Carmona, with his 18-yard touchdown catch given the Mids a 14-0 lead in the fourth quarter. Abey and the Mids knew that they wouldn’t have to pass much on the Bearcats given the obscene yardage they were picking up on the ground, but the fact that they were hitting passing plays for chunks of yards when trying them will please head coach Ken Niumatalolo.
Rushing Defense: A-
The Cincinnati rushing attack was pretty much shut down by the Mids in this one. The Bearcats had a total of 58 yards from their 23 carries, with only Gerrid Doaks really able to find space against the Navy front seven. Doaks actually ran for more yards on his 14 carries than the team total – he had 59 yards – as other backs lost yards when trying to rush the ball. Doaks 21 yard run and his 9 yard touchdown scamper will both be frustrating to the coaching staff of the Mids as they were plays that could have been shut down with better effort and fundamentals from the defensive line and linebackers.
Passing Defense: D-
The rushing defense may have been good against Cincinnati’s attack, but the passing defense was far from that. Bear cats quarterback Hayden Moore threw the ball a ton – he had 46 attempts passing – but he was able to complete an alarming number of those passes and pick up big yardage in the process. On the day Moore was able to complete 28 of his pass attempts for 381 yards and three touchdowns, finding way too many holes in the Navy secondary no matter if the Mids were playing man or zone coverage.
Moore was able to hook up with Devin Gray and Kahlil Lewis a combined 12 times for 171 yards and a couple of scores. Navy has been good this season about not giving up the big passing play and keeping everything in front of the safeties, but in this one Moore was able to find the seams and allow his receivers to pick up yards after the catch. The Navy defense was able to pressure Moore on occasion (two sacks and four hurries) but – for the first half at least – he was far too comfortable in the pocket.
Special Teams: C-
You cannot have miscues on special teams and a missed Bennett Moehring field goal near the end of the first half allowed Cincinnati to hang around in this one for longer than they should have. Moehring missed a simple 24-yard chip shot with just 11 seconds to go in the half to keep the score at 21-17 going into the break instead of making it a full touchdown lead. This kick was symptomatic of the entire first half for the Mids, a half where little miscues and mistakes added up to keep a game close that had no right being so tight.
You can’t really fault Niumatalolo for anything that went wrong in the first half. The fumble was a mistake by a player and the missed field goal is a shot he would take again 100 times out of 100 given the situation and the time on the clock. What Niumatalolo did do well was focus in on the Bearcats inability to defend certain plays out of his triple-option formation and run that particular look over and over again to huge success. Sometimes coaching is as simple as sticking with what works and waiting for the kinks to work themselves out in the game. That is exactly how the Mids dominated this one in the end.