At the start of the game, the temperature in Annapolis was in the mid 40s. However in Orlando, it was nearly 80 degrees. The Midshipmen were going to have their hands full against the UCF Knights regardless of the environmental factors.
UCF won the coin toss and elected to receive the kickoff in an effort to get off to a fast start. Despite Navy’s numerous issues on defense, the Midshipmen forced a three and out for the Knights. However, by the end of the first quarter, the Knights led 14-0.
By the end of the game, the score read UCF 35, Navy 24. By no means were the Navy Midshipmen the better team on the field. However, the game had potential to have been much closer had a few unlucky plays gone in Navy’s favor.
The Navy offense actually found some success early on in the game. However, yards gained down field were frequently negated by turnovers and penalties.
The senior, Zach Abey, was under center once again this week. Malcolm Perry, who began the season as Navy’s starting quarterback, found himself in his natural position, slotback.
After the second quarterback change of the season, it appears that Coach Ken Niumatalolo is planning to go forth with Abey for the rest of the year, despite his limited passing ability.
Abey finished the game with two touchdowns and 85 rushing yards.
Player Highlight: Mike Martin
Senior fullback, Mike Martin, has recently started to see much more of the playing field than he did earlier in his Navy career. Martin scored his first collegiate touchdown against Notre Dame on a 33 yard touchdown run.
Earlier in the season, it appeared as though Nelson Smith was going to be the primary backup at the fullback position behind team captain, Anthony Gargiulo.
Over the past few games, Martin has appeared to have moved up the depth chart, which is significant because he has seen very limited playing time in his previous three years at Navy.
Martin averaged 12.8 yards per carry, with a long of 23 yards. Additionally, he earned his second career touchdown on an explosive 14 yard run. We may continue to see more of him in the backfield as he brings a significant change of pace to the fullback position.
It is no secret that the Navy defense has struggled this year. This game was no different.
Senior safety, Sean Williams, was knocked out of the game early, leaving the secondary even more vulnerable than they already were. McKenzie Milton and the Knights capitalized on Williams’ absence on the following drive with a 34 yard touchdown pass. This put UCF up 21-0.
Prior to this week’s game, UCF was averaging 548.8 yards per game for an average of 45.4 points. The Knights finished with 35 points and 497 yards. So comparatively, Navy did better than average. But in reality, the Midshipman have a long way to go on this side of the ball.
Next week, Navy hosts the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in Annapolis. Tulsa’s record is an equally unimpressive, 2-8. With the Midshipmen being a better team than their record suggests, and the game being played in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Navy has a great chance to add to their win column.
Tulsa and Navy are fighting to avoid last place in the AAC West division. And despite this week’s loss, the Midshipmen showed some light, leading us to believe there is hope for the rest of the season. Following the game against Tulsa, Navy face Tulane and then Army. All three of these games are winnable. Continuing to improve on defense and staying healthy will put the Midshipmen in a position to finish the season on a positive note.
Author: Gavin Jernigan - Twitter @Gavinjernigan2