In the Navy Midshipmen’s final game before taking on Army, the team traveled to New Orleans to face the Tulane Green Wave. The Midshipmen came into the game with a four game win streak over Tulane. However, this year had different implications than the previous few games.
Navy was 3-8 prior to the game, where Tulane was 5-6. This meant the Green Wave’s bowl game eligibility depended entirely upon this week, as this was the last game of the season. The Midshipmen, on the other hand, were playing for pride.
At the start of the game, the temperature was 46 degrees and minutes from dumping rain....in Annapolis. But in New Orleans, it was a beautiful, sunny 70 degrees with calm winds.
To highlight the warm weather’s impact on the game, Navy punter, Owen White, averaged 56.6 yards on his first two punts of the game. Warmer weather, not only helps kickers and punters kick the ball further, but also the ball flies further by physics alone.
First Half Struggles
The Navy Midshipmen have been hot and cold this season, and today was no different.
Although the Midshipmen controlled the time of possession, Navy had multiple three and out possessions throughout the game. To even further highlight the offensive struggles, the Midshipmen only had 95 yards of total offense by halftime.
Navy came out strong on defense to start the game by forcing Tulane to punt on their first three drives. At the end of the first quarter, the score remained, 0-0. That quickly changed. On the first play of the second quarter, Tulane quarterback, Justin McMillan, completed a 55 yard touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney. This touchdown completed a 3 play, 80 yard drive by the Green Wave.
The defensive struggles continued throughout the first half. At one point in the second quarter, Tulane scored two touchdowns in just 3:26 of game play. At halftime, the score read, 21-3, in favor of Tulane.
Second Half Turnaround
More of the same continued on offense to start the second half. Senior quarterback, Zach Abey, handed the ball off to the fullback, Anthony Gargiulo three straight times, and were forced to punt. After an interception by safety, Sean Williams, Navy got the ball on Tulane seven yard line. And yet, the offense was still only able to move the ball a couple of yards, and were forced to settle with a field goal.
However, the second half started off even better than the first for Navy’s defense. Following senior, and defensive team captain, Sean Williams’ interception, Navy’s Austin Talbert-Loving sacked the quarterback on third down, bringing great energy to the entire team.
This was the point at which all momentum changed in the game.
The Midshipmen’s first touchdown came on the next possession off a trick play with 4:02 left in the third quarter. Abey pitched the ball to Malcolm Perry in the back field while he slipped out in flats. Perry then threw a duck pass to Abey who walked into the end zone. Although it wasn’t the prettiest pass seen all day by Navy, it was the most effective. Ken Niumatalol and the Navy coaching staff has plenty of trust in Perry passing the ball since he did start at quarterback for the first half of this season.
On the first play of their very next drive, Perry and Abey connected again, but this time, Perry was on the receiving end. Abey completed a 73 yard pass to the slotback for a touchdown. Abey continued his passing rhythm when he converted the 2-point conversion on a pass to wide receiver, Taylor Jackson.
Zach Abey finished the game with 167 yards passing, improving on his career high of 159 yards against Louisiana Tech in 2016.
Fourth quarter comeback effort
The Midshipmen got the ball back with 11:57 left in the game with the score tied 21-21. It took 14 plays, 80 yards, two fourth down conversions, and over eight minutes of game play to go up 28-21.
At this point in the game, the Navy defense had pitched a second-half shutout against the Green Wave. Tulane got the ball back with 3:44 left in the game, and 72 yards to the endzone. The Tulane offense marched down the field, scored, and completed the two point conversion to go up, 29-28 with 1:27 left on the clock.
Naturally, Navy’s offense is not designed to score in such little time. Ultimately, the Midshipmen were unable to complete the comeback with such little time, and lost their ninth game of the year.
Special Team’s Recognition
As previously mentioned, Owen White had an above average day punting. Entering the game, White was averaging 41.1 yards per punt. Today, he averaged 51 yards on five punts. This performance played a large role, throughout the game, in forcing Tulane to travel the distance of the field in their efforts to score.
Navy kicker, Bennett Moehring missed a short field goal from 28 yards at the end of the first quarter. However, on the very next Navy possession, Moehring crushed a 48 yard field goal straight down the pipe. Not only did this field goal tie his career long, set in 2017 against Temple, but this also allowed Moehring to redeem himself from his last 48 yard field goal attempt. In the 2017 Army-Navy game, Moehring missed a 48 yard field goal, in blizzard weather conditions, that would have won the game as time expired. The senior kicker has bounced back incredibly since that heart breaking miss, by making 90 percent of his field goal attempts this year. He made 2-of-3 field goals this week.
The Navy Midshipmen now have two weeks to prepare to face the Army Black Knights in the 2018 Army-Navy game. Army had this week off, while Navy faced Tulane, giving them a total of three weeks to get ready.
The Black Knights are currently ranked at No. 23 in the AP Poll, with a record of 9-2. However, it should be noted that Army is still Independent and only played two Power 5 teams this year. In those two games, they lost both.
So while Army will indeed be favored for the game, it may not be by as large of a margin as you would expect if you only looked at the two teams’ records. In this rivalry game, anything can happen, any given year.