After watching Cole McDonald and the Hawaii offense score 43 points against Colorado State in Week 0, Navy realized that they were going to have their hands full in their season opener. The Midshipmen are coming off a frustrating and under-performing year. After a 5-0 start in 2017, the Midshipmen lost the next five of six games, including a loss against Army for the second year in the row. Navy did, however, cap off the season on a high note with a dominating performance in the Military Bowl, beating Virginia 49-7.
How To Watch
Time: 11 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Sep. 1.
Watch: CBS Sports
Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii. Weather is not expected to be a factor given a forecast of 78 degrees and a 20 percent chance of precipitation.
Outlook: Navy enters the preseason S&P+ rankings at 86, while Hawaii was ranked 129th out of 130. However, after last week, one can safely assume 129 might end up being a bit low for the Rainbow Warriors.
Betting Lines: General consensus has Navy favored by a 10 point spread with an over/under of 62.
A Homecoming for Ken Niumatalolo
Navy starts this year with a homecoming for its head coach, Ken Niumatalolo. Coach Niumatalolo is a native of the North Shore of Oahu, and a graduate and former assistant of the University of Hawaii. In 2013, Hawaii traveled to Annapolis to face the Midshipmen, where Navy won 42-28. The meeting prior to that was in 2009, where the Rainbow Warriors hosted Navy and won by a touchdown, 24-17.
As for this year, the game looks to be better than expected after Hawaii greatly exceeded expectations in their win against the Colorado State Rams in Week 0. Though Hawaii’s offense showed some serious explosiveness, their defense revealed some significant areas of weakness.
Navy traveled to Hawaii a day early to beat any form of jet lag. However, long distance travel for any college football team will have an impact on performance. Additionally, the first game of the year almost always requires working out small kinks with regards to play calling and clock management.
Given Hawaii has a game under their belt, and the Midshipmen have a long trip, the game will be much closer than it would be if it were in the middle of the season. Regardless, Navy is a much better team than Colorado State with a significantly different offense.
What to Look for During the Game
Navy is completely in charge of their own destiny. As long as the Midshipmen do not beat themselves with turnovers and penalties, Navy should have no problem scoring over 40 points against the Rainbow Warrior defense. With Malcolm Perry under center for the Midshipmen, talent is not a problem. We know, that as goes the QB for Navy, so goes the offense. If last season’s teaser was any suggestion, let’s just go ahead and assume the offense will be explosive and fast. As for Navy’s defense, the secondary and defensive line each have only one big job. The secondary cannot get beat on long passes passing plays. The secondary is often an area of vulnerability for the Midshipmen. For the defensive line, the containment of Cole McDonald is essential. McDonald has great speed and utilizes his mobility to extend drives.
One interesting area of the game that should be given extra attention for this week is Hawaii’s punters. Hawaii has two punters who can use both legs to kick, and Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich is willing to put both of them on the field at the same time. How exactly this will play out is yet to be seen. However, this possibility definitely required Navy to spend an extra 5 minutes of practice time each day this week in order to explore all possible options of this unique punting scheme by Hawaii.
Key to Success
Malcolm Perry: Navy’s junior quarterback will be entering the season as the starting quarterback for the first time. This off-season was his first time focusing solely on the quarterback position. In previous seasons, he has played both quarterback and the “A-Back” position (slot back) in Navy’s offense. Because Navy runs the triple option offense, the quarterback position is even more essential than that of traditional offenses. Therefore, Perry’s play is critical to the success of Navy’s offense.
Cole McDonald and Co: Cole McDonald was able to connect with Cedric Byrd and John Ursua for a combined 304 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s game against Colorado State. Additionally, McDonald completed multiple shovel passes to his running backs and had great success. Navy will need to prevent McDonald from getting hot early and finding a rhythm with his receivers.
Navy will win despite some growing pains throughout the game. Look for a slow start on defense due to the momentum the Rainbow Warriors will be carrying off a big win and their home opener. However, Navy should break multiple long runs throughout the first half that will keep them in the game. During the second half, the Midshipmen should finds their rhythm and finish the game strong.