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Navy football preview: Tulsa could be trouble for the Midshipmen

Navy travels to Tulsa after an exciting win over Air Force. The Midshipmen will have their hands full again this week.

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Navy Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After Navy came back late in the fourth quarter to beat Air Force, 34-25, the Midshipmen found themselves at their highest in about three years. However, this celebration will only be short-lived because the Tulsa Golden Hurricane is on the horizon.

In 2018, Tulsa finished the season 3-9, which included a 37-29 loss to the Midshipmen in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Prior to the start of this season, many would have wrote this upcoming game as a high-probability win for Navy. However, seeing how well Tulsa has played over their first five games this season, this match will be far from easy.

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Southern Methodist Timothy Flores-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden Hurricane come into the game with a 2-3 record. Two of their losses come to Michigan State and Oklahoma State. Their third loss was in triple overtime to the now, No. 21 SMU in Dallas. Tulsa’s losses were all to very good teams. Their wins, on the other hand, were against San Jose State and Wyoming. Both SJSU and Wyoming beat SEC teams at one point this year. Now, I’m not going to go deep into the mystical “transitive property of sports” that we all reference but know is completely irrational. But, I hope the point is made that Tulsa has proven that they will be a quality opponent.

How to Watch:

Time: 7:30 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Oct. 12.

Watch: ESPNU

Location: Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK

Rankings: According to CBS Rankings; Navy-52, Tulsa-79

Betting Lines: Navy -1; Over/Under 54

The Hype:

Keys to Victory

Yeah, yeah. Win the turnover battle. Limit penalties. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Tackle well. Win the time of possession.

Those are all things true every single week for the Midshipmen. But, let’s expand on a couple of them. Nave have put the ball on the ground 12 times this year, losing six of them. This is absolutely outrageous for the Midshipmen. Especially, in last week’s game, Navy is extremely lucky that Air Force did not capitalize on those mistakes. Tulsa, who has a gunslinger of a quarterback in Zach Smith, and a talented running back in Shamari Brooks, will absolutely turn a fumble into seven points. On the same note, Malcolm Perry has zero interceptions despite a significant increase in passing attempts from previous years. With a hurt shoulder, Perry needs to ensure he makes smart throws when possible.

Tulsa has an overwhelming 53 penalties on the year which has cost them a total of 478 yards. This lack of discipline should benefit the Midshipmen tremendously. Navy should attempt to draw Tulsa offsides often and find other ways to induce penalties.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On the same note of disciple, the Navy coaching staff should look to exploit way that the Golden Hurricane players are not executing their roles specifically on the field. This may come in the form of a trick play on special teams. Or, it may come on running the ball to a specific side of the field where a defensive player often misses an assignment.

Lastly, the Navy defense needs to avoid giving up the big play. In their lone loss to Memphis, the Midshipmen allowed Memphis to score on a 75 yard run, 99 yard kickoff return, a 73 yard pass, and a 31 yard pass. When the defense does not give up big yardage plays, they find themselves holding offenses to field goals, which was the primary reason for their win over Air Force.

What to look for and predictions

As the season goes on, players get banged up. Malcolm Perry appears to be in that boat right now. Look for him to continue to pitch the ball often and also limit his contact with defenders when unnecessary. Navy will continue to throw the ball, for it has been a huge contributor to their success on offense this season.

The defense will continue to play aggressively. It seems like every time the defensive unit takes the field, they are causing a turnover or forcing negative yardage plays. This is a result of new defensive coordinator, Brian Newberry’s aggressive schemes. Diego Fagot has led the defense with his tremendous play and will continue to be a force at the linebacker position.

Holy Cross v Navy Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Lastly, keep an eye on freshman kicker, Bijan Nichols. He has struggled slightly at times this season, but has shined at others. Nichols has a massive leg who can hit from well over 50 yards. He needs to remain confident and focus on making good contact with the ball, allowing his strength to do the rest.

This will be a high scoring game. Tulsa will find ways to exploit the aggressiveness of Navy’s defense and get its athletes in open space. Navy will capitalize on the Golden Hurricane’s lack of discipline on defense. In the end, the Midshipmen will come out with a huge road win, 42-31.