Navy fans have been here before. The Midshipmen start the season on a roll, win a few game, and have one loss that will irk them for the rest of the season (Memphis). Then, they match-up with an opponent they should probably beat (UConn), which would set them apart from the rest of country, but suddenly Murphy’s Law makes an appearance. For example, this could come in the form of blocks from the offensive line that have been there all season just completely disappear. Or, the team decided to give up a slew of uncharacteristic turnovers. Another common pitfall that fans have seen over the years from Navy is the defense getting really sloppy with their tackling and giving up a handful of big plays down field. Pick your poison, but a win that should have been, never happens, and becomes a speed bump in an otherwise special season. I am speaking of course, of the infamous “Trap Game”.
Now, here’s a little bit of storytime on some Navy Football history. We’re going way back to the year of 2016.
Navy fans will recall the 2016 season when the team, led by Will Worth, started off 5-1. They’re loss was to Air Force, but had a thrilling victory at home against the No. 6 Houston Cougars. The win propelled Navy into the Top 25 with another victory the following week against Memphis. The Midshipmen reached No. 22 before falling to South Florida during a Thursday night shootout down in Tampa. The Bulls were a great team that year, but a win was well within reason for Navy.
To make the comparison to this year a little more real, the Midshipmen went to face Notre Dame in their next game after this 2016 USF loss. We will pause here for now.
Fast-forward to 2019: Navy is 6-1 coming off an emotional win against a very underrated Tulane squad (sort of similar to the Houston win). The Midshipmen travel to Connecticut to face the struggling Huskies on Friday night. Notice, this is an weekday away game. UConn is 2-6 and are on their way out of the American Athletic Conference in a ball of glory. All indications point to an easy day on the road for the “Men of Ken”.
Currently, Navy is ranked at No. 27 in both the AP and Coaches’ polls. The spread is 27 points in favor of Navy, and the team’s next matchup is against rival, Notre Dame. Did we just travel back in time to 2016?
That all adds up to a standard issue “Trap Game” my friends. Don’t get me wrong, this Navy team has looked great most of the season and shown an incredible amount of grit. They have the special type of team chemistry that was missing from the last two seasons. All that said, Coach Niumatalolo would be the first person in the country to tell you his team isn’t able to take any opponent for granted, no matter how bad. I’m not here to scare you, or even suggest the Midshipmen are asleep at the wheel right now. Once again, if you have listened to anything Niumatalolo and the players have said this season, they are out for redemption, taking it one game at a time, and treating practice reps like game reps. Trap games are not uniquely a Navy problem; they can happen to even the best teams in the country.
How To Watch:
Time: 8:00 p.m. (EST) on Friday, Nov. 1st
Watch: ESPN2; Watch ESPN App
Listen: WNAV; or online here
Location: Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field; East Rutherford, CT
Rankings: Navy enters Week 10 on the Massey Rankings at 23; UConn is at 123
Betting Lines: Navy is favored by 27.5 points on the road.
The Huskies are led by the junior running back Kevin Mensah, who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, has scored nine rushing touchdowns, and has twice as many carries as the next player on the squad. UConn also boasts an above average wide-receiver in Cameron Ross, who has 40 catches on the season and averages nearly 12 yards per haul. The defense is giving up nearly 38 points and 430 yards per game. This defensive unit is led by junior linebacker Omar Fortt and redshirt junior defensive back Tyler Coyle. They have 57 and 49 total tackles respectively. Randy Edsall, who is in his second tenure at the school, is 80-96 in 15 seasons as the head coach and 6-26 over the last three years.
There have been flashes of brilliance in the offense all season long. Jamale Carothers had his coming out party last weekend against Tulane with four total touchdowns, three of which came in the first quarter. Malcolm Perry has been incredible. He’s demonstrated improvements in his ability to run the triple-option offense as well as passing the ball. Perry’s passer rating is 170, averaging nearly 12 yards per completion. The defense is playing better than they have in years and continue to be top 25 in almost every major defensive category. Linebackers Elan Nash and Diego Fagot, and safety, Evan Fochtman, are the anchors of this rejuvenated squad that will look to get back on track after a relatively lackluster performance (compared to their other five games this season) this week against the Huskies.
Keys to Success
Don’t get caught looking ahead to Notre Dame. We talked about the possibility of this becoming a “trap game”. So, as long as Navy stays focused, they should walk away with the “W”. The defense also needs to get back on track. If they play the way they did the first five games of the season, the Huskies should find themselves with an uncomfortable number of three-and-outs on the afternoon.
The triple-option will work out the kinks from last week and rack up another 400+ yards on the ground. We will get more of the Carothers show and Perry will send at least two defenders out with ankle injuries. The defense will give up a few field goals and a late touchdown, but they will also force plenty of three-and-outs and at least three turnovers.
Final Score: Navy 38 – UConn 13