Despite much doubt and uncertainty, we have a college football season, and week one candidate to a close with a bang.
The BYU Cougars traveled to Annapolis on Monday to take on the Navy Midshipmen. Although there were no fans or students in the stands, the Football Gods blessed the game with a perfect September night.
And while the Midshipmen were undoubtedly grateful to be on the field, they played far from their best. The Mids endured the worst loss of the Ken Niumatalolo era, falling 55-3.
The game didn’t start off as Navy envisioned. Navy’s first two possessions resulted in three-and-outs while BYU scored rushing touchdowns on both of theirs. Shortly after the second quarter started, the Cougars improved their lead to 21-0 and headed into halftime winning, 31-0.
The second half was much of the same. The BYU Cougars quickly extended their lead while Navy’s struggles continued. Through the end of the fourth quarter, the Cougars continued to score with ease and Navy’s offense didn’t get much better. Navy finished the game with only 149 total yards while their defense gave up 580 yards, resulting in the lopsided loss.
BYU’s Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa paved the way for the Cougars’ big victory, combining for 212 rushing yards and four scores on 24 carries. Myles Fells has the most successful rushing day for Navy, covering 55 yards on just three carries.
Navigating the COVID-19 Waters
One could easily attribute Navy’s slow start to the fact that Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo elected to forgo pretty much all contact in their preseason practices.
Ken Niumatalolo: “That game was 1,000% my fault. We weren’t prepared... There’s nobody to blame but myself... I chose to block bags and tackle donuts. It’s all my fault. I didn’t have us prepared. That’s the bottom line.”— Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch) September 8, 2020
We can assume that Coach Niumatalolo’s decision was a cautionary measure in an effort to minimize risk of players getting COVID-19. And although this decision definitely put the team at a disadvantage headed into the match, this was exactly what you would expect from Coach Niumatalolo. There’s no doubt that Niumatalolo always has his player’s best interest in mind and that’s exactly why he is beloved by his players.
While an under-prepared Navy team is tough to watch, the safety of the Midshipmen, and the fact that we are able to have any football are really the top two priorities.
Dalen Morris started the game at quarterback for the Midshipmen, but early in the third quarter, Navy made a change and Perry Olsen took over the offense. His first drive under center was better than all the previous, but resulted in a failed fourth down attempt in the red zone that presumably would have been a field goal had Navy not been losing so badly. The opportunities that Morris had over the past few seasons were less than impressive. Conversely, when Olsen got his few chances last year, he showed poise and confidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if the quarterback competition opens back up and Olsen is given a chance to earn the starting job.
The Midshipmen finished the 2019 season with an incredible defensive performance against Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. However, Navy’s defense against BYU was abysmal. An optimist would point to the lack of contact and tackling in practices. A pessimist would reference the defensive losses to the transfer portal and losing defensive coach, Brian Norwood, to UCLA. Only time will tell how how significant the defensive issues are.
There are two small bright spots heading into a new week. Firstly, this game is over and there’s nobody on the schedule for next week. All jokes aside, it’s pretty obvious that Navy could use a bye week to recover and learn from this game.
Secondly, Bijan Nicols absolutely crushed his 48-yard field goal attempt that would have been good from 60 yards out.
The Midshipmen start the season 0-1. However, there’s no reason for alarm, as it is a long season (hopefully). Further, this game will have no impact on their standing in the AAC, or their pursuit of the C.I.C. We will have a much better sense of this team after they play Tulane in two weeks.