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Preview, How to Watch: Navy Midshipmen visit the Houston Cougars

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The Navy Midshipmen look to capture their first win of the 2021 season against the Houston Cougars.

NCAA Football: Houston at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Well, 0-2 definitely is not the ideal way to start off the season. The Navy Midshipmen are coming off a bye week, which was preceded by a pair of *bad* losses. In Week One, Navy was blown out by Marshall, 49-7, on their home turf. That was followed up by a 23-3 loss to one of their rival Service Academies, Air Force. These two losses bring Navy’s losing streak to seven games, which dates back to late-October of 2020.

That’s not great.

But!

All hope is not lost. While in years past I have been criticized for being too pessimistic regarding Navy football, this year might be the opposite. The Midshipmen are still looking to find their identity and find their key personnel (mostly at the quarterback position). However, the defense improved against Air Force. And, at times, the offense does put a play or two together to develop some semblance of a drive. Finishing drives and capitalizing on opponents mistakes — and penalties and turnovers — are really what separates this year’s team from teams in the past. Realistically, we can expect the penalties and turnovers to be rapidly reduced due to the discipline of the program. And, there appears to be a new offensive play-caller on the sidelines, which may lead to more offensive production.

Houston Preview

Frankly, the Navy offense is the biggest question mark heading into their contest against the Cougars. After the firing then re-hiring (as only Quarterbacks Coach) of former offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper, there remains grave uncertainty as to how the offense will perform. Against Air Force, Navy only managed a total of 68 yards on offense. It should be expected that head coach Ken Niumatalolo will significantly be more involved in the offensive play calling this week — if not completely in control.

The Houston defense allowed 38 points to Texas Tech in Week One, but has since held their opponents to an average of 3.5 points per game. While these last two games were not necessarily against the toughest opponents (Rice and Gambling State), the Navy Midshipmen have not proven they are a threatening offense either. We would normally expect that Navy will be able to find the end-zone a few times against this caliber of defense. But, once again, there are tons of uncertainty.

From a defensive perspective, Navy will have its hands full, just as they always do when taking on Houston. The Cougars have averaged just over 36 points per game in their first three weeks. Houston is led by junior quarterback Clayton Tune, who remains questionable for this weekend for undisclosed reasons. However, his backup Ike Ogbogu, is more than capable of running this dynamic offense. The primary receiving targets are Nathaniel Dell and Christian Trahan.

The Navy defense will need to overcome the challenges of playing against this high-functioning offense on their home field. Stopping the run will be key. Once that happens, the defensive ends and blitzing linebackers will need to get pressure on whichever quarterback in under center in order to minimize the potential for big plays. There is no doubt Navy is facing the toughest team its encountered all season. This game won’t be an easy one.

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

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday, Sept. 25 — 7 p.m. EST
  • Where: Houston, Texas — TDECU Stadium
  • TV: Tiffany Green and Hutson Mason will have the call on ESPNU. WATCH HERE
  • Odds: Most books have Houston favored by 19.5 points with the over-under set around 48.5 points.