CIC Improvement Series, Part II: Navy

Navy won each of its Commander-In-Chief's Trophy games in 2012. That doesn't mean the Midshipmen lack areas in which they need to improve against the Black Knights and the Falcons.


For a while the Commander-In-Chief games could have just as easily been called the Navy Invitational. Seven straight titles from 2003 through 2009 over its brother academies left Navy with all the bragging rights it ever could have wanted. After watching Air Force win back-to-back Commander-In-Chief's Trophy championships, it felt so good for the Midshipmen to retake what had been theirs for so long.

Nonetheless, the 2012 CIC Trophy didn't come easily for the Midshipmen, who needed overtime to get by Air Force (including a fumble recovery for their touchdown) and a comeback combined with loose ballhandling from Army to seal the deal in the regular season finale.

One thing that jumps out right away for Navy to improve on in 2013 in its matchups with the service academies is third-down offense. The Midshipmen were a combined 8 of 24 on third down in the two games and under 50 percent in each. For a team that averaged over five yards per carry, it's alarming: The Midshipmen ranked 57th nationally on third down, over 30 spots behind each of the other two service academies.

Given the time-consuming nature of the triple-option offense when it's moving the chains, it's essentially a double whammy for the defense: The offense isn't moving the chains against an opponent that runs the same time-draining style of offense. Navy was able to win the time of possession battle in each game, amazingly enough, but it was outgained by over 120 yards by each opponent. It helped that Navy was a +2 in turnover differential (versus Army) and +3 (versus Air Force), but can you count on forcing turnovers all the time when your offense isn't moving? It's not a long-term recipe for success.

In games that rarely turn into high-scoring, quick-strike shootouts, ball control and time of possession are two keys each academy program aims to establish (and win) going into any matchup with the others. If Navy isn't converting third-down opportunities, the likelihood of repeating as Commander-In-Chief champions becomes more remote. That's the area in which the Midshipmen have to get better against Army and Air Force this autumn.

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