Navy Notes: Sail A Shorter Distance
SAILING WITH THE WIND: HOW NAVY CAN IMPROVE ITS ODDS IN 2013
Last season, Navy's football team was sailing against the wind in a very real way. The Midshipmen did not enjoy great field position, at least in this respect: Ken Niumatalolo's team started just 10 drives on the opponent's side of the field. That total was one of the lowest in all of major college football. Against teams such as Notre Dame and Penn State, it made sense that the Midshipmen were not able to flip the field or get turnovers in plus territory. It made sense that Navy could not pin good teams deep and get the quick three-and-out which could lead to a drive start at or near the opponent's 40. However, Navy played teams such as Florida Atlantic and Texas State and Central Michigan in 2012. The inability of the Midshipmen to gain plus-territory drive starts in those contests shows that there's ample room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball. It's true that Navy's offense should be better this season with Keenan Reynolds owning another year of experience. However, shorter fields – especially against Indiana in the season opener – could make the difference between a one-possession loss and a one-possession win.
Navy scored just 14 points on its 10 plus-territory drives last season, putting the Mids below every power conference team, every other independent, and most of the other schools in the four smaller FBS conferences (the Sun Belt, MAC, Conference USA, and the now-defunct WAC). Just imagine what shorter fields can and will do for this team in 2013. This team barely crossed the finish line in the second half of the season, slogging out tight wins against inferior teams such as the ones mentioned above (Florida Atlantic and Texas State). Navy very nearly lost to Army because field position regularly cut against the Men of Ken on that afternoon in Philadelphia. The Midshipmen's ability to play through negative game trends is what carried them to the winner's circle, with Reynolds showing a level of poise beyond his years at quarterback on that 80-yard drive which will live forever in Annapolis.
This season, though, Navy needs to aspire to turn 80-yard drives into 40-yard drives, to reduce the burden on Reynolds over the course of the season. Getting defensive stops in your own red zone is important, but getting stops in your opponent's red zone matters, too. With better situational performances from its defense, Navy can turn a low-output statistic into a friend in 2013. Success would be hard – if not impossible – to avoid.
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