Navy Football: 2013 Statistical Review

Statistics can and do tell lies, but if you sort through the statistical profile of the 2013 Navy football team, you'll encounter a case study in which the numbers didn't perjure themselves. This should be seen as good news for coach Ken Niumatalolo, who can tell his players that the tried-and-true realities of football remain as trustworthy as they've ever been.


FIRST THINGS: NAVY'S FIRST-DOWN TRACK RECORD

It's true that the big-play passing game has at times been part of Navy's identity on offense. Moreover, it's not as though it completely went away in 2013. Keenan Reynolds completed at least one pass of 26 yards or longer in six straight games last season (Duke on Oct. 12 through South Alabama on Nov. 16). Yet, Navy topped 100 passing yards only twice last season. Getting more than one big downfield strike per game proved to be challenging for Navy's offense. Given this reality, Navy had to do more with the running game, squeezing every drop of meaningful production from the triple option. It's not as though everything clicked when this team decided to put the ball in the air.

How did the Midshipmen do? More will be said on this in time, but the short answer is that Navy succeeded handsomely.

You would expect Navy to be able to flourish when its offense, anchored to the ground, can pound out more first downs than an opponent. Do the stats from 2013 fundamentally validate or disprove this expectation? They validate it, all right. In Navy's 12 FBS games (including the Armed Forces Bowl win over Middle Tennessee), the Midshipmen gained more first downs than the opponent in seven games. Navy's record in those games was 5-2. The Men of Ken were a much more modest 3-2 in the five games in which they did not collect more first downs than their gameday foe.

This first-down breakdown tells two stories (if not more): For one thing, being able to control the ball is just as important (and indicative of results) as you already thought it was. Navy can rely on this statistic as a core measurement of how well its offense is performing. (It's hardly the sole measurement, but one of a few primary ones.) The second story to emerge from this examination is that Navy has to find a way to get to nine or more games in which it wins the first-down battle. Seven is an acceptable total, but if the Midshipmen can improve upon it in 2014, they have a very good chance of sustaining everything they attained last season… and then some.

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