Navy Football 2013 Stats Review: What A Rush

You bring to the dance what brung ya... and when Navy used its best dance step, it regularly succeeded. Maximizing strengths is a core aspect of an upper-tier football team. Navy's ability to translate rushing yards into victories is precisely why this team went 8-4 in FBS games.


REPLICATING SUCCESS

It is both a luxury and a constant challenge for a successful head coach: When your team succeeds, season after season, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, you have to sell your players on the basics, which – knowing how imperfect 19- and 20-year-olds can be – can come across as a less-than-exciting task, one that might not inspire a large roster of players trying to make their mark on Annapolis football. Obviously, Ken Niumatalolo has been able to get the attention of his players, year after year and offseason after offseason. Yet, past glories and achievements don't remove the need to connect with this group of players, this collection of personalities, this locker room in the context of the 2014 offseason.

Greatness in team sports is found in many ways. One central manifestation of consistently excellent achievement is simply the ability to perform the same actions over and over again with tremendous precision, care, and attention to detail. Repeating the same good habits – performing the same bread-and-butter plays in an enduringly crisp and polished manner – reveals a really good team and separates it from an average team, which can't produce the same gleaming results on each possession, in each quarter, on each Saturday afternoon. This is not sexy or stimulating, but it is the central stuff of winning football. Coaches get their players to adhere to good habits, to the extent that gameday performances involve very few missteps. This is what Navy did last year, and the Midshipmen's track record with respect to rushing yards helps illustrate the larger point.

In a point that needs no explanation whatsoever, Navy is a run-first team. Therefore, it's quite impressive that Navy was able to outrush opponents in 11 of 12 FBS games last season (including the Armed Forces Bowl). Establishing a rushing advantage so repeatedly is part of what made 2013 a banner year for the Midshipmen. However, once Navy established its advantage on the ground, did it translate that statistical edge into the ultimate result, a gameday win?

Yes.

Navy went 8-3 in those 11 FBS games with a rushing advantage. The Midshipmen, as mentioned last week, did not pass the ball all that well. You will not be surprised to find that Navy was outpassed in all 12 FBS games last season. Yet, Navy's advantage in its point of strength (rushing) overwhelmed its comparative impotence in an area of weakness (passing). Navy's 8-3 record when winning the ground battle was accompanied by an 8-4 record when losing the raw numerical competition in the passing game. Navy's strength was stronger than its weakness. Its running game was so smooth and fluid, so fine-tuned and able to replicate high-level performances every week, that the team thrived as a result.

Niumatalolo and the rest of the coaching staff don't have a complicated message to send to their players. They just have to make sure, as is usually the case, that the simple message resonates on a deep level with every young man in the locker room.

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