Navy Football 2013 In Review: Plus-Territory
STEPPING OUT, STEPPING UP, STEPPING IN
The Navy football team did so many things better in 2013 than in 2012. One of them was gaining more drive starts on the opponent's side of the field. In 2012, Navy gained 10 such possessions, and that figure included FCS games and any possessions at the end of a game with a lead. Adjusted for FBS games only and without "endgame/kneel-down" possessions, Navy still improved upon that 2012 stat, racking up 14 possessions in plus-territory. The Midshipmen got 11 possessions from the 50 to their opponents' 36-yard line. They collected three from the 35 to the 21. They didn't have a red-zone possession. (None of these stats include overtimes, which the San Jose State game featured.)
Navy has just the kind of offense that is tailored to the long drive, but the Midshipmen, going up against physically superior teams on some occasions and facing powerful offense on others, need equation-changing plays to make their work easier. Navy's lack of brute strength or high-octane vertical pass plays will limit the Midshipmen's options at times. The ability to score a touchdown based on four first downs instead of seven, and two third-down conversions instead of five, won't always be needed during the course of a season… but those measures of relief will need to come into the picture at some points along the way. Not every drive or every score must be a burden for Ken Niumatalolo's offense. Plus-territory starts deserve more attention, and in 2013, they helped this team a little more than last year.
The next challenge for the Midshipmen – and it's part of why the coming season is so filled with hope – is that Navy can make an increase of more than four possessions, from 10 to 14. The Midshipmen, if they can reach 20 possessions starting in plus-territory, might be able to hit the 10-win mark. It's something the coaching staff would do well to talk about before the kickoff of the 2014 campaign becomes a present-tense moment.
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