Three Keys Navy vs Western Kentucky

This is a strangely tough part of the schedule for Navy. After Rutgers stymied the option while piling up the rushing yards a week ago, the Mids now get to face the one team who were able to slow them down a year ago in Western Kentucky.

Though Navy was without Keenan Reynolds last year, the schemes the Hilltoppers were using would have given even the star quarterback troubles. Here is a look ahead at the three keys to this weekend’s game.

1) Average more than four yards per carry

Last week against Rutgers the Mids were only able to put up 171 yards though their vaunted ground game. Even worse than this low total was the fact that Navy only averaged four yards per carry. In this rush centered offense that amount is just not good enough. The biggest disappointment was the Keenan Reynolds was finding himself stuffed and harassed every time he tried to run the ball, finishing with just 25 yards on 19 carries.

If the Mids are to get back to winning ways then the rushing onslaught has to be better. In the corresponding fixture a year ago the Mids we held to just 86 yards rushing as the Hilltoppers schemed their way to a victory. With Reynolds hopefully completing the game, last year John Hendrick replaced the injured starter in the first quarter, hopefully pushing that yards per carry total north of five should be possible.

2) Slow down the Western Kentucky machine

It might not be immediately obvious due to the name on the front of the jersey’s, but the 1-2 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are statistically among the best offenses in the country. They rank in the top ten in passing offense (second), total offense (third), scoring offense (ninth) and third-down efficiency (third). This could all make for a very long day for a Mids defense which has not shown much ability to stop opponents through four games this season.

The Hilltoppers have scored 59 points (win over Bowling Green), 34 points (loss to Illinois), and 47 points (loss to Middle Tennessee in three overtimes). The way to counter such an explosive offense is to control ball with the option and reduce the possessions which WKU have during the game. The defense though has to step up and find a way to allow much less yardage than the 435 Rutgers put up. A turnover of two would be optimal here.

3) Better kicking from Nick Sloan

This is a repeat of last week, but it is still very relevant considering Navy went from a possible 10-0 lead to a 7-7 tie on the back of a Nick Sloan miss against Rutgers. Navy kicker Nick Sloan is 3-for-6 on field goals in 2014. You cannot win games against the better teams on your schedule with a kicker converting just 50 percent of the time. Any missed field goal is the equivalent of a turnover and in some ways is worse because the momentum swing which comes with seeing points get thrown away can be devastating. A Sloan miss cost Navy big time in the Ohio State game (and now the Scarlet Knights game too). No more misses in crucial situations would be ideal.

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