Army-Navy: The Midshipmen's Perspective
YOU HAD ONE JOB! NAVY HOPES TO AVOID A FAMILIAR LAMENTATION THIS SATURDAY… AND THEREBY EXPERIENCE A FAMIILIAR FEELING OF JOY
The Navy Midshipmen have become accustomed to beating – and usually beating the tar out of – the Army Black Knights. It’s a feeling that will never grow old or become stale. The psychological challenge for a team in Navy’s position is to translate a burning desire – undiminished by past successes – into a laser-like focus on the field. The Midshipmen know they have the superior skill set on this field. Their offense has been rolling the past month after stalling in the middle of the season due to Keenan Reynolds’s lack of complete health. It’s not debatable – not at all: If both teams play at the same level, or if both teams play their very best, Navy will thump Army.
In other words, the Midshipmen will have to play poorly in order to lose. It’s just that simple.
No aspect of football represents poor play – or casts poor play in a severe and consequential light – more than turnovers. Whether this refers to a team trying to protect a lead (as Navy barely managed to do in its most recent contest against South Alabama), or to a ballcarrier in a lead-protecting, clock-draining situation, the refrain is the same in the end: YOU HAD ONE JOB!
Over and over again, Navy has lived on the edge in 2014, and it’s why a season that had “double-digit wins” written on it after the encouraging effort against Ohio State has turned into a campaign that will generate eight wins at best… and could still be a 6-7 stomach punch if things go wrong over the remainder of December. Navy obviously isn’t expecting to lose this Saturday, but the point is that it could… if that ONE JOB is not tended to with greater care.
Ball security, especially with respect to fumbles, has tormented Navy this season. The Ohio State game itself was winnable, but lapses at the worst possible times sank the Midshipmen. Against Notre Dame, more turnover problems plus a dropped pass by Reynolds on a brilliant trick play prevented Navy from pulling the upset. Catching the ball; holding onto the ball; making precise option pitches – these basic acts have not always been so basic or routine. This is why South Alabama almost forced overtime against Navy, a situation that would have put the Mids’ bowl bid at risk on Nov. 28.
You don’t need to identify any other game key on Saturday in Baltimore: If Navy hangs onto the ball, it will win, probably by a large margin. If the Midshipmen want to create drama for CBS television and hope for the West Pointers in attendance, they can put the ball on the turf.
It’s up to Navy to shape this game. We’ll see if the Midshipmen choose wisely after 11 games in which ballhandling has been anything but a source of security in Annapolis.
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