Navy Opponent Preview: Tulane

Coming off of the bye week Navy gets straight back into conference play as the Mids take on the Tulane Green Wave. This is the first of a run of AAC games and Navy will be looking to set down a marker by beating the team finished to pick one spot below them in the AAC West.

2014 Record: 3-9 (2-6 The American) – No Bowl game.

Series Record: Navy trails 11-7-1 in a series which dates back to a first meeting in 1949, in a game which finished in a 21-21 tie. The schools then met almost yearly between 1991 and 2005, each winning seven and losing seven of the games.

Last Meeting: In 2005 Navy ran all over an overmatched Tulane team. The Mids rushed for a season-high 418 yards, while the Green Wave committed four turnovers a blowout 49-21 Navy win. There was some sympathy for Tulane, however, as the school was displaced that year by Hurricane Katrina. The result was that Tulane was having to practice at Louisiana Tech and that this game was Tulane’s eighth in eight different stadiums in as many weeks.

Head Coach: Curtis Johnson (photo above) is entering his fourth season as the Green Wave head coach with a 12-25 (.324) win/loss record. This is the first head coaching job Johnson has had at any level, having gone from being a high school wide receivers coach in 1984, to holding that same position with the New Orleans Saints in 2006.

Spring News: The Green Wave had a successful spring this year with players being praised for their playbook retention, intensity and discipline throughout the practices. There were a number of underclassmen who stepped up and put themselves in the reckoning for some of the open starting positions, and others who put more pressure on the incumbent starters than projected headed into camp.

Projected Strengths: Tulane is loaded at running back with three legitimate starting options who will be looking to find playing time throughout the season. Sherman Badie (688 yards, 5.7 per carry) is an explosive playmaker who is a threat to go the distance every time he finds a seam, Lazedrick Thompson (533 yards, four touchdowns) brings plenty of power to the table, while Dontrell Hilliard is one of the better backs in the entire conference. If the line can open up holes, the backs will move the football.

The defense as a whole will be improved in 2013 with a number of key contributors back from a unit which underperformed last fall. Sophomore cornerback Parry Nickerson was a revelation, outplaying fellow corner Lorenzo Doss who still played well enough to declare early for the NFL Draft. Nickerson had 51 tackles and led the team with six interceptions. The other big defensive playmaker is undersized middle linebacker Nico Marley who had 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2014.

Projected Weaknesses: Sophomore quarterback Tanner Lee is the unquestioned start on this team, but he will have to show better accuracy to go along with his cannon of an arm if the Green Wave are to be better this season. The Green Wave ranked 107th in total offense and 121st in points last year, and the team actually got worse as the season went on. Lee threw 14 interceptions to just 12 touchdown passes numbers which have to change if Tulane is to be better.

The Green Wave had some of the worst kicking performances in the country a year ago and there is no obvious reason that the place kicking in particular will be any better this time around. Walk-on Trevor Simms has a cannon for a leg, but he is not accurate. Sophomore Andrew DiRocco missed a game winning 21-yard field goal in the opener and never got back on track. All in all the Green Wave missed half of their 16 field goals last year.

Prediction: If Navy is to mount any challenge in the AAC in their first year in the conference then this is simply a must win game. Tulane should be better, but they are still a class or two below the Mids and Johnson tries to improve their recruiting and on field play. The running backs with cause Navy problems, but it is hard to see the Tulane defense stopping the option on a consistent basis. Navy will win this game by at least two touchdowns.

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