Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Three Keys – Navy vs Tulane

Navy returns to conference play on Saturday to face the Tulane Green Wave. The Mids (4-1, 2-0 AAC) are still unbeaten in the history of conference play and this game is one that needs to be won to keep Navy in the running in what is a loaded looking conference all of a sudden.

Tulane (2-4, 1-2 AAC) is in the middle of a brutal stretch of games against the four best teams in the league and Navy needs to follow the lead of Temple and Houston and put this game away early.

Here is a look at the three keys to victory over the Green Wave:

1) Win the battle of the quarterbacks

Both Keenan Reynolds and Tanner Lee were doubts entering this week with a leg injury and a concussion evaluation respectively causing their coaches headaches. Both have been cleared to play and as such the game becomes much more of a contest. Reynolds has been held out of the end zone in each of the last two games, the first time in his career this has happened at Navy, and he will be looking to get back into the flow of the offense and improve on his 73 career touchdowns. Lee is more of a passer than a runner, but he is vulnerable to pressure and has been sacked 15 times through five games this year. If Navy can get pressure on Lee with the defensive line then good things will happen in the pass rushing game.

2) Establish dominance in the run game

The Navy triple option has been effective ever since Reynolds took the reins, but this season has been the best version of this attack since Ken Niumatalolo took charge. Navy is third in the country in rushing at 335.4 yards per game, with a trio of outstanding fullbacks, a stable of quick slot backs and, of course, Reynolds running the show from under center. If Navy can get the big bodies like Chris Swain and especially Quentin Ezell going then it is going to be a long day for the Tulane defensive tackles and inside linebackers. Ezell in particular was impressive against Notre Dame as the quickness of his feet seem to defy the fact that he is a 253 pound monster.

3) Limit turnovers

If Navy plays clean football the Mids should win this game. The only way Tulane will be in the contest is if Navy is uncharacteristically sloppy and turns over the ball. The bye week is an interesting factor here as the Mids have had time to rest recover. Sometimes, however, all that resting is not for the best and the Navy players will have to be careful, especially early on, that there is no ring rust that the Green Wave can take advantage of. Expect the first couple of series to be very basic and very vanilla in order to let Reynolds and the offense settle back into their groove. Niumatalolo is 19-14 all time with the Mids when he has more than one week to prepare for an opponent so the coach historically knowns how to get his team in the right frame of mind to pull out a victory. 

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