A week after falling to UConn, without star quarterback Greg Ward Jr., Houston players made big play after big play (Especially on offense) and the Mids just could not force a stop when required.
Here is a look back at how the three keys played out:
1) Rushing domination – Fail
The Navy offense on Friday was unlike anything we have seen from the Mids this season. Navy came into the game averaging almost 350 yards per game on the ground, but the Mids were only able to put up 147 yards against a stout and fast Houston defense. Keenan Reynolds was the leading rusher with 84 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, but no other Mid was able to surpass 27 yards on the ground. Houston played assignment sound defense and Navy could never get the running game to flow as Ken Niumatalolo would have liked.
Navy was also playing from behind for much of the game against a high powered offense. With that in mind the offense was much more pass happy than anything we are used to seeing. Reynolds was 13-of-18 for 312 yards and a touchdown, showing just how effective he can be as a passer when required. The inability to establish the run, and thus control the tempo of the game, will be one of the big frustrations after this one for Niumatalolo and his coaching staff.
2) Get a body on Elandon Roberts – Fail
Coming into the game Navy knew that Elandon Roberts was going to be the defender that had to be neutralized if the Mids were going to have a shot at winning. Instead Roberts played up even higher than his usual level, flying around the field and making big play after big play for the Houston defense. Roberts had seven tackles on the day, four less than his average for the season, but the type of tackles he made killed drive after drive for the Mids. Roberts finished with 2.5 sacks (for 22 yards) and 4.5 tackles for a loss (for 25 yards). Those plays always seemed to come as the Mids were getting back into the game, killing Navy’s momentum and providing a boost for his own team. On this performance alone it is easy to see why Roberts has the interest of NFL scouts.
3) Prove this Navy defense is for real – Fail
This was just a weird game as it seemed like all night long the Mids were one step away from making a big defensive play that would change the course of the game. As it was though the improved Navy defense gave up 232 yards on the ground and 337 yards through the air to a team that admittedly has one of the best offensive units in the country. The biggest problem, however, was not necessarily the yards given up, it was when Houston was able to pick up these yards. On first and second down the Mids generally held their own, but on third down Ward and his receivers tore up the Mids defense. Houston was 16-for-19 on third down and converted all of their fourth down chances. These were not all short yardage situations either as a number of times Navy would have Ward running for his life on third and long only to see him either escape for a first down or complete a miracle pass to one of his wide receivers.