Navy started the season in winning fashion with its 52-16 beatdown of Fordham on opening day. It was a big win for Navy after many in the offseason had wondered just how well the Mids would play with so many new starters in key positions. The team will now have to deal with a new challenge after the loss of starting quarterback Tago Smith, but Ken Niumatalolo has built a program over the last few years the should have the depth to continue to play at a high level.
Here is a look at the three keys for the Mids conference opener:
1) Ease Will Worth into the role
It is next man up for the Mids as the unfortunate injury suffered by Smith means that this is now a Will Worth led triple-option attack for the foreseeable future. Worth, a senior, has been in the system for years, so nothing about this will be new or uncomfortable for him. What Navy loses in dynamic athleticism from Smith, they gain in power running with Worth. Stepping into a game is never easy, but Worth looked good last weekend, running the triple-option just fine when he was thrust into the limelight. Against UConn, we need to see Worth control the offense and make few mistakes as there will be tougher tests ahead.
2) Big plays on defense
The Mids were able to crush Fordham because the offense was rolling. The defense, however, was just alright against the Rams. Linebacker Daniel Gonzales had a big game with 10 total tackles including one for a loss, but Fordham actually won the time of possession battle against the Mids. It was also worrying that an FCS team (even one with an outstanding backfield) was able to roll for 464 yards of total offense. Navy took away the scoring threat from Fordham and allowed just six points after the first quarter, but the defense needs to find a couple of playmakers that can get on the field and give the ball back to the offense.
3) Make Bryant Shirreffs uncomfortable
The Connecticut offense is best if quarterback Bryant Shirreffs is able to sit in the pocket and throw the ball. Against Maine last weekend though Sherriffs was running way too much. Shirreffs had 20 carries, and while he was able to pick up 95-yards and be the game's leading rusher, he also took some big hits. Those hits will only be amplified by the FBS level linebackers that Navy boasts. The UConn running game was pretty miserable outside of Shirreffs, so the Navy defensive linemen should be able to get pressure on the quarterback and get him running when he doesn't want to be.