The Navy Midshipmen (2-0) did just enough to hold on against UConn (1-1) in the team's second game of the season on Saturday. It was a game Navy should have won comfortably after taking a 21-0 lead, but mistakes and poor execution almost cost the Midshipmen before a thrilling goal-line stand preserved the victory. Here is a look at the report card.
PASSING OFFENSE: B-
The Navy passing offense is going to be better under Will Worth because he is just a better pure thrower of the ball than Tago Smith. With that in mind, plus some of the limitations Worth has running the ball, Navy is likely to air it out a little more. This is exactly what happened on Saturday as Worth was 6-of-8 through the air for 130 yards. In Jamir Tillman, the Mids have a receiver who is not just on the field to block, but who can also make plays in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops as the season progresses.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C
Navy will have worse days than this running the ball in 2016, but this was pretty bad. UConn has plenty of size inside and the Mids offensive line was just unable to get any consistent push to develop the fullback runs that the option so relies on. That is why Chris High was only able to pick up 44 yards after a dominating performance last week. Dishan Romine was very good and remarkably consistent with the ball for a slot back, but the stuff on 4th and 1 on the goal line in the second quarter is an ominous sign.
PASSING DEFENSE: C-
If there is one area that needs to get better quickly for Navy it is the passing defense. After being somewhat torched by Fordham on opening day the Mids were hoping for a rebound against a UConn passing attack that scares no one. Instead, Huskies quarterback Bryan Sherriffs was almost perfect, going 23-of-26 through the air for 239 yards and a touchdown. Sherriffs was able to four different targets for gains of 24 yards or more, with Noel Thomas catching 11 balls for 116 yards and a score. With big passing offenses coming up on the schedule it is important Navy corrects some of the basic mistakes and scheme issues in the secondary.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B
The passing defense may be bad, but the rushing defense once again stood up and is looking like the strength on that side of the ball. UConn was only able to rush for 2.6 yards per carry, despite having 34 rushing attempts. The fumble touchdown after Navy was stopped on 4th and goal by Alohi Gilman was a huge momentum play, while the final defensive stop where Ron Johnson was stood up, then driven back on the Navy goal line was a thing of beauty.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Some good things and some bad things from the special teams mean an average grade is in order. The blocked 32-yard field goal attempt from Bennett Moehring was a big play in terms of momentum as Navy would have been up 24-0 if he had kicked it and the game would have been over. On the plus side, the return game was excellent, especially on punt returns where Calvin Cass Jr. had a crucial 26-yard return to the UConn 17-yard line to set up Navy's winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It wasn't Ken Niumatalolo's best game day coaching job by a long shot, but in the end, it was a little trick the coaches had taught the players that sealed the game. Bob Diaco called the final run play to Johnson with 17 seconds remaining and no timeouts (after having taken one the play before inexplicably with a stopped clock). The theory was even a run would have allowed for another play or two, but the Navy defenders stood Johnson up wasting five seconds, then all piled on the running back until the officials peeled them off. It was a delaying tactic of epic proportions, but it works as nothing was called and the Mids didn't have to face another play.
OVERALL GRADE: C
On a good day for Navy, this wouldn't have been close. The Mids should have been 24-0 up at half time and the game should have been put away when Navy got the ball back to start the second half. instead some poor execution late in the first half and at the beginning of the second gave a plucky UConn team a route back into the game. In the end Navy survived more than thrived and it is a lesson that no game is won at this level no matter what the score currently is.