The Navy Midshipmen (2-0) snuck past UConn on Saturday and now must face a Tulane (1-1) team that brings a different set of challenges. This is the conference opener for the Green Wave who will bring a very different personnel group,a and very different style to the squad the Mids defeated 31-14 last season.
Season so far
Tulane started the 2016 season with a whimper, losing their opener at Wake Forest by a 7-3 score in a game that set offensive football back a couple of decades. New head coach Willie Fritz is seen as an offensive-minded head coach, so immediately questions were being asked about Fritz and his fit at Tulane.
Those questions were pushed away last weekend in the home opener for the Green Wave against Southern. While it is worth nothing that Southern is an FCS team, you cannot ignore the fact that the Green Wave scored 66 points, blowing out their opponent 66-21. Fritz was a triple-option guy at Georgia Southern and after going away from those principles in the Wake Forest loss he embraced his past in a big way for Tulane's first win. Fritz called just six passing plays for his quarterback as Tulane ran the ball all game long.
Injuries and Suspensions
The Green Wave has two players listed on the injury report and of those two, one is expected to play. True freshman quarterback Johnathan Brantley opened the season third on the depth chart, but his electrifying play against Southern, where he rushed for 119 yards and controlled the pace of the option, has seen him vault to the front of the quarterbacking line. Former starter Glenn Cuiellette will see some playing time, especially if Brantley has issues with a couple of knocks he has taken so far this season.
The other injury the Green Wave is dealing with is one that has been known for a while. Wide receiver Andrew Hicks tore his ACL at the beginning os spring practice, leaving Tulane short at the position even as we head into the third week of the season. This lack of ability out wide is another reason Fritz is pushing the option to be the feature set for Tulane.
Navy was number two in the nation in rushing in 2015 with Keenan Reynolds running the show. The only school to beat the Mids was Georgia Southern under head coach Willie Fritz. Against Southern, Tulane rushed the ball 57 times for 437 yards at an average of 7.7 yards per carry with seven touchdowns. Navy travels to New Orleans to take on a spread option offense that is very different to the scheme the Mids use, but that can be just as effective.
So far in 2016 Navy has had much more trouble defending the pass than the run. Brantley is not going to beat Navy through the air, but the blocking principles of the option will be a big challenge for the Mids defenders to learn in less than a week. Navy has to be disciplined and assignment sound to stop this attack.