The Navy Midshipmen (4-1) pulled off the biggest upset of the college football weekend as they took down the No. 6 Houston Cougars (5-1) in Annapolis. There had been plenty of questions asked about this Navy team after the loss to Air Force, but with one victory the Mids are now in pole position in the AAC West and the team has its eyes on the championship game that Houston kept them out of with a defeat last season. Here is how the various units performed on Saturday.
PASSING OFFENSE: B
The best way to describe the Navy passing offense against Houston would be quietly effective. Will Worth was just 3 of 5 passing on the day, but two of his three completions went for Navy touchdowns as the Mids always seemed to pick just the right time to drop back and throw the ball. Worth may have passed for almost 300 yards less than opposing quarterback Greg Ward Jr., but he didn't make any mistakes in the driving rain and his work passing that ball in the third quarter is what set Navy up for this huge victory.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Houston came into this one allowing just 42 yards per game on the ground as they combine a stout defensive line with a lot of speed and sure tackling at the linebacker position. The Mids countered this with the best performance that the option offense has put up all year in conditions made for a ground and pound style approach. Worth complemented his passing prowess with a gritty 115 yards on the ground on 32 carries, eating up clock and making smart decisions as to when to pitch the ball. With Chris High leaving injured in the first quarter the Mids were not able to get as much as they would have wanted from the fullback spot, but 306 yards on the ground and an almost 10 minute time of possession advantage sparked the Navy victory.
PASSING DEFENSE: B-
Navy gave up far too many yards through the air, but the passing defense did come up with the play of the game on Houston's second drive of the second half. When Josiah Powell stepped in front of a slant pattern by a Houston receiver and ran 24 yards for the score it gave the Mids a 14 point lead that the offense was able to defend for the rest of the game. That one play (along with Powell's first-half pick of Ward) was enough to give the passing defense a decent grade despite Houston throwing for 359 yards and two touchdowns. The Cougars have a wide open, quick strike offense, so taking advantage of game changing plays is almost more important than trying to keep the yardage total down.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B
Houston was without starting running back Duke Catalon in this one as he is still recovering from a head injury. That meant that the bulk of the running out of the spread was handled by junior Dillon Birden, who navy contained for the most part. Birden had 51 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, but never really provided the compliment to Ward that Catalon has so far this season. Ward was also mostly contained on the ground as 33 f his 94 yards came on one run.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
This was a good week for the Mids special teams. Punter Alex Barta averaged almost 50 yards per punt without allowing a single return yard. Kicker Bennett Moehring was 3 for 3 on his field goal attempts and 5 for 5 on extra points. Most importantly slotback Dishan Romine had a monster day in the kick return game. After Navy was forced to punt on its first possession, the Cougars raced down the field and scored a touchdown on a drive that lasted less than two minutes. Navy needed something to spark them and Romine returned the resulting kickoff 85 yards to the Houston 12-yard line. Chris High scored on the next play and the game was tied with all the momentum Houston had gained removed from the equation.
Ken Niumatalolo had his players ready to go in this one. He coached the Mids to a victory without their main running threat and relying far more on quarterback runs that he would have liked. The gameplan was perfect for the conditions and without Daniel Gonzales in the linebacking corps he was able to take away the Houston rushing attack for the most part. Niumatalolo showed confidence in some players that struggled against Air Force and that man management paid off with this massive win.
OVERALL GRADE: A
The individual unit grades may not be perfect, but Navy was able to knock off the No. 6 team in the nation because they were determined not to let the loss last week to Air Force define the season. A team like Houston is always going to move the ball and score points, but Navy was able to run with the Cougars and played a much cleaner game. Navy had zero turnovers to three from Houston and the play that defined this game was the snap for a safety that made it a two-score game late in the fourth quarter. Navy had pressured Houston to the point a mistake like that happened, something Niumatalolo and his staff can rightly be proud of.