Friday night proved to be an exercise in frustration for Navy as one of the worst quarter performances the Mids have seen under Ken Niumatalolo created a hole that the Mids just couldn't dig themselves out of. In truth, the game was pretty much decided by halftime, but the never say die attitude of Navy meant that this was a contest that could have come down to the final play had some of the late game plays (two-point conversion attempts mainly) fallen in the Mids favor.
Here is a look back at how the three keys played out:
1) Keep Will Worth hot - Push
South Florida native Will Worth came into his own personal homecoming game having torched Memphis for 201 yards and three touchdowns rushing last time out. In this game, however, Worth, like the rest of the Navy offense was ineffective for two key first quarter drives that left Navy with a mountain to climb based on what the USF offense was doing when they had the ball. The biggest play of the entire game occurred on the Mids first drive with the Mids facing 4th-and-1 at their own 49-yard line. This is a down where coach Ken Niumatalolo will go for it more often than not, but Worth was stopped for a loss of two yards and USF got the ball back up 7-0. Seven plays later it was 14-0 and Navy never recovered.
Worth's stat line looks impressive. He rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns while passing for 299 yards and another score. On this day though much of that came with the game already out of reach.
2) Run the ball all day - Push
This is another area where the results are clouded by the contest. Navy went for 428 yards against South Florida last season and the Bulls came into this ranking 111th in the country in adjusted rushing defense. The key here though is that as the team was facing the option USF shifted from its regular 4-2-5 scheme to a 46 or Bear defensive front. By the time the Mids had figured out how to run against this formation the Gulf Coast school was well on its way to a 28-0 lead.
When the option did get going Navy was able to move the ball well. Worth lead all Navy rushers with his 128 yards and the team rushed for 317 on the ground with six touchdowns. Inside runs proved difficult all game long with the excellent linebacker Auggie Sanchez plugging the middle for the Bulls. Outside runs to the likes of Calvin Cass (31 yards) and Toneo Gulley (60 yards) were much more productive.
3) Stop Quinton Flowers - Fail
This key was a massive fail and is the main reason why the Mids are now 5-2 instead of 6-1. Quinton Flowers is a special athlete and his dual-threat ability would see him be a star at any school in the nation. Navy came into the game knowing that stopping Flowers on the ground, especially on third down, was going vitally important. Flowers then led the Bulls to successfully convert their first 12 third down attempts of the game, often on drive extending scrambles of the kind that drives defensive coordinators crazy. On the day Flowers rushed 13 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which was a 63-yard scamper that put USF up 7-0 and set the tone for the game.