With on potential trophy out of reach after Air Force claimed the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy with their win over Army, the Mids will go chasing another as the AAC West title is within their reach. Achieving that goal requires Navy to win on Saturday against a Tulsa squad that is tied with the Mids for the division lead as both have 4-1 conference records.
Here are the three keys to beating the Golden Hurricane:
1) Make Tulsa one dimensional
The Golden Hurricane offense may well be the best in the nation under second-year head coach Philip Montgomery who brought principles of the Houston and Baylor offenses that worked so well over the last decade with him to Oklahoma. The result of that is that Tulsa leads the American in total offense and lies second in scoring offense with 512 yards and 42.4 points per game respectively.
The way Tulsa has done this is by being stunningly balanced when they have the ball. The Golden Hurricane are averaging 259 yards passing and 253 yards rushing a game, keeping defenses on their toes behind the strong passing of quarterback Dane Evans and the ground attack led by James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer. Navy will not be able to stop Tulsa, but if the Mids can make either aspect of the offense a non-factor then they can certainly slow them down.
2) Control the ball
The way the second half unfolded last weekend against Notre Dame was the ultimate dream for an option football coach like Ken Niumatalolo. Navy achieved first down after first down on their final two drives of the game and kept the ball away from Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer and the explosive Fighting Irish offense. Of their six possessions the Irish scored five times, but Navy was able to win the game by simply not giving up the ball. Tulsa is just as explosive as Notre Dame, so the game plan of rushing the ball and extending drives by converting third downs has to be the same. The fewer possessions Tulsa has, the fewer points they can score.
3) Score a non-offensive touchdown
With Tulsa likely to pile up the points it is going to be up to Navy to keep up. One of the best ways to do so, and a great way to shift momentum in a game, is to score a touchdown on either defense or special teams. Alabama is the king of this category as their ball-hawking defenders do an excellent job of taking the ball away from the other team and immediately turning that change of possession into points.
Last year against Tulsa the Mids had a 90-yard kickoff return score from slotback Dishan Romine as they pounded the Golden Hurricane 44-21 at Skelly Field in Oklahoma. The defense has not been good at forcing turnovers this season, so maybe it will be a play in the kick or punt return game that fulfills this key. At the very least the Mids would benefit from some short fields if the return game is working as intended.