Based on the result, one can safely say that in another week of hurricanes, Navy brought its own high-force storm to the battle against Tulsa. In the end, Tulsa might have a claim to the official Golden Hurricane nickname, but Navy's performance was truly golden.
With hard-hitting defense and a sharply jacked-up level of intensity, Navy simply smothered Tulsa from the get-go. No sloppy first-half starts, no first-half deficits, no pressure on a run-based attack to have to make huge pass plays. Yes, the passing game will need to continue to improve throughout 2004, but on this night, it was of paramount importance for Navy to make an authoritative statement with its defense and ground game. The Midshipmen needed to shore up the bread-and-butter elements of their team, and on Saturday in the Oklahoma plains, they did exactly that.
Quarter by quarter, the touchdowns came: not in a flood, but in a drip-drip-drip, Chinese water torture style. Slowly but surely, a patient Navy team squeezed the energy out of the Golden Hurricane, imposing its ground-oriented will on the tempo of the game and showing little if any of the unsteadiness and inconsistency of the previous two wins in the cozy confines of Annapolis. In a game where more was expected of Navy, the Midshipmen delivered in decisive and dominating fashion.
The next challenge for Navy is to avoid what plagued the Johnson Boys last season against Delaware: a letdown. Just when Navy was feeling full of itself, the Division I-AA power strutted into Annapolis and stunned the Midshipmen. Now, coming off this exceptional performance against Tulsa, Navy will need to be alert, sharp and focused against a Vanderbilt team that, while still the doormat of the SEC, has come extremely close against a number of quality teams. The mere fact that Vandy hasn't closed the deal against its competition doesn't mean that Navy can expect to coast for any length of time. Any team that fights hard, even while failing to win, must command any opponent's respect, because of the knowledge that any group of fighters will ultimately knock the door down.
If Vandy keeps fighting, Navy cannot feel full of itself after this blowing away of the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa.
Saturday marked a big step forward for this Navy ballclub. Next weekend, the challenge will be to avoid taking a step backward.