1st and 10: Scouting the Navy Midshipmen


It was supposed to be a game featuring a high-powered rushing offense. However, the team expected to have success running the football found itself chasing its opponent, as Rutgers traveled to Navy on Saturday and ran rampant over the Midshipmen en route to a 31-24 victory. The Midshipmen came into the contest leading the nation in rushing at 403 yards per gam but Navy was held to only 171 rushing yards, and the Scarlet Knights limited star quarterback Keenan Reynolds to 25 yards on 19 carries.

With the Hilltoppers enjoying a bye week, Rutgers supplied WKU with a blueprint on how to beat Navy: be physical, and shut down the triple option. The latter is easier said than done, but luckily the Toppers have had two weeks to prepare, plus some reminders from last year’s victory.

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So what can the Tops take away from this game?

First, be physical, especially on defense. Navy utilizes a small offensive line that relies on its speed and athleticism to play to the strengths of the triple option. A physical defense could pose problems for the Navy unit, and slow the rushing attack. WKU needs to hit early and often. This will wear down an option offense over the course of a game, and may lead to some turnovers.

Second, stop the triple option and force Navy to throw the football. Navy’s offense is built around Reynolds, who excels at reading defenses and making the right decision within the triple option. Forcing Reynolds to makes decisions with his arm instead of his feet will take away his strengths. Against Rutgers, however, the Navy offense had more passing yards than rushing yards. Reynolds threw for 231 yards and a touchdown, while completing 12 of his 22 passes. Many of Reynolds passing yards came on long throws, a result of the defense focusing on the option and “crowding the box.”

Like Rutgers, WKU will be okay giving up a few long completions if it means slowing down the run. Unless Navy can put up 500+ passing yards (not going to happen), the Hilltoppers have to feel confident going head-to-head in a passing contest, an area where they have a clear advantage.

So, with all that said, one pressing question remains – can WKU slow down Navy’s triple option offense?

If the past is any indicator, the answer is yes. It had success in last year’s victory in Bowling Green, when WKU defeated Navy 19-7, when they held Navy’s rushing attack to 107 yards. However, it’s an almost entirely new group on defense this year, so it remains to be seen whether or not the Toppers will have the same results. Veterans such as defensive ends Gavin Rocker and T.J. Smith will be heavily relied upon to slow down the option offense.

Do you think WKU can slow down Navy’s high-powered run attack? Comment below or tweet us @WaveTheRedTowel with your thoughts!