After a much-needed week off, Navy travels to Houston to take on the Cougars on Saturday from TDECU Stadium. The Mids have struggled mightily in their first two games, losing to rival Air Force 23-3 on Sept. 11 and Marshall 49-7 in their opener on Sept. 4.
The Cougars are 2-1 with wins over Grambling (45-0) and Rice (44-7). They opened the season with a 38-21 loss to Texas Tech.
Last season, Houston crushed the Mids 37-21 from Annapolis.
Changes at AnnapolisNavy's offense has been dreadful early on and it starts with the quarterback position. In their last game against Air Force, Xavier Arline got the start and went 0-for-5 and ran for just 31 yards in 16 attempts. In the option offense, the running game is the key. If you can't throw or run -and most option quarterbacks are not great passers - you have no offense. Massai Maynor came in for Arline and completed 3 of 5 for 32 yards and ran just four times for -1 yards (they were down had to throw).
So with the quarterback position a major issue and the offense failing for a second straight season, according to Stripes.com, Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk fired offensive coordinator Irv Jasper on Sept. 12, but then re-hired him as quarterbacks coach two days later. That means head coach Ken Niamatololo will now call the plays.
“Obviously, as a head coach, you normally make those decisions with assistants,” Niumatalolo said on Stripes.com. “I wasn’t involved with it. There was a lot of emotion after the game. Yes, I was surprised by it. But we’ve had discussions after that to try to hopefully mend this.
“Everybody’s mad. Anybody involved in Navy football. Nobody likes losing like that. . . . [Gladchuk] was very upset with the offense. And so, I get it. But I was not involved with it. I was actually in another part of the locker room, but it’s normally not how it’s done. But I guess we’ll all live and learn, you know.”
Last season, Navy ranked 121st in points per game (16.6) and is last in the nation right now in points per game at 5.0. They rank 127th in total offense at 233 yards per game, while last season they averaged 275ypg (124th). The Mids have now scored 23 points per game over the last five contests. They amassed just 68 yards against Air Force, which was the lowest total in 55 years for the Naval Academy.
The original starter at quarterback was supposed to be Tai Lavatai, but he injured his knee in the first game and is considered questionable for this one. Either way, that leaves the defense in a bad position and that defense has played pretty well this season considering the circumstances. They allow 344.5 yards per game and 206 yards in the air.
Rolling without TuneHouston is coming off an expected 45-0 win over Grambling on Saturday, What wasn't expected was an injury to starting quarterback Clayton Tune, who left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Tune threw for 62 yards before leaving the game. Ike Ogbogu came in and played well, completing 14 of 22 for 196 yards with two TDs and no picks. RB Alton McCaskill led the way with 114 yards with two TDs on 16 carries. The defense held the Tigers to just 49 passing yards, 53 rushing yards and just three first downs.
According to head coach Dana Holgorsen, Tune's injury actually occurred in the previous week (44-7 win over Rice).
"I own that. It's my responsibility to get those guys ready," Holgorsen said Monday to the media. "When the backup hasn't taken hardly any snaps in games, you kinda lean towards doing what you gotta do to get your starter out there."
Tune has completed 70.7% of his passes for 472 yards with four TDs and five picks. Receiver Nathaniel Dell (5-10, 155) leads with 22 catches for 301 yards and three TDs. McCaskill leads the running game with 159 yards and four TDs. Houston is averaging 36.7 points per game, 227 passing yards (71st) and 128.3 rushing yards (101st). They are led by their defense, which allows just 230 yards per game (6th), 122 passing yards (3rd) and 108 rushing yards (39th).
The major question for Houston in the game is whether Tune plays as he's listed as questionable though Ogbogu showed that he could play at least against an FCS squad.
- 0-4 ATS last 4 overall.
- 1-6 ATS last 7 after a DD loss at home.
- 21-10 ATS last 31 in September.
- Favorite is 4-0 ATS last 4 in series.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Even though there could be a quarterback change for Houston, I'm still laying three TDs. A change in coordinator is not going to help Navy. They need a quarterback and an offensive line and they don't have that right now. It really starts with the offensive line and if you don't have a strong line, you can't run that "flexbone" offense with precision. When Navy isn't able run a productive option offense, they can't possess the ball, which means they can't keep their undersized defense off the field. Time of possession is key for the Mids to be successful and they won't be able to do so against the Cougars.
Full-Game Total Pick
Navy's offense may be putrid, but their defense isn't bad. Add that to the fact that they are either playing a backup quarterback or injured quarterback and this looks like an easy under. The Navy offense, even with two weeks to prepare, won't be a whole lot different with Niumatalolo calling the plays. They are also going up against a very good defense that allows just 108 rushing yards per game. Navy's pass defense is also solid as they are allowing just 206 yards per contest, though they did play Air Force once.