Navy vs. Hawaii: Three Keys to a Warriors Win
The Warriors pulled off a big upset on the road last Saturday. How can they do it again against the Midshipmen?
Can Hawaii score two wins in a row?
WEEK 1: Navy Midshipmen vs. Hawaii Warriors (1-0, 1-0 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, September 1 — 5:00 PM HT/8:00 PM PT
WHERE: Aloha Stadium; Honolulu, Hawaii (50,000)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Streaming: FuboTV (free trial)
RADIO: The Hawaii broadcast can can be found in and around Honolulu on the local ESPN affiliate, 1420 AM, and on KNUI (Maui), KPUA (the Big Island), KTOH (Kaua’i) and KNWJ (American Samoa).
SERIES RECORD: Hawaii leads the overall series 2-1. In their last meeting on November 9, 2013, however, the Midshipmen defeated Hawaii 42-28 in Annapolis.
Very few people saw last Saturday coming, but Hawaii can feel pretty good about returning home to the islands after dropping over 600 yards of total offense on the Colorado State Rams.
However, a much different challenge awaits the Warriors this Saturday. Navy finished 7-6 in 2017, but the record may be a little deceptive: The Midshipmen finished 3-4 in games decided by eight points or less and never lost by more than ten points. They held UCF’s dangerous offense to what would be their lowest point total in AAC play, and blew out a solid Virginia team in the Military Bowl.
Long story short, never count out Ken Niumatololo’s Middies. Here’s what Hawaii can do, however, to stun the doubters again with a win over Navy.
Three Keys for Hawaii
Win plays on the defensive interior.
Hawaii only had two tackles for loss last Saturday, most of which had to do with the fact that Colorado State ended up throwing two-thirds of the time, but there’s little doubt that finding ways to be disruptive and win at the line of scrimmage against Navy will be critical.
It’ll help, at least, that the defense will get Jahlani Tavai back on the field after missing the CSU game with a suspension. He led the Warriors with 11 tackles for loss last fall and fellow linebacker Solomon Matautia had 3.5 of his own so those two, as well as tackles Blessman Ta’ala and Samiuela Akoteu, will need to be disciplined against the option-based run game.
Convert critical plays to stay on the field.
For as good as Cole McDonald was last weekend, it’s worth pointing out that the sophomore quarterback was just 3-of-7 on third-down opportunities when dropping back to pass. Though he kept the Warriors on the field with his legs on one conversion and got the job done on another fourth down, as well, even being a small tick better could pay huge dividends.
This is because Navy, for its own part, has been one of the AAC’s most clutch offenses for the last three years, finishing in the top three each time (and this says nothing of the fact that last year’s finish, 15th nationally, was their worst since 2012). It’s a lot like that one meme: They can’t keep you off the field if you keep them off the field. *taps forehead knowingly*
Don’t hesitate to keep attacking down the middle of the field.
One big takeaway from Navy’s recently released depth chart is that the Midshipmen will have two new starters in the secondary: Sophomore cornerback Micah Farrar and senior safety Juan Hailey. The Middies also have three sophomores listed as backups in the defensive backfield, so why not let Cedric Byrd and John Ursua challenge them early and often from the slot?
Navy really struggled to the defend the pass last fall, finishing 9th in the AAC during conference play in opponents’ passer rating and managed just seven interceptions all year long, so for as often as Byrd and Ursua got open last Saturday, they could have an even bigger field day this time around.