@CougarJim1974 posted this in another thread due to the title and first part of the section, but I thought the 2nd part of the article was more interesting from a coaching standpoint.
OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES: Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper predicted that Houston would line up in an even front, and he was right. The Cougars occasionally switched to an odd front, but for the most part had four defenders along the line of scrimmage.
Jasper had deduced the likely Houston alignment from watching tape of games in which Houston defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio had faced option opponents. D’Onofrio schemed against Navy four times while at Temple and defended Georgia Tech five times while at Miami.
So Jasper crafted a game-plan to go against the defensive strategy he anticipated and the Midshipmen were well prepared as a result. Quarterback Zach Abey was on point as Navy marched up and down the field during the first half, amassing 212 total yards.
Unfortunately for the Midshipmen, they only had 14 points to show for it – having come up empty on three different trips into enemy territory. Kicker Bennett Moehring missed a 40-yard field goal attempt while Abey was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one from the 2-yard line.
One would think D’Onofrio would make some adjustments at halftime, but he didn’t. Houston came out in the second half and played the exact same defense it did before intermission. The Cougars simply performed their assignments better and tackled better in the second half.
“Those guys got after us. We had to earn every yard today. They played sound and weren’t going to give up anything cheap,” Jasper said. “We had some chances to execute and didn’t get it done. Obviously, we would have loved to have played better. I didn’t do a good job today.”
Navy did nothing on offense during the second half, picking up just six first downs and gaining only 79 yards in being shut out. The Midshipmen were forced to punt on four straight possessions then had their fifth and final possession end with an interception.
Sophomore slotback Malcolm Perry, who led Navy in rushing with 82 yards on 15 carries, said Houston played the exact type of defense the coaching staff expected.
“It was really nothing we hadn’t seen all week. It was what we practiced for all week. We just had to come out and execute and we didn’t do that,” Perry said. “We made some plays in the first half and didn’t put enough points on the board. In the second half, we just didn’t execute.”
Navy has become accustomed to moving the ball effectively against any defense. The Midshipmen are famous for making adjustments over a course of a game to counteract whatever the opposition is doing.
That is what made the second half of Friday’s loss so surprising. An offense that normally gets stronger as the game goes along just fizzled.
“It’s definitely hard to stomach. That’s not Navy football. That’s not our culture, that’s now how we play, that’s not how we win,” Perry said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and fix it.”
Navy’s opening drive of the third quarter was derailed by three straight negative plays. Fullback Chris High was thrown for a 1-yard loss on first down as Abey may have made a bad read. Slotback John Brown III also lost a yard on second down off a pitch play that was blown up. Abey was then sacked as the Cougars blitzed on third-and-12.
It was a similar story on the second possession as Abey lost a yard on an option keeper then was sacked to set up third-and-13. A rollout play did not work as Abey’s pass was tipped and fell way short of intended receiver Tyler Carmona.
The Mids faced third-and-three on its third possession and Abey was stopped for no gain on an option keeper. Navy could not convert when it counted on its fourth possession as well with Houston sniffing out a reverse and dropping wide receiver Craig Scott for a loss of five.
“You want to stay on schedule down and distance wise. Second and nine is not where we want to be. We don’t want negative plays,” Jasper said. “When those happen, it’s on me. I have to call plays in which we’re going forward, not lateral or backward.”
Not many opponents have shut down Navy’s patented triple-option offense for the better part of the past 15 years. It has happened more often than usual this season because of a combination of sound defensive strategies and self-inflicted wounds by the Mids.
Navy’s offense hurt itself with penalties again in this game as a chop block short-circuited a first half drive into Houston territory while a pair of false starts marred second half possessions.
“I just didn’t do a good job. In the overall scheme of things, I’m just not preparing these guys the way I need to,” Jasper said. “I’ve looked at a lot of things to figure out what we’re doing wrong in these losses. Something’s not right and it falls back to me. Play-calling is not as smooth as it needs to be. I’m just not calling the right plays. That’s what it comes down to.”