After their rousing comeback against BYU, the USF football team has won two games in a row. This week they look to extend that streak as they get back into conference play on the road against Navy.
On paper, this appears to be the Bulls’ toughest game since their season opener against Wisconsin. Navy not only runs an offensive system that is incredibly tough to prepare for, but they also are ranked highly in many important statistical categories on both sides of the ball. Let’s take a closer look at Navy’s numbers and the schemes we can expect to see on Saturday.
General Game Management
Marino Rule Plus
One of the biggest reasons Navy has been so successful this season is their third down conversion rate. The Midshipmen excel at both extending drives on offense and getting off the field on defense. In fact, their offense ranks 27th on third down this year while their defense ranks 15th. This is largely due to their performance in the run game on both sides of the ball. USF has been on the opposite end of the rankings with the offense ranked 99th and the defense ranked 108th.
Where USF does have the advantage is turnover margin. The Bulls are tied for 18th nationally while Navy is ranked 76th. The field position difference is negligible, with both teams above the national average of the 29.5 yard line.
Third downs will be a key measuring stick in this game. If Navy has a high conversion percentage then they are likely running the ball well. If the Bull’s offense fails to continue the positive trend of the last few weeks (60% vs UConn & 50% vs BYU), they may not get enough plays/possessions to win the game.
Yards Per Play (YPP) and Explosive Plays
Navy is also highly rated in yards per play on both sides of the ball. Offensively they rank 38th and they are 25th in defensive YPP. USF is 94th on offense and 37th on defense. Navy has also played a tougher schedule based on their opponents YPP.
Navy achieves their high YPP totals on offense through their consistent running game. They are not a particularly explosive offense. In fact, USF has generated more scrimmage plays of 20+ yards than Navy this season.
The Bulls are tied for 55th in the country while Navy is tied for 67th. Explosive plays are typically inherent in the YPP numbers. These types of plays will be especially key this week. Defensively, the Midshipmen has only given up 19 explosive plays this season while USF has given up 28. Explosive plays greatly increase your odds of scoring on a given drive and they keep you on the field. In a game where you may not get many possessions, you must take full advantage of the opportunities you get.
Navy Offense- Triple Threat
Navy has been come synonymous with the flexbone triple option. When you think of one, you think of the other. The Midshipmen are consistently among the top rushing attacks in the country, and this year is no different. They are the top-ranked unit in the country in total rushing yards per game and 21st in yards per carry. Even with overwhelming success on the ground, Navy is not a one-dimensional offense. Even though they do not throw the ball often, they lead the country in yards per passing attempt and have gotten a lot of big plays through the air.
So, what makes the Navy offense so difficult to defend? Let’s take a closer look at their offensive schemes.
Stopping this Navy offense is going to take a great effort from the USF defense. They will have to maintain focus and discipline on every play. A single mistake could lead to points for the Midshipmen.
Navy Defense- Destroyers
The Navy defense has been stifling this season, especially on the ground. They rank 10th in yards per carry allowed. In yards per pass, they are tied with USF at 56th in the country. Coach Strong said in his press conference Monday that Navy likes to stem and move on defense. He also stated that they will put eight players in the box to stop the run. The Navy defensive scheme has been quite effective thus far this season. Let’s examine what has made them so successful.
Much like their offense, the Navy defensive scheme requires opponents to stay disciplined. If you chase a rusher, you may be opening a hole for a blitzer. If you miss the safeties rotating, you may throw into coverage. Even so, there are plays to be made against this defense. The Bulls are going to need to make some of those plays and take advantages of what will likely be limited opportunities.
This game will be a true test for USF. Beating Navy requires you to stay focused on every play. Mental breakdowns rarely go unpunished, on either side of the ball. If USF is able to pass the test and beat the Midshipmen, it will be a great sign for the coming weeks of the season. Are the Bulls able to remain disciplined and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them? We’ll find out Saturday.