The dream is dead, the dream is dead. Long live the dream. The dream is dead.
Houston’s hopes of busting into the College Football Playoff perished at the hands of a disciplined, physical Navy team.
And worse — because the playoff was a long shot anyway — Navy took a one-game lead over Houston in the race for the AAC championship game. The Cougars no longer control their own destiny as far as the postseason is concerned.
Navy won its first game over a top-10 opponent in 32 years, since Nov. 11, 1984 when it upset No. 2 South Carolina.
The Midshipmen battered, bludgeoned and beat down the Cougars — and time after time, simply outran them.
Final Score: Navy wins, 46-40
There was rain. Lots of it.
Houston’s offensive line struggled to maintain a safe pocket for quarterback Greg Ward. The young unit has been shaky at times this year and has forced Ward to rely on his escapability, but in this game Houston’s problems resulted in devastating turnovers.
Uncharacteristic turnovers: 3 — Two interceptions and a fumble by Ward.
Ed Oliver is still beastly. He blew up numerous plays by himself and showed range that you just don’t find in a defensive tackle. He played his heart out and did everything he possibly could to will his unit to stop Navy’s rushing attack.
Houston played without Duke Catalon (head injury), Tyus Bowser (fractured orbital bone), Steven Taylor (suspension for “violation of team rules”) and Brandon Wilson (lower left leg injury).
The three missing defensive players would prove to be critical in the loss, though none of the points on this list are excuses. Houston could have, and should have, won the game despite the weather, the travel, the opponent, the turnovers and the absent players.
Tale of the Tape
Total yards: Houston 484, Navy 382
Rush yards: Houston 125, Navy 306 (UH’s defense had allowed an average of 48 per game)
Pass yards: Houston 359, Navy 76
Turnovers: Houston 3, Navy 0
Time of possession: Houston 25:16, Navy 34:44
Greg Ward: 32-50 passing, 359 yards, 3 TDs; 17 carries, 94 yards rushing, 1 TD
Will Worth: 3-5 passing, 76 yards, 2 TDs; 32 carries, 115 yards rushing, 1 TD
If you watched the game, you understand all too well what happened. If you didn’t, you’ll see the highlights all weekend and you can find the play-by-play in several places.
Here’s the long and short of it: Houston simply could not stop Navy’s triple option offense. The Midshipmen pounded the ball straight up the middle of the field when they wanted to.
They continually beat the Cougars to the edges and then used their speed to cut upfield and gain solid chunks of yardage. Houston’s defenders constantly took poor angles on the pitch men and allowed them to get outside, which is the death knell of a defense trying to stop an option offense.
And Navy QB Will Worth ... man, what can you say about him? He played a hell of a game — easily his best game of the season. He punished Houston defenders all day long. His toughness and physicality was something Houston hasn’t seen from a QB this year and likely won’t see again until the Cougars face him next year.
This game exemplified why it is so difficult to face Navy. The Midshipmen are the anthesis of the finesse spread-option teams that dominate the landscape of college football today. They lined up and just simply smashed Houston on both sides of the ball.
But even with all that said, Houston still should have won.
The Cougars walked down the field on their opening drive: 5 plays, 70 yards, 1 minute and 39 seconds, 32-yard touchdown pass from Ward to Steven Dunbar.
It looked like a clear sign of the theme of the game.
On Houston’s five touchdown drives, they looked great. Ward completed crisp passes. The running backs, led by Dillon Birden, gained good yardage. The offense moved swiftly and methodically.
But on three consecutive drives that spanned the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third, it was total disaster.
Ward fumble once and threw two interceptions. The turnovers led to 17 unanswered points for Navy, and Houston dug itself a hole it could not dig out of.
But the Cougars nearly did, anyway. Even after a blocked extra point attempt and a safety gave away three more points, Houston still had a genuine chance to win in the final minutes.
Houston was plagued with little mistakes, near misses and costly turnovers. And Navy played great and wanted it BAD. The Midshipmen simply ran over, through and around Houston’s defenders.
There’s no other way to put it.
And they used their success on the ground to set up two perfect play-action passes in the red zone for touchdowns.
It was a tough loss. It was a damaging loss. It was an avoidable loss. But it must be filed away and used as a springboard for a whole new season that begins now.
And NOW, we will see just how good Tom Herman really is. Last year, the team faced adversity after the loss to UCONN, but nothing like it will face tomorrow.
Crow, I eat thee humbly.
Now let’s move on.