Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium - Annapolis, MD
Date: Saturday, October 26
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Records: Tulane 5-2 (2-1 AAC), Navy 5-1 (3-1 AAC)
Line: Navy -3.5; O/U 53.0
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 12-10-1
Last Meeting: Tulane 29, Navy 28 (November 24, 2018)
Quick Hits: Tulane rides into this contest very much in recovery mode. The thrashing they received in Memphis last weekend showcased the depth of talent that resides in the AAC this year. Before last Saturday’s game, Willie Fritz’s Green Wave was picked by some to win the conference’s western division due to their recent play. The Tigers, though, seem to be even a level above alongside the likes of SMU (another team Tulane has yet to see). The Greenies are by no means a club to be taken lightly but if last week in Tennessee was a wake up call, this week in Annapolis needs to be the answering of said call.
Navy is no easy task. The 5-1 Midshipmen aren’t exactly talked about like they’re a conference contender and maybe they should be. Their only loss is at the hands of those very same Memphis Tigers and they have put up at least 30 points in all five of their victories. Fresh off a whipping of USF, Navy welcomes their toughest home test of the year (so far) this Saturday.
With the Wave trying to rebound, the Mids looking to prove themselves and bowl eligibility at stake for both, we could have a good one on our hands.
From Tulane’s Perspective: The Green Wave may have a little advantage going in already having faced Army on the road this season.They at least know what it takes to thwart an offense like this. Similar to their service academy rivals, Navy is a run-first team that relies heavily on a ground and pound attack. Quarterback Malcolm Perry leads the team in rushing with 792 yards and 14 touchdowns. He along with fullback Nelson Smith (343 yards, 6 TDs) have been tearing it up for the Mids this fall.
That means... you guessed it... that Tulane better have an answer for the run. Last week they let the talented freshman Kenny Gainwell gash them. Defensive ends Patrick Johnson and Cameron Sample were rendered relatively ineffective and will need to recapture their magic if Navy is to be slowed down. Johnson is responsible for 20 tackles, six of which have been for a loss while Sample has 26 total and 3.5 for loss. That duo will play a big role in stopping the likes of Perry and Smith.
We said it with Army and we’ll say it again here: just because Navy usually runs doesn’t mean they always will. Tulane DBs Chase Kuerschen and P.J. Hall will need to be on their toes if (and when) Navy tries to catch them napping. Against Memphis, the secondary was exposed by Brady White who threw five touchdowns. Now it’s time to buckle down.
Offensively, the Wave will need quarterback Justin McMillan to have a short memory of his performance last week. He tossed three interceptions after he had only thrown two all season prior. While it may have been a forgettable night then, though, his 2019 season has been one of great success as a whole. McMillan has thrown for 1,229 yards and nine touchdowns this season while rushing for a team-high 390 yards and seven more scores. He’s dangerous and unpredictable when he has the ball in his hands. It’s that version of McMillan we will need to see this week.
There may, in fact, be an even larger amount of pressure on McMillan and receivers Darnell Mooney and Jalen McCleskey this week. With both of their star backs in Corey Dauphine and Darius Bradwell listed as questionable with injuries, they’ll have to make things happen through the air. Mooney and McCleskey have combined for 652 yards and six touchdowns this season.
With those running backs possibly unable to play, more pressure will fall on sophomore Amare Jones as well. Jones is coming into his own as a feature back in Tulane’s offense having compiled 236 yards on 37 carries. He may be used heavily on Saturday if Bradwell and Dauphine are a no-go.
From Navy’s Perspective: The Midshipmen will undoubtedly turn to their playmaker Perry as they have done all season. The explosive senior averages 6.4 yards per rush and has a 60% completion rate (24-of-40). Against the ailing Bulls last week Perry struggled through the air, however. He only attempted three passes, two of which were intercepted. Although that isn’t his forte, he will need to be sharper this week against a Tulane defense that’s snagged seven picks and knocked away 21 passes.
Despite his struggles throwing, though, Perry was lights out against USF while running. He accumulated 188 yards on 22 carries and found the end zone twice. If he can replicate those numbers again this week then Navy will be just fine.
Helping him on the ground will be the aforementioned Smith along with Jamale Carothers. The sophomore Carothers is enjoying his first season in which he’s seen significant playing time for the Mids. He’s rushed for 136 yards (84 of which came last week) and two touchdowns. Between him, Smith and Perry, Navy should find some opportunities but they’ll need a solid outing from these guys against the Wave’s D that is allowing just 142 yards per contest on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, the Midshipmen will have a pretty stout run defense of their own. They surrender under 100 such yards per game thanks in large part to the play of guys like linebacker Diego Fagot. Fagot leads the team in tackles with 42 and has five tackles for loss. Fellow linebacker Jake Springer is no softy either with 30 tackles and a club-high five sacks. The two will be key in stopping Tulane’s run game that may be hampered by the absence of some of its premier backs.
Those two will also be vital in containing McMillan. If the Green Wave signal caller is able to fall into his rhythm then Navy will be in trouble.
That responsibility also falls on the shoulders of safeties Kevin Brennan and Evan Fochtman. The two have combined for 53 tackles, two interceptions and six defended passes. Don’t forget about corner Michael McMorris who has another seven knocked away throws and 20 tackles.
Final Thoughts: This game is big for both teams but it’s bigger for the visitors. If Tulane drops their second in a row the team morale will be shattered. Think how different 5-3 would look than 6-2. A win for the Wave would not only give them bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season but it would be just what the doctor ordered to get that sour taste out of their mouth from Memphis. Of course they hope that Bradwell and Dauphine are ready to go but they’ll have to be prepared if they aren’t. It’s gut check time for the Greenies.
Then there’s Navy. If you think they’ve forgotten how last season’s finale ended with McMillan finding tight end Charles Jones for the game-deciding two-point conversion at the buzzer then you’re crazy. You can bet that these guys have had this game circled on the calendar all year and now back home, they wan’t to turn the tables.
Prediction: Tulane 31 - Navy 28