Location: Yulman Stadium – New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, September 19
Time: 11:00 am CT
Records: Tulane 1-0 (0-0 AAC), Navy 0-1 (0-0 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -8.0; O/U 49.0
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 12-11-1
Last Meeting: Navy 41, Tulane 38 (October 26, 2019)
Quick Hits: The Green Wave will be looking to build upon their 18 point comeback win against South Alabama, which was their first season opening win on the road since 1998. Meanwhile, the Mids will be looking for a significant improvement in their quality of play after being on the wrong end of a 52 point thrashing at the hands of BYU.
Tulane will be playing on ABC for the first time since 1980, when they lost to Southern Miss in Vince Gibson’s first game as the Wave’s head coach. In order for Tulane to start the campaign 2-0 they will need much more consistent quarterback play from Keon Howard.
While many national pundits predicted that Navy could be a dark horse to compete at the top of the AAC, the Mids have a lot to prove in New Orleans if they want to show the rest of the conference that they will not be bottom dwellers throughout the 2020 campaign. While Navy must improve its play in all three facets of the game on Saturday in order to successfully compete with Willie Fritz’s squad, Dalen Morris must show more confidence running the triple-option if Navy wants a chance to win.
From Tulane’s Perspective: Tulane will be looking for a little revenge this Saturday after falling just short of downing the Mids in Annapolis last October. Patrick Johnson and Cam Sample showed against South Alabama why they will be playing on Sundays once their time in Uptown New Orleans is over. Both players combined for 4 sacks and 5.5 tackles for losses against South Alabama.
The Wave’s defense as a whole combined for 5 sacks and 12 tackles for losses last Saturday. Tulane will need to put on a similar performance against Navy’s vaunted triple-option attack at Yulman Stadium. Ken Niumatalolo’s teams are notorious for their physicality and toughness. Tulane will have to put on full display its defensive depth, especially with its front four, that Coach Fritz has bragged about throughout training camp if they want to control the line of scrimmage and limit Navy’s running attack.
Keon Howard’s jitters were on full display last Saturday against South Alabama. Since that was his first college start in three years, his uneasy play maybe should have been expected. Now that Howard has his sea legs under him, the Wave will need more consistent play out of their QB1 this Saturday. While Howard’s command of the offense was impressive at times and he showed flashes of why he was named the starter over highly touted freshmen Justin Ibetta and Michael Pratt, it is imperative that he plays with more consistency and that he takes better care of the ball against Navy.
Howard was only able to complete 47% of his passes against South Alabama and ended the game with a QBR of 38.2. In order for the full horsepower of Will Hall’s offense to become evident this season, Howard will need to improve on both of those numbers.
The Navy defense should be honing in on one thing during their preparation for Tulane and that is the Wave’s explosive running attack. A staple of the Willie Fritz era in NOLA. Potential all conference back Sophomore Tyjae Spears showed why some people on the Tulane staff think he is their most talented running back, running for 105 yards on 11 carries against South Alabama. The running unit as a whole combined for 203 yards on 40 touches, garnering an impressive 5.1 YPC. Amare Jones, Cameron Carroll, and Stephon Huderson all have the type of talent where they would be able to play significant minutes on almost every other team in the conference.
From Navy’s Perspective:
Coach Ken Niumatalolo was quoted in the past few days saying, “Touch football is over.” This comment follows the Mids deciding not to live tackle in preparation for their Week One game with BYU where Navy lost by 52 points. Navy looked flat on both sides of the ball against BYU and their famed physicality was no where to be seen.
Outside of Myles Fells, no Navy running back was able to muster more than 3.1 YPC in Week One. In order for the Mids to compete against possibly the top front four unit in the AAC they will need to get back to their old ways. This starts with Navy’s offensive line that was unable to provide adequate protection for the Mids’ running backs along with quarterbacks Dalen Morris and Perry Olsen against BYU.
With Perry Olsen entering the transfer portal after the BYU game, it looks like Dalen Morris will be the sole guy under center for the Mids going forward. While seeing almost no action in 2018 and 2019, the Huntsville, AL native struggled to properly command Navy’s triple option offense in Week One. A significant portion of Morris’ struggles may be attributed to Navy’s poor blocking against BYU, but the Senior signal caller must display better decision making against Tulane if Navy wants to move the ball effectively against the Wave’s stalwart defensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Navy front four should have their hands full with Tulane’s brigade of capable running backs. BYU was able to convert a staggering 55% of third downs against Navy in Week One. The Navy defense also gave up 6.1 YPC along with letting the Cougars complete 73% of their passes in their first game. If the Mids want a fighting chance against the Greenies, they will have to significantly improve on those numbers.
Junior linebacker Diego Fagot was able to record 13 tackles and 2 tackles for losses against BYU, building upon an impressive 2019 season where he had 100 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Outside of Fagot, the Navy defense looked anemic. Look for this unit to come out firing on all cylinders Saturday as they look to redeem themselves after giving up almost 600 total yards of offense against BYU.
Final Thoughts: Redemption will be the theme on ABC this upcoming Saturday. Navy will be looking to prove that their Week One performance against BYU was an anomaly and not a trustworthy indicator for how the rest of their season will play out. Tulane quarterback Keon Howard will be playing to prove that his performance against South Alabama was more attributable to rust after not starting a game in over three years than anything else. If Howard can get in rhythm with his receivers and Tulane’s defensive line can build upon their week one showing, expect the Wave to start 2-0 for the first time since 2002.
Prediction: Tulane 31 - Navy 20