In an absolutely gut wrenching loss for the Tulane Green Wave, Dalen Morris and Co. led Navy to one of their great comeback wins in school history as Navy went on to claim the Trident Trophy for the second year in a row.
As time was winding down at the end of the first half, Tulane quarterback Keon Howard threw what looked like at the time to be an inconsequential interception to Navy cornerback Cameron Kinley. Little did he or coach Willie Fritz know, that those points would have been the deciding factor if the Greenies had gone on to beat the Mids. While Tulane dominated the first half, leading Navy 24-0 when the third quarter got underway, Navy quarterback Dalen Morris’ gritty second half performance was the driving factor in allowing the Midshipmen to score 27 unanswered points.
Coach Fritz and Tulane’s offensive coordinator Will Hall will need to answer some tough questions this week about why they allowed Keon Howard to stay in the game as he struggled through the third quarter. Howard, who was 10-for-25 with 108 passing yards and one interception, looked at best inept out there.
While his receivers didn’t provide him with much help dropping a few key passes in the second half, the only consistent thing that the redshirt senior did at Yulman Stadium on Saturday was either underthrow his receivers, overthrow his receivers, or throw into double coverage.
This is all-around Tulane’s most talented and deepest team of the Willie Fritz era, he and his staff know that .500 ballclubs should not be the standard in Uptown New Orleans anymore. In order to reach the next level in the AAC, the Green Wave are going to have to start demanding more out of whoever their signal caller is.
Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo did an outstanding jobs of getting his guys to keep battling even when things were looking pretty grim. Navy linebackers Diego Fagot and Tama Tuitele did an excellent job of rallying the Mid’s defensive unit in the second half in New Orleans after looking apathetic through the first six quarters of the season. Tuitele’s 11 tackles and Fagot’s nine tackles in the game led the way for the Mids in shutting down what had been Tulane’s stalwart running game in the first half. Junior Kevin Brennan out of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey also did a phenomenal job of controlling the Wave’s troika of backs in the second half after almost being thrown out of the game on a targeting call in the first half that was eventually overturned.
The story of the second half though was the resurgence of Dalen Morris. With Navy being in what seemed like an insurmountable hole as the third quarter got underway, the Mids’ offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper had to go into the depths of his playbook to find some passing calls for Morris, the senior signal caller from Huntsville, Alabama. Morris was able to complete 55% of his passes for the Midshipmen on the day for 139 yards and 1 TD, something uncharacteristic for Navy who is well known around the country for hard nosed football and their vaunted triple-option attack.
The Green Wave were able to muster scoring drives on four of their six drives in the first half. The tides really turned in the second half where Navy was able to score on four of their seven drives.
Navy Junior back Jamele Carothers also played a deciding role in lifting the Mids to victory with his 127 yards on 25 carries. Carothers’ standout play was a 48-yard run in the middle of the third quarter down to the Wave’s one yard line, which setup an easy score for Dalen Morris. That brought Navy within ten points of Tulane.
The momentum of the game really shifted after Navy punter Daniel Davies was able to pin the Wave down on their own one yard line at the end of the third quarter.
The subsequent play was a Navy safety bringing the Mids within one score of Tulane. From their Coach Niumatalolo’s bunch never looked back.
A Dalen Morris 32-yard touchdown pass to Mychel Cooper and Bijan Nicholas’ 33-yard game winning field goal as time expired, reminiscent of his 48 yard game winning field goal that led Navy over Tulane in 2019 in the exact same scenario, capped off an exhilarating day for the Mids.
Dalen Morris fully established himself as Navy’s QB1. After looking shaky while running the triple-option in Week One against BYU, the Navy quarterback was able to redeem himself in New Orleans. Morris’ 139 passing yards were the most for a Navy quarterback since Malcolm Perry threw for 162 yards against SMU in 2019.
The Mids’ defense also really stepped up in the second half, finally looking like a coherent and animated unit. After allowing 79 points through the first six quarters of the season, the Navy defense shut out the Wave in the second half.
Tulane’s secondary needs to do a better job going forward of defending the passing game. The Wave gave up 146 yards to Navy through the air while forcing no turnovers, this contrasts to BYU limiting Navy to 30 passing yards a week ago.
If Tulane wants to be competitive in the AAC, where they will go up against much higher octane passing attacks compared to Navy’s, the secondary is going to need to start playing with a little more of a pep in their step.
Tulane needs to figure out their quarterback situation immediately. The Wave left at least 14 points on the board due Howard’s inability to command the passing game. While a lot contributed to Navy’s victory, Tulane’s only completing 40% of their passes was the most material variable.
Willie Fritz and Co. are going to have some hard calls to make in the week ahead. That probably means looking to freshmen Michael Pratt or Justin Ibieta going forward if the Wave intend on making the most out of the 2020 campaign.
Navy (1-1) have a bye week before heading out to Colorado to face Air Force on October 3rd to start the battle for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.
Tulane (1-1) will head to Hattiesburg next weekend to battle Southern Miss on September 26th for the Battle of the Bell.