After Navy loss, a reliance on resilience to push forward
The football team lost a heartbreaking game to the unranked Naval Academy Midshipmen 46-40 Saturday afternoon. The defeat puts a hold on the Cougars’ playoff hopes, but will serve as a testament to the team’s resiliency moving forward.
“Tough loss obviously,” said head coach Tom Herman. Herman said they put an emphasis on playing tough defense and winning the turnover battle, but were unable to accomplish their goals.
The Cougars entered the game as the nation’s leader in rushing yards allowed per game, but proceeded to surrender 306 yards to the Navy triple-option offense. Coupled with three turnovers and possessing the ball for nearly 10 minutes less than their opponent, the Cougars left Annapolis, Maryland in disappointment.
After working for nearly two years to become the sixth-ranked team in the country, the loss was obviously a crushing blow to the team. Herman admitted that some tears were shed in the locker room following the game, but said that his players and staff have put the defeat behind them.
“Dealing with 18 to 22-year-old boys, you ride that wave of emotion and that’s OK,” Herman said. “As long as your low doesn’t stay low and your high doesn’t stay high, it’s OK to get that low as long as you are able to get back up and get ready to play the next week. All signs point to us being able to do that.”
Although the team dealt with a similar loss to the University of Connecticut last season, this one comes with greater consequences. Since Navy and the Cougars were tied at the top of the West Conference, the loss put the Cougars a game behind in the standings.
Navy must now lose two of their remaining games for the Cougars to play for the conference title — a goal the team set at the beginning of the season.
“Our goals are completely ahead of us,” Herman said. “Our goal was not to go undefeated, was not to just beat Oklahoma and wasn’t to be ranked in the top ten or five. Our goal is to win our conference. That goal is still out there. Obviously, we are going to need some help from Navy.”
Herman said that it will be on the team’s leaders to help get the team back on track after the crushing defeat.
Down, not out
Senior defensive captain Cameron Malveaux took it upon himself to keep the younger players minds in the right place. Malveaux and his team found a way to respond to dropping a game late last season and went on to finish 13-1.
“(I’m) keeping everyone from finger-pointing,” Malveaux said. “That’s the first thing people want to do after the game. That’s a childish mindset. We have to keep everybody’s mind on correcting themselves and not pointing to everyone else.”
Malveaux won’t be alone in his endeavor to keep the team’s spirit high.
Junior linebacker D’Juan Hines said to the younger players that one loss is not going to define their legacy. By giving them words of affirmation, Hines hopes to turn his teammates’ focus to their next game against the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
With half a season left to play, the team must put this loss behind them and finish the season strong.
There’s an enormous amount of weight on each game in the college football season. So much can change in the remaining six weeks of the season.
Hines and his teammates are ready for the challenge.
“We responded well on the field and in the locker room,” Hines said. “We were down, but we didn’t stay down. We went to practice and treated it like any other practice that we have had. We flushed out all the negative feels about losing to the Naval Academy, regained focus for the Tulsa game.”