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The Opposition: A look at Navy, the challenges to defending the triple-option

Senior linebacker and captain Grant Stuard takes the field in the Cougars matchup against BYU | Courtesy of UH athletics

Senior linebacker and one of the team’s captains Grant Stuard takes the field in Houston’s matchup against BYU. | Courtesy of UH athletics

After leading No. 14 BYU 26-14 late in the third quarter, it appeared that Houston was on its way to earning a marquee win early in the season, but UH collapsed over the final 18 minutes of the game, allowing BYU to score 29 unanswered points and hand Houston their first loss in 2020.

Now the Cougars must move on from last week and turn all their attention to their upcoming matchup on the road against the Midshipmen (3-2, 3-0 American Athletic Conference).

Here is an overview of Navy and what they have done this season:

Navy’s season so far

After opening up the season 1-2, including blowout losses to BYU and Air Force, the Midshipmen have strung together two consecutive wins against American Athletic Conference foes, ECU and Temple, to improve to 3-2 on the season.

Navy is a run-heavy team. Through five games this season, the Midshipmen have run the ball 248 times, which comes out to nearly 50 rushing attempts per game.

Although the Midshipmen run the ball on nearly every offensive play, their triple-option offense makes stopping the run extremely hard. As a result, they have rushed for 952 yards and 10 touchdowns as a team.

Navy’s top rushers are their fullbacks Nelson Smith, a senior, and Jamale Carothers, a junior. Smith leads the team in both rushing yards with 342 and touchdowns with six. Carothers is not far behind with 311 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Navy has played four different quarterbacks this season that have combined to throw for 398 yards and two touchdowns on the year.

The Midshipmen do not throw the ball often, but when they do, it is typically for a big gain as the Midshipmen lead the nation in passing yards per completion at 16.88 yards.

What to watch for

Navy has typically been the hardest opponent in the AAC to prepare for because of its triple-option run system, which is only used by a few teams across the FBS, and Houston is no exception.

The Cougars’ defense has greatly struggled to find an effective way to shut down the triple-option over the past few years. Over their past two matchups against the Midshipmen, Houston allowed 796 rushing yards and gave up 92 points to the Navy offense.

The key to this game will once again come down to the Cougars’ defense, which is only giving up an average of 74 rushing yards per game this season. Houston will need to find a way to defend the triple-option and force the Midshipmen to put the ball in the air more.

Where to watch

The game is set to kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday and will air on the CBS Sports Network.

The game will also be able to be heard on KPRC 950 AM with coverage starting at 1:30 p.m.

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