ORLANDO - Can UCF slow down the Midshipmen’s offensive attack? That’s the No. 1 question for this game. Navy simply does not pass the football well, so UCF will be going against a run-heavy offense that utilized deception as its main weapon for several decades.
Look for the Midshipmen to continue to improve upon their rushing attack, while also throwing the football during special moments in an attempt to catch UCF off guard. In year’s past, Navy would be one of the nation’s leaders in rushing yardage.
For 2019, Navy actually earned the No. 1 distinction for running the football, averaging a fantastic 360.5 yards per contest. This season, however, the Midshipmen average 191.7 yards rushing per game. That’s a primary reason for Navy’s 0-3 start to the 2021 season.
Navy just started to get its running game going. Against Houston, Navy ran 55 times for 202 yards. While not an outstanding total, the rushing total marked the Midshipmen’s best 2021 performance. Here’s a look at what Navy did through three games:
Note: When Navy’s offense provides the most dynamic plays, it’s primary playmaker comes from the quarterback position more often than not. If Arline does not surpass 100-yards rushing against UCF, it could prove difficult for Navy to win this game. Here’s a statistical look at Navy’s former quarterback and option-attack magician:
During the 2019 season, signal caller Malcolm Perry rushed 295 times for 2,017 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s one of all-time great college football triple-option quarterbacks. The following video represents what it looks like when Navy’s offense operates at a high level, courtesy of Perry:
The top player would be the quarterback, of course. Xavier Arline leads the rushing attack with 51 carries for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Navy signal callers have been sacked an astonishing 16 times so far this season, and the NCAA counts sacks against rushing totals. Thus, Arline’s rushing statistics are quite literally skewed.
Watch the Fullbacks
As noted in today’s The Daily Knight podcast, the fullbacks will not likely gash a defense with long runs, but if the inside running game provides 4-yard carries or more, per attempt, Navy could play keep away with the football as UCF’s offense stands on the sidelines. That’s an important element to this game -- Navy grinding out first downs with the fullbacks involved -- to keep UCF from scoring against a porous defense.
The Midshipmen do not possess a good passing game. There are two separate quarterbacks that passed the football during the 2021 season, and either of them, or both, could pass the football against UCF.
There’s Arline, and then a second quarterback could enter the contest by the name of Maynor Massai.
Maasai proved to be the more accurate passer thus far, completing six of 13 passes for 74 yards. Arline, meanwhile, attempted 14 passes and completed five for 109 yards. Neither quarterback threw a touchdown pass yet this season.
Navy has only passed the football a grand total of 34 times this season (three quarterbacks and one slot back attempted passes), and just 12 of those passes found their mark. In total, Navy reached 191 yards passing this season.
Despite the poor passing statistics, Navy does indeed provide a go-to receiving target with Mychal Cooper. Listed at 6’5”, 221 pounds, Cooper hauled in six receptions for 128 yards.
Despite the fact that Cooper did not yet score a touchdown, he’s a threat. It’s rare for Navy to possess a wide receiver with Cooper’s overall physical size. Look for Navy Head Football Coach Ken Niumatalolo to take a few shots down the field to Cooper. He could also be a target for fade passes once the Midshipmen reach the red zone.
This is not a typical Navy offense. Perhaps it’s because Arline just started to take over the offense, but at the end of the day, Navy is dead last in the FBS with 10.0 points per game.
Can Navy turn the corner and start operating the triple-option offense with more efficiency? If not, UCF should be able to overwhelm the Navy offense.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast; it will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!