At the start of the season, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo announced it would be the toughest schedule of his years with the Midshipmen.
He largely lived up to that expectation – and that had a negative impact on the Navy record.
“If Georgia had won, we would have played two teams in the final four,” he said. Or when Iowa won, ”Niumatalolo said. “I was encouraged. I see a lot of us growing. … But sometimes your schedule doesn’t allow it. “
The Navy’s schedule this season includes games against Cincinnati and Notre Dame – a playoff team and another that was barely missed. The difficulties do not end there. This will be the 11th opponent in the bowl for the Navy as the Midshipmen play their annual game with the Army in New Jersey this weekend. No one in the country has faced more.
“We’re getting better,” Niumatalolo said. “But if you’re a boxer and you fight Floyd Mayweather, you think, ‘I think I’m better.’ But then there were six black eyes. But who else hit him? we played well, there is only one defeat between them.
The Navy will play outside of the Power Five, but the presence of two playoff contenders has made its schedule difficult. In the AAC game, the Midshipmen (3-8) took on the Houston team, who are currently in the Top 25, and the SMU team when they clashed with the Navy.
At the bottom of the league, the Navy beat the Temple (3-9) in their last game, but Tulane (2-10) and South Florida (2-10) were not on the table. When the Midshipmen played against their toughest opponents, they were often competitive, losing eight to Houston, seven to SMU and seven to Cincinnati. In the game against Cincinnati, the Navy restored the ball by the end of the game, but the suspension ended the chances of breaking the unbeaten record of the Bearcats.
“I think we had the closest game with Cincinnati,” Niumatalolo said. “In the end, we had a chance to beat them. I was going to 2. “
Now the question is, has the Navy schedule tightened enough to help the Midshipmen defeat the Army (8-3) this weekend. The Black Knights undoubtedly have a better record than the Midshipmen, but Army FCS Baknel also beat Connecticut (1-11) and Massachusetts (1-11).
The Black Knights also played hard with good teams, but lost to Wisconsin by six and Wake Forest by a wild 70-56.
“We will be ready for these guys. I’ll tell you that, ‘said Niumatalolo. “We’ll be ready for these guys.”
The Army won last year’s game with the Navy 15-0, and in seven of the last nine meetings, no team has scored more than 21 points. These communities reflect each other in many ways because of their option-based offenses.
“I love this game, it’s always about the eyes. Your eyes will lead you to all the keys you need to read, and your job is very simple. The more you do it, the more successful you will be in defending against the trio, ”said Navy cornerback Michael McMorris. “Obviously it’s a tough running game and a few passes will be game-changing moments. It’s really different. ”
No matter how the rest of the season goes, this weekend’s victory will be a celebration of the Navy. This is the nature of competition with the army – and in particular, this year Niumatalolo believes the Midshipmen have achieved unprecedented success in their records.
“The season didn’t turn out the way they wanted, but I was amazed that they work all year, all season,” Niumatalolo said. “They admit for the seniors that winning this game will change everything for them and catapult us off-season.”
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Subscribe to AP’s college football news: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25