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Navy looks to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 2017– instead of competing for an AAC West title the Midshipmen finished 4-4 in league play.  After a 5-0 start the Mids were fortunate to be bowl-eligible after posting their worst regular season (6-6) in five years.  And instead of beating Army, Navy lost its second straight game to their arch-rival.

What caused a rare subpar season under coach Ken Niumatalolo?  Two things:  untucked shirts and sloppy shaves. “When you’re a disciplined person, you’re disciplined all the time.  And learning to make the right decisions over and over,” Niumatalolo said, “tucking in your shirt and being groomed the right way-we realized there’s carryover to the field. Because the teams that maybe have been a little bit lax in there… may be lax in some of the critical choices that have cost us the game.”

The lack of attention to detail regarding seemingly minor areas contributed to sloppy play:  witness the 16 turnovers that were second most in the AAC.  Witness the 53 penalties (14 more than 2016, an increase of 35%) committed by the usually sharp squad.  This year there is a commitment to doing the little things…and from those little things big things will be expected.

There will be a change at quarterback this season: it won’t be due to graduation unlike previous autumns but due to the talent of Malcolm Perry.  The junior lost the competition last year to Zach Abey, and the coaching staff moved him to slotback in order to get Perry on the field.  This year Perry takes over at QB and the team moves Abey to wide receiver and with every practice Perry makes the coaching staff feel they’ve made the right decision. “Just the work ethic-I’ve been impressed with. A very humble kid-quiet kid-who comes to work,” Niumatalolo said,”He’s gotta progress and continue to develop in the passing game…but he’s with a great coach in (Offensive Coordinator Irvin) Jasper and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be ready for game one.

What are the keys to being a successful quarterback in the option offense? “Small picture, I’d say just being consistent in your technique and footwork-making sure it’s second nature.” Perry said, “Macro-it’d be getting us in the right play and making sure everyone’s in the right position.”  Perry’s three starts last year included a 250-yard rushing performance against Army.  He’ll have help this fall-senior fullback Anthony Gargiulo averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2017 while senior right tackle Andrew Wood has received pre-season all-AAC notice.

Defensively the Mids return five starters- but lose standout linebacker Micah Thomas to graduation. Safety Sean Williams ranked second in tackles behind Thomas last year and will be the key cog in 2018.  His focus? “Attitude, detail and discipline-you know?” Williams said, “In our defense we just come with a certain intensity.  We know that we’re playing for everybody on the sideline. As long as we keep the approach of caring about each other, being meticulous in our preparation and being a beast when it comes to being a beast then we’re gonna be fine.”

The second-most traveled team in FBS (only Hawaii logs more air miles this fall) starts the season at Hawaii, coach Niumatalolo’s alma mater (the Mids are 0-2 in the islands all-time).  While they play four of their next six games in Annapolis-the AAC season begins with a bang as West Division favorite Memphis drops by September 8.  The usual highlights of their slate involve going to Colorado Springs for their annual duel with Air Force, San Diego for their “home” game with Notre Dame, and Philadelphia for their annual date with Army.

Penthouse Prediction- a victory at Hawaii starts the season in fine fashion and the Mids take care of business at home against AAC and non-league foes (mightly Lehigh) alike.  Even losses to Notre Dame and UCF can’t dampen the vibe in Annapolis because they recapture the Commander-in-Chief Trophy by beating Air Force and Army.

Outhouse- the defense can’t contain Hawaii and Memphis is too much for the Mids in their home opener.  Losses to Houston and UCF make the Mids a non-factor in the AAC West and they need a win over Army to secure bowl eligibility.  They don’t get it…and what was once a 14-game winning streak is now a three game slide against their biggest foes.

 

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