Oh boy. Here it comes again. This was a bad game. Really bad. The offense was stagnant, the special teams stunk, but worst of all, the defense couldn’t stop the run – or anything really – but mainly the run.
Navy is a team that almost relies solely on the triple option, and for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s exactly what it sounds like – the quarterback reads the defense and decides whether to hand it off to (or pitch it to) one of the two running backs or keep it himself and run it. Head coach Randy Edsall knew that going in, but it didn’t help.
“It’s one of those offenses that you’re never gonna shut down,” Edsall said. “You hope to slow it down maybe, but you’re never gonna completely shut it down. The really good teams that run that offense, when they got it going like Navy has, you ain’t gonna shut it down.”
Navy’s quarterback Malcolm Perry ran the ball 11 times for 108 yards, which, according to a tweet from ESPN Stats & Info, was the sixth time he eclipsed the 100-mark this season, tied for the second-most in the nation. He also ran for two touchdowns, the first of which was a 58-yard run on their first drive of the game where he spun out a UConn defender who had him in his grasps, and the other being two-yard run to increase their lead to 25.
The Midshipmen rarely throw the ball normally and that trend continued on Friday. Thanks to their dominance in the run game, when they did throw it, UConn wasn’t ready for it. Perry attempted just six passes all game, completing three of them, and those three combined for a total of 165 yards and a score.
It wasn’t just Perry who gave the defense fits, however, the entire running attack really had their way with the Huskies. In fact, the boat guys tried to run the ball with a whopping 14 different rushers. Nine of them had more than one carry, and four had at least 30 yards. Those same four each had at least one touchdown and one of them, Jamale Carothers (listed on the two-deep as the backup fullback), had three scores by himself.
However, it was starting fullback Nelson Smith who had the largest play of the day of any Navy player, taking one of his five carries up the gut for a 77-yard gain, but the 5-foot-9-inch, 218 pound back was tackled just short of the goal line by Tyler Coyle. It was the longest rush that UConn has allowed all season.
This is not the first time UConn has not been able to defend the run so far this season, particularly struggling with mobile quarterbacks. Against USF, Jordan McCloud ran for a net of 62 yards (gained 82), including a 26-yard touchdown rush on a scramble up the middle. The following week against Tulane, the Green Wave had two quarterbacks rush for over 35 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, they rank No. 122 in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (No. 102 before Friday), but they’re more middle of the pack when it comes to passing yards allowed, coming in at No. 70 in the nation – nothing spectacular – but it could be far worse.
The defense is much improved from the disaster that it was last season, but their ability to stuff the run has not taken as big a step as their pass defense. Their next two games are against Cincinnati and ECU, both schools that have quarterbacks who can run if need be. While no one is likely to dominate as much as Perry, they could still be in for a long day.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @jorge_eckardt31