The clock may have struck midnight on Houston as a cinderella championship contender as Navy gets one of their biggest wins in recent memory.
In a world of spreads, zone reads, and jets there remains one offense in college football that does not strive to be sexy. There is one offense that does not feature any razzle dazzle. It’s simple, effective, and so rare that even the best defenses go through hell to stop it.
It’s the triple option, and it drove a stake through the heart of Houston’s playoff dreams on a wet field in Annapolis as Saturday turned to night.
Navy ran, ran, and ran some more, right into the teeth of Houston’s vaunted defense and top freshman Ed Oliver. Navy rushed the ball 63 times for 306 yards and and two scores all while being quarterbacked by Will Worth, the Midshipmen’s backup.
Add in three Houston turnovers, including a pick-six, and the Mids were able to put together a sparkling effort and hold on for the 46-40 win.
No team runs as powerful a triple option as Navy and it showed against a Cougar defense that was talented but seemingly confused by Worth’s sleight of hand with the ball. Make no mistake, Navy won this game. The Midshipmen ran a nearly-flawless offensive gameplan and it paid off with the program’s first win over a top-10 team since they beat second-ranked South Carolina in 1984.
As spectacular of a win as it was for Navy it was as debilitating a loss for Houston. The Cougars had done everything right this season. They had beaten Oklahoma to start the season, won in a tough road environment at Cincinnati, and gone about their business like a team with playoff aspirations should.
Greg Ward threw for 359 yards and and ran for another 94. Greg Ward also threw a pair of interceptions. For all the good there were glaring mistakes that ruined the day, and national title hopes of the Cougars.
And now there is the question of whether or not the Cougars will even get to play for the American Conference title. Navy, a fellow West division team, now controls its destiny in the division, and Houston will need the Midshipmen to lose twice in league play if they want to play for a conference title.
A showcase game with Louisville remains, but the dreams of national glory are perilously close to gone. For all the funning and gunning of the Cougars’ offense, and brawn and brash on the defense, there was simply no answer for the simplicity of the triple option.
Now all Houston can do is wait and hope.