The #20 UCF Knights won their toughest game remaining on the schedule against the #21 Tulane Green Wave on the road in New Orleans last week. That being said, the argument can be made that the real work for head coach Gus Malzahn is truly beginning.
While the Knights can clinch hosting the American Athletic Conference Championship at the Bounce House, they can only guarantee that by winning in the final two weeks of the season. While the Navy Midshipmen don’t represent a juggernaut in the American, they certainly provide a unique challenge.
“[The Mishipmen] are unique — there’s no doubt about it,” said Malzahn this past Monday. “ . . .We’ve been having those guys on our mind all the way from the summer about getting a plan together and all that. But [Navy] definitely presents different challenges — I don’t know anybody we play that’s similar.”
This sentiment was echoed by defensive tackle Anothy Montalvo who will be taking the field for the Knights in his final regular season game in the Bounce House. He talked about what the keys were for the defense to find success.
#UCF DT Anthony Montalvo breaks down the unique challenge #navy represents with their offense. #GKCO #chargeon pic.twitter.com/xSGeFl3JuT— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCFBanneret_SBN) November 14, 2022
With the penchant that Navy has for cut blocking, the defensive front is incredibly vulnerable if they are not technically sound. Moreover, as literally armed servicemen with military training, discipline is a hallmark for their execution which the Knights must also counter in their own right.
Another scary element to this is that cut blocking can also lead to injuries at a higher rate than normal engagement on the line of scrimmage since it attacks larger-built players’ lower bodies. It’s not so much malice in the Navy game plan as physics being tough on the knees of heavy guys.
For all the physical challenges that playing the Midshipmen pose, it’s the mental game that could be most important. While they only have a 3-7 overall recording coming into FBC Mortgage Stadium at 11:00 am EST this week, they were within a single score of beating #18 Notre Dame. Last year, Mistakes from a then-freshman quarterback Mikey Keene and others who were filling in for the volume of injuries that UCF was facing led to a loss in Annapolis.
That being said, UCF is relatively healthy this year and has been preparing for this game throughout the year since August according to Malzahn. The key will be composure and patience for UCF to beat Navy and stay on course to a conference championship.