ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Breaking down Navy’s 46-40 win against No. 5 Houston:
THE BIG PICTURE: Houston’s shocking loss to Navy eliminates the Cougars’ already long odds of reaching the College Football Playoff while upending the push for the access-bowl bid to a New Year’s Six game afforded to the best team among the Group of Five conferences.
For Houston, an entire season fell apart in 60 minutes. So long, Playoff. The Cougars would need complete anarchy to even rejoin the conversation – and anarchy rules in college football, but not to that extent. Even worse, losing to Navy places the Cougars behind the eight ball in the American Athletic Conference West Division.
Group of Five teams must win their conference to qualify for one of the New Year’s Six games. As of now, the Cougars are no longer in control of their own division, let alone the American as a whole.
WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT: With the Cougars no longer unbeaten, the clubhouse leader for the access bowl becomes Boise State, which moved to 4-0 after Friday night’s win against New Mexico. But is Houston really no longer in the running?
Absolutely not. The Cougars need to run the table in league play and have Navy lose once – or lose once and have Navy lose twice – to take the West Division. Beating Louisville to end the regular season and knocking off a team such as South Florida to win the American title game might even give Houston the edge over an undefeated Boise State.
KEY PLAY: Navy scored two touchdowns in a four-play span early in the third quarter to take a 34-20 lead. The first, a 17-yard touchdown pass, came after a Houston fumble. The second was shocking: Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. was intercepted by Josiah Powell, who returned the pick 34 yards to give the Midshipmen a 14-point advantage less than five minutes into the second half.
KEY PLAY, PART II: Trailing 41-33 with less than six minutes left, Houston elected to punt back to Navy and trust its defense. Well, that backfired: the snap was airmailed over punter Dane Roy’s head and went into out of the end zone for a safety. That pushed Navy’s lead to 10 points and gave the Midshipmen possession.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Navy quarterback Will Worth’s two touchdown passes provided a spark, but his play as the point man for the Midshipmen’s option offense keyed the victory. Once the backup before an injury to Tago Smith thrust him into the lineup, Worth churned out 115 tough yards on 32 carries to help keep Houston’s offense on the sideline.