Surprisingly, the Hoosiers have only played Navy three times in program history. This Saturday will be number four. Indiana has won twice and last year of course the Midshipmen won on a Hoosier heart breaker 31-30 in Annapolis. The first two meetings of these programs were back to back season in 1985 and 1986 where Indiana won 38-35 and 52-29 respectively. IU will be looking to repeat that trend by upping the difference from 3 points in year one of the two year series to 23 points in year 2.
The internet lacks any sort of box scores to the previous two games, so we're going to recap some of the most relevant one anyway. Last year, Indiana came into the game with Navy on a four game skid. It was that weird non-conference game that somehow got flipped and was smashed smack dab in the middle of conference games. Indiana came out swinging and looked like they would come away with the much needed win.
The Hoosiers had Navy outgunned for a majority of the game. Even though Cam Coffman was relatively underwhelming with 244 yards on 25 completions in 37 attempts with no touchdowns and two interceptions, the run game was working pretty well. D'Angelo Roberts and Stephen Houston combined for 132 rushing yards on 30 carries. Tevin Coleman also got in on the running action with a TD to add to one a piece from Roberts and Houston. Indiana moved the ball at will for most of the game. However, it wasn't the moving of the ball that mattered in this game. It was the controlling of the clock.
Indiana was a quick strike offensive machine last year, but their fatal flaw was that they couldn't sustain long drives. A sub-par defense was constantly on the field because Indiana would score in just a few plays or go three and out on a drive. It gassed the D by the end of the game and the Navy game was a microcosm of the season. 417 yards of offense 26 minutes of possession time.
The final eighth of the game is what broke the camels back. Indiana had the ball up 9 with 6 minutes to play. Three and out gives the ball back to Navy. They take it to the Hoosier 10 yard line before they are stopped and kick a 18 yard field goal to cut the lead to 6. Indiana gets the ball back with under 5 to play. Just two first downs and the ball game is over. Three and out. Navy takes the ball down the field and converts a four yard pass in the endzone to take the lead 31-30. Indiana gets the ball back with 1:45 to drive the 50 yards to field goal range for the ice man Mitch Ewald. Incomplete pass. Interception. Ball game.
Of all the 12 games we played last year, I remember exactly where I was for that one. I had to work that weekend and so I was following the game on my phone. We had taken a break around half time to grab some dinner. I was sitting in Squealers BBQ in Mooresville, IN (delicious by the way) refreshing my app to get updates. It truly was the most sinking moment of the season. At that point you were certain that the season was hopeless. Even with a soft finish to the conference schedule a bowl game was officially out of reach.
Of course, I expect this year to be a lot different. For one, we aren't going to be playing just a single quarterback this whole game. Coffman will likely be third off the bench if it does happen. The defense is a year older and I would suggest improved, though we haven't seen definitive proof yet. Indiana will be better prepared. We already hear about the defense prepping for Navy's cut blocking schemes, so the triple option shouldn't be as effective as it was last year. But we'll get further into that in the preview.