Ken Niumatalolo isn’t concerning himself much with larger ramifications of the Navy football team’s four-game losing streak.
The misery of each setback is more than enough to keep the Midshipmen’s coach busy.
“The pressure is that I hate to lose,” Niumatalolo said. “I played [former Navy offensive lineman] Jeff Battipaglia in tennis today and I’m pissed that I lost.”
Imagine how he’s feeling on Saturdays of late.
The Midshipmen are on their longest losing streak since 2002, and Saturday’s home date with East Carolina (2-4) looms as a significant moment in Navy’s chances of extending their eight-year streak of bowl appearances.
It’s a tricky situation for the Mids, who played poorly against Southern Mississippi and for a half against Air Force. But they also took the current leaders of the SEC East (South Carolina) and Big East (Rutgers) well into the fourth quarter on their home fields.
So Navy isn’t a bad 2-4 … but it is 2-4.
“We’re definitely not where we want to be,” Niumatalolo said. “Bottom line, we’re 2-4. We can’t do anything about that. We’re 2-4 at this point. I feel good about where we’re going to head. I obviously don’t feel good about where we’re at at this point and some of the things that have happened.”
The remaining schedule is its own headache. Trips to Notre Dame and Southern Methodist are on the horizon in the next month. Navy also visits an increasingly plucky San Jose State bunch, and gets perennial bowl teams East Carolina and Troy at home. There’s also the annual showdown with Army to cap the season.
The chance to regain the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy is gone. The opportunity to play in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium still remains.
“To give our guys hope, we always start off with two goals,” Niumatalolo said. “Obviously, one of those goals is gone. We can’t get that goal. But the goal of going to a bowl game is still out there. Iur approach is that’s the big goal and to continue to work for that, but we obviously have to get this one.”
There’s enough to fix. Navy’s had four kicks blocked this season and ranks 105th in red zone offense and 119th in third down conversion defense.
Those are legitimate problems, but not the sort of deep-rooted problems that afflict everything about a team. Navy needs to address all three areas, but has still done enough good things to give Niumatalolo optimism for the second half of the season.
“Our message is that’s over with,” Niumatalolo said. “We’re 2-4. Yeah, we don’t like where we’re at, but we still have six games. Let’s do the best we can, because we still have a ton to play for.”
—- Patrick Stevens