Sunday, September 16, 2007

Games Like This

Games like this kill your week. You spend your entire week looking forward to Saturday, putting up with the drudgery of everyday life, only to see your college team put itself in a position to win before abruptly failing to execute on two consecutive plays and give the game to the opposition. You feel robbed, like all the anticipation you put into the week was for naught, and, as your team sits a 1-2 with several daunting opponents looming, you approach an ill-defined mind-set we affectionately call "the ledge." I can't even begin to speculate on how the players feel...

Make no mistake about it, yesterday's loss was among the most devastating of the Paul Johnson era. Right up there with Maryland, Tulsa, and Boston College, yesterday's 34-31 overtime loss hurt a little bit more because for a ten minute period around 8 PM, it looked like Navy had it. And not had it in "I think we might pull this out" had it, but "I believe that we will win" had it. In that respect, only the Meineke Car Care Bowl loss compares.

Navy should have won this game. Not that it would have been a pretty win by any means, and to be perfectly objective, I'm sure that if Navy had won the game Ball State's fans would be telling themselves the same thing. But still, anytime you're in a position to kick a game winning field goal and it gets blocked, I'd say you certainly should have won the game.

Yet too view this game within the context of Matt Harmon's blocked 31-yard game-winning attempt and the subsequent overtime debacle would be to neglect to view the problems Navy had all day on the defensive side of the ball, and the miscues that cost the offense much needed points. Consider for a moment that Navy gave up a whopping 262 yards rushing and 277 yards passing while allowing the Ball State offense to go 11-15 on third down conversations. Navy's defensive line failed to get any kind of rush while Navy's linebackers struggled to fill the gaps and cutback lanes, allowing running backs MiQuale Lewis and Frank Edmonds to rush for over 200 yards and average over six yards a carry. Yet even with this defensive ineptitude, Navy's offense still had a chance to build up some "breathing room" after the defense held in the third quarter, but was unable to do so. A promising Navy drive that began after a Ketric Buffin interception was halted at the Ball State 15 when Shun White fumbled a Jarod Bryant pitch, effectively taking at least three points off the scoreboard. This came after an earlier drive died in Ball State territory right before the half, when Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada took a sack that pushed Navy to the edge of Matt Harmon's field goal range. The 48-yard attempt was blocked. Navy had it's chances in this game, but like last week the Mids failed to play fundamentally sound defense and were unable to finish at key moments on offense. These miscues, coupled with the general inability of Navy's defense to stop Ball State during the entire game, lost the game just as much as any Matt Harmon blocked field goal.

So where do we go from here? This now becomes the question, and, three weeks into the season, I still refuse to be pushed into "panic mode" and call into doubt the prospects of a CINC trophy and a bowl berth. That being said, Navy needs to show us something next week against Duke for the team to have any chance at accomplishing any of it's goals in 2007. We did see some positives in this game (most notably Navy's 585 total yards) and saw some players really come into their own (Jarod Bryant, Eric Kettani, Darius Terry,) but when the 1-2 Blue Devils visit Annapolis next week, it's going to take more than subtle moral victories to appease the team and the coaching staff. At this point, I could care less how a win "looks" and would be more apt to side with the old Al Davis line of "just win."

I wrote last week that this game wold tell us a lot about the character of this Navy team, and to a certain extent I think we received an answer. Guys stepped up, individuals made plays, and even the defense rebounded somewhat in the second half despite being without Irv Spencer, who left early in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Yet we've only gotten a partial answer, and for this team to prove itself, it's going to take a collective effort to step up and finish on both sides of the football. Until we can do that, I feel as though this team will become embroidered in close, nail-biting shootouts like we saw last night.


Unrelated Note: I have an FTX I have to go to on the 29th-30th so I won't be around for the Air Force game. Because I don't have CSTV I can't tape the game and for obvious reasons I won't be able to watch it online. I am thus looking for anyone who would be willing to tape the game and send it to me via the mail. I will of course reimburse you for your time. If you'd be willing to do this please send me an email by this weekend. Thanks!


Gary said...

Absolutely wrecked!
You go from such highs waiting for the season and now it crashes down to the point where we could even lose to Duke.
No longer do I feel that automatic 9-10 wins, in fact reality tells me we may be struggling to get the 6 (how badly have my hopes dropped?).
It was Tulsa all over again and with the D we have dont think AFA/Pitt/Wake areant getting juiced up thinming about it.
We have the O that gets us into shoot outs and then we shoot ourselves in the foot.....A 32 YARD GIMME field goal that your old man could kick!
The game had trouble written all over it and those fears came true.
You know how much I was looking forward to ND?
Well all they will have left for motivation now is to win game # 1 against us- and no way will they let that streak then they should be a bit better-by then what will our D look like?
The sight of Navy will surely "wake up their echos".
Now I cant even feel good about a Duke rout this week.....
It not about PJ and the team- its the lack of depth and experience.
The good thing is it will help next year-the bad thing is I have to say that.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Ball State is a good team. Any one who has been watching college football knows that there is a lot of parity and any team can beat you. Expecting 8 or 9 wins is unreasonable. Despite this, I am disappointed with the defense. They are banged up but they are also predictable and unimaginative. The defensive coordinator needs to re-assess some things. They have a starting outside linebacker (strongside) who has seven tackles in three games. They will keep running at us until we make some personnel changes. Secondly, we play a soft zone and don't have much of a pass rush. Occasionally we rush five but rarely do we stunt or bring the house. It seems like everyone is afraid to criticize the coaching staff. They are definitely not beyond reproach. Does anyone still think that Kaipo and Ballard are better than Bryant and Kettani? Kettani is just faster. It's time to quit complaining about personnel/inexperience and make some adjustments.

Adam said...

Coach Green would be able to do more if he had the personnel. That's not just talent mind you, but experience. When you've got two sophomore middle linebackers lining up they are going to make mistakes in lining up the defense. It's not like he didn't try to blitz, but anytime we brought people up the middle they sat the big tight end in between the zones and it killed us. We don't have the explosiveness at outside linebacker to get their off the edge, like we did with Dave and Tyler the past two seasons. We got close with Terry one time, but then again we can’t tackle quarterbacks this year so what does it matter.

The biggest problem we had on defense was not being able to fill the gaps. This was partially due to their zone schemes and the implementation of the Pistol with a back as small as the one they had. It became very difficult for our 'backers to locate the running back and when they did they took themselves out of a play by taking poor angles. Thank God for Darius Terry because they could of honestly ran for 400 yards.

I'd like Buddy Green to come up for the answer to, but the reality is that we're just so young on defense that we're going to struggle, especially with the personnel we get at the Academy.

Kaipo was playing well outside of the sack, so I wouldn't throw him under the bus just yet. But I agree about Eric. He's a more explosive back than Ballard but that doesn't mean you stick him in full time. I think they continue to rotate, with Kettnai starting to get more carries than Ballard.

I'll have a separate post on the quarterbacks tomorrow.

Football Dad Dan said...

Not withstanding the loss of Sovie & Dieltz to injury last week, ... the coaching staff should absorb a good portion of the blame for the level of inexperiance on the defensive side of the ball ----> Last year they kept the seniors (especially LB's Mahoney, Tidwell & Caldwell) in almost the entire game, ... even in blow-out wins over the likes of Stanford, UCONN, Duke, E. Mich & Temple, ... so almost none of the junior b/u guys got any quality "PT" ---> Now we are really paying for it. I said before the season that a successful season (this year given the uncertainty/inexperiance of the "Dee") would be to win 6 games & get to that bowl game ---> Never saw 9+ wins as being remotely realistic. )o:

Gary said...

Football Dad-
I have to give you the kudos on this as it appears you are right and I was way too optomistic.
I thought that despite the inexperience this team would tough it out and make it work.
Those 3 backers as you said were what made it work and yes that is more glaring than ever and I had thought it was the coach and system-just plug em in -here they come.
I thought the scheduele allowed us to do well too and expect 9 wins- but that was before Ball State-it looks now that we were lucky to beat Temple.
To me despite it all getting 6 wins and a low Bowl game is a set back- and perhaps that guaranteed Bowl is in some way a bad thing (though we do have no choice as an Indy).
In the end no matter what this may well be THE most important year for PJ and this program to set sail for the future and yet still get a Bowl game...
I see both sides but yet still feel that twinge of disappointment in how it is progressing.

Adam said...

Yea, I guess I really must look like an idiot, but I did not expect the defense to be so bad. I still think a lot of that comes from being out of position which is partially due to the injuries and young guys in there, but I guess I overestimated the ability of guys to come in and "replace" last year's seniors.