Play Well in Space- This is the big one as far as the defensive side of the ball in concerned. Forget about getting significant pressure on the quarterback, being aggressive, and all that other junk and just get back to the basics. Playing well in space encompasses a few things, not the least of which is tackling, which seems to find itself in a similar situation as the bunt for a base hit these days. Nevertheless, the Midshipmen defense needs to show more effort in getting to the ball carrier and once more, getting eleven helmets to the ballcarrier. In addition, the defense (particularly the linebackers and defensive backs) need to take better angles to the ballacarrier, and can’t let their zone coverages break down. Nate Davis is an accurate and efficient quarterback, so the only way to stop is to keep him and check and take away the deep ball. But to that, you can't let him pick you apart underneath all day, and that's where playing smart in space comes in. Remember, this is a Buddy Green coached defense. It’s gonna bend, but the key is for it not to break.
Hold onto the Damn Ball- I’ve toned it down from the familiar Paul Johnson practice quote, but this will likely be the central key to winning this football game, as well as any other football game. Ball security is essential, and after last week’s three interception performance I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a Navy fan who would contend that notion. The story line this week is a familiar one in that it features what are two presumably high powered offenses, and two defenses with the clear job to support the offense. Navy’s defense is not going to have a great game. They just won’t. What they need to do (see key #1) is have a serviceable day, so hopefully the offense can capitalize on it’s possessions and score more times then the opponent (uh oh, did I just go John Madden on you?) Navy should win this game, I’m not going to the extreme to play this “we’ll see” stuff and I don’t think that going in with the notion of not winning this game is going to help. If Kaipo and the offense can be smart with the ball, we will win. If they don’t, we’re in trouble.
Run the Ball, a lot- Phelix did a great job drawing a comparison between former quarterback Lamar Owens and Kaipo-Noa. Phelix reminded us that after Lamar’s turnover-plagued day against Rutgers two years ago, the offense bounced back in the next game against Tulane and ran the ball to kingdom come (only three pass attempts all day.) I suspect we may see a similar situation with Kaipo-Noa against a Ball State defense which will probably need to “feel us out” in the opening quarter. I’m not saying don’t take it if it’s there, but rather go back to your bread and butter and what your guys do best.