Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shaun's Time is Running Out


Air Force week. Where do we start? One of the fiercest and most meaningful rivalries in the college football landscape, this year's edition has no shortage in story lines. One of the most interesting story lines of this year's game is that of Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney, who many Navy fans seem to know better as "that punk kid." But regardless of how you view Carney the person, the jury is still out on Carney the football player.

Carney is, statistically speaking at least, one of the best quarterbacks in Air Force Academy history. He's currently second in career passing in Air Force history, and will likely break Dave Ziebart's mark by the end of the season. With a career completion percentage hovering around 60% and 30 touchdown passes to his name, he has more than proven that he can throw the ball with velocity and accuracy, while at the same time possessing the ability to run the effectively. He has more than 2000 rushing yards in his career, and has scored 26 times on the ground in a little over three years of work.

But for all of those numbers, Carney has never been able to beat the Midshipmen, and he has never been able to lead the Falcons to a Commander-In-Chief's trophy, much less a winning season in the Mountain West conference. Not the legacy you'd necessarily want to leave behind, especially considering how hyped he was coming out of High School. For those of you who don't know the story, Carney was considered one of the premier option quarterbacks in the country during his prep days, but because of his size (5'10) he was passed up by the bigger school's and became the top prospect among service academies. Both Air Force and Navy aggressively recruited him, with the Falcons eventually winning out after Carney declared that he couldn't see Navy beating Air Force in the foreseeable future. The rest, you could say, was a tad bit ironic. After attending the prep school in 2003, Carney came in and started against Navy in 2004 and lost. In 2005 he lead the Falcons into Annapolis, built up a lead with the offense, and presumed to watch his team lose. Then, in 2006, under the banner of "Return to Dominance," he fumbled away the opportunity for the Falcons to take a game from Navy's seniors, thus completing a four year sweep of the Falcons by Navy and, as I have contended before, greatly contributing to the fall of his head coach. Three years, no victories. Not exactly what he had in mind as a senior in high school in 2002.

So whats the point in rehashing history? Is it not, as they say, a "welcome to this year" scenario we will be dealing with this Saturday, as a new look and new coached Air Force teams comes calling in Annapolis? Well, not exactly. I read an article this week that downplayed this game, saying that Air Force was focused more on their place in the Mountain West conference than on their service academy rivals. This is complete nonsense if you ask me, especially considering what Carney and his fellow seniors have been through the past three seasons. During the late 1980s and the 1990s, when Navy was losing to Air Force on a regular basis, the thought of upending the Falcons became a hallmark of the team's goals, and while many would argue that the Army-Navy game was still the focal point of the season, some would attest that beating Air Force was the ultimate dream. I don't need to fling mud or address the animosity of the rivalry here, but needless to say this game has and continues to take on a different feel than the Army-Navy game. This rings true not only from Navy;s perspective Navy, but from Air Force's, as the falcons have been dealing with the alien proposition of losing the the Midshipmen these past four seasons, and has been left in a state of competitive mediocrity in the MWC.
Carney knows this. His teammates know this. And while they may not be able to single-handily resurrect Air Force football to it's heyday, they can, to a certain extent, save the legacy of their careers at the Academy. Do you really think that Shaun Carney wants to be remembered as the guy who couldn't beat Navy, the quarterback who led the teams which allowed the Midshipmen to crawl from the depths of college football to preeminent among service academy football teams? I don't know how Air Force will fare on Saturday against the Mids, but I can tell you one thing, and that's that intensity and focus will not be lacking for the Falcons this week. They, one could argue, have much more at stack than we do.

For Navy, this may end up being the most important game of the season. But for Shaun Carney, it will end up being the most important game of his career. Win or lose, the clock is ticking, and his window of beating the Navy in an Air Force uniform is about to run out.

15 comments:

football dad dan said...

Well penned piece, ... and I concur 100% ---> Ignore the "nonsense" put out in that article from that Colorado "fish wrap", ... this is a HUGE game for the AFA '08.
Navy will have to play mistake-free football on Offense if we hope to prevail this upcoming Saturday.

Gary said...

Also if Kaipo is not performing -and that means not just his stats(pro Kaipo-ites were all excited with the high completions against a sad Duke team)-but how the team looks with him in there.
PJ must go to the hook as soon as possible and not wait till its too late.

Anonymous said...

If Shaun starts throwing passes ( and he will ), what can we do?

Adam said...

Carney doesn't have the advantages a Lewis or a Davis had. For one he's a midget, so even with his big arm he's not going to be able to see the lanes and identify guys downfield as easily. The offensive line is also a little suspect, so I think we'll get some relief there. I've been watching some Air Force tape so I'll get a scouting report up Friday.

phelix said...

Carney wasn't an option quarterback in high school.

football dad dan said...

The size "mis-match" won't be a factor in this game ---> Teel (RU), Lewis (BS) & Davis (Duke) all were big/tall pro-style QB's playing behind huge O-Lines ... so hopefully we'll see a better performance out of the Navy "Dee".
Bottom line though is that the Navy "O" has to execute mistake free football & maximize scoring opportunities during their drives. Despite the "glowing" grades Adam issued for the QB's/Offense last game, ... the truth is that Kaipo did not run the Navy Offense the way it needed to be run ---> The triple option (for various reasons) just didn't seem to "click", ... and Navy found themselves in 3rd & long situations too many times (For all his speed, ... Kaipo needs to show a little more toughness & get some YAC ... he goes down too easily). If he continues to throw the ball "up for grabs", ... I'm afraid that his numbers will resemble more like the Rutgers game than his success against Duke, ... because AF won't be tricked/coached into just stopping the run. Bryant has his shortcomings as well (mainly his "smoothness" in running the PJ option offense ... and he tends NOT to pitch if "push comes to shove"). Hopefully PJ won't hesitate to "mix & match" the two QB's freely enough to generate a spark in the offense when needed???
GO NAVY!!!

Anonymous said...

Kaipo 1st half, JB 2d half.
If no JB, final score AF 40, Navy 32.

Anonymous said...

That puff piece from the Gazette once again proves USAFA will always be the "other" service academy. Win or lose, they trumpet their MWC affiliation as being superior. It'd be one thing if Carney was 0 for 3 in the CiC world, but kicked butt and was winning in the MWC. He hasn't done either and, therefore, should be quoted as saying "Gosh, we'd really like to beat our fellow service rivals blah blah blah." Instead we get a nice dose of ignorance. I hate USAFA for this very reason (plus we have more pilot billets than they do).

Shack's Daddy said...

I'm coming in from Los Angeles to see the game. Any other football Dads out there (or just fans), please call me. I would like to meet you and tailgate if possible. Mark @ (818)317-8747

Anonymous said...

It seemed to me that there were more called plays ( vs options ) than usual when JB was in there.

football dad dan said...

Anonymous,
You are not imagining things, ... JB is still not comfortable running Coach Johnson's triple option offense (wrt making the right reads, etc...) ... and tends not to make the pitch, even if the "read" calls for it. This is why the Hawaiian Kid will continue to be the starter, ... despite his impressive ability to run the ball.

BEAT Air Force!!!

Gary said...

Kaipo seems to cost us at times with his timid runs when he is facing tougher opponents.
The fact that JB may refuse to pitch seems more to be a smart decison when trying to bull for extra yardage before the holes close up.
Too many times Kaipo stops short and the hole closes and either he is stopped or lost yardage.
I think in the short time JB has shown enough to qualify for a start and it just seems that he may be doomed to the sideline his entire career and we will never see what he could have done with a full opportunity.
For that type of talent (remember this guy was recruited by Auburn and was Mr Alabama football- a prozed jewel for any Academy)that would be a true shame.

Adam said...

Kaipo is not the "timid" runner you think he is. And if you want to talk about being highly recruited, I think you should know Kaipo was offered by several Pac-10 and WAC schools out of high school (like JB though, none wanted him at QB.)

Anonymous said...

I'm OK with PJ's explanation as to why he likes Kaipo. I just hope his ego doesn't prevent him from making a change if needed.

Physically JB and Kaipo are different. I can just see Kaipo getting up a head of steam as a single wing tailback. JB looks, to me, like he was born to run the option.

phelix said...

PJ's never hesitated to switch players when he thought it was for the best. He feeds his ego by winning, not personnel decisions.