Monday, October 01, 2007

After Action Report: Navy Makes It Five in a Row

Saving the Season

Just before entering the fourth quarter against Duke two weeks ago, it looked as though Navy’s season was doomed. The Mids, trailing eleven points to the Blue Devils at the time, looked poised to give up another score and dig themselves an impossible hole to come out of. With a defense that couldn’t stop anyone and an impending 1-3 record, the prospects for bowl eligibility and a successful season seemed to be rapidly dwindling.

Over the past five quarters I’d say we’ve learned a lot about this team.

I don’t man to come off as overly positive, and I certainly don’t mean to overlook the obvious facts that there are still major concerns on this Navy team, most notably on the defensive side of the ball. But give these guys some credit. Where 1-3 looked more than likely two weeks ago, the Midshipmen now stand at 3-2, and, and in spite of a weak defense, are still very much in position to achieve bowl eligibility and win their fifth consecutive commander-in-chief’s trophy under Paul Johnson. This is what they mean when they talk about being a winning program, about having a winner’s mentality. It doesn’t always mean blanking the opposition, or blowing out the other team, but always involves getting the job done. What we saw on Saturday was literally a team coming together and willing itself through a game. It wasn’t always pretty times and it wasn’t perfect, but when it was all said and done the guys and blue and grey came out on top, and even did it with a little breathing room for a change. In short, what we saw on Saturday was a team saving its season through beating their most hated rival, and in doing so continued a streak of excellence against service academy rivals.

Defense Stands Tall

Yes, Navy gave up 476 yards of offense to Air Force, but so what? I mean, did anyone really expect the defense to hold Air Force to under 300 yards of offense? I sure didn’t, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that Navy gave up only twenty points to the Falcons, and played its best defensive game of the season. I was very much impressed with a number of individual performances on the defense, in particular the play of the front seven. Matt Wimsatt just had a monster game, and at times even looked like David Mahoney out there, while sophomore Tony Haberer looked confident and athletic in the middle of the unit. And how about Michael Walsh? After being a non-factor during the first four games of the season the junior defensive end finally came alive, recording ten tackles (8 solo, 3 tfl) while playing with excellent effort and intensity. Don’t take Coach Johnson’s words for granted, this unit really did play with passion and effort on Saturday. This was especially apparent when talking about pursuit, for even when Navy’s defenders found themselves out of the play they still hustled to the ballcarrier, and in doing so probably saved several big plays from Air Force. The key for Navy’s defensive success will continue to be contingent upon the play of the front seven, and with a promising performance against Air Force, I’m cautiously optimistic going into the second half of the season.

Players of the Game

Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada: Give Kaipo credit. After being scrutinized by fans and the media over two weeks he turned in a solid performance against Air Force, rushing for just over 100 yards and two scores. Kaipo also completed four of seven passes for 79 yards. He sure didn’t look “timid” on a 78 yard touchdown run off the option in which he blew up the angle on three Air Force defenders coming from across the field, and didn’t exactly burn out by the end of the game as he’s done in the past.

Matt Wimsatt: After having a disappointing string of games over the course of September, Matt finally stepped up with a dominating performance on Saturday afternoon. Despite being held numerous times, Matt did a great job reading and reacting to Air Force’s variable offense, and was all over the field en route to a 14 tackle day. As only one of two seniors on defense, it was imperative that Matt step up and have a big day for Navy, and that’s exactly what he did.

What this Means

Don’t overlook the importance of beating Air Force. Troy Calhoun and the Falcons had built up a whole lot of momentum early and the season and, warranted or not, looked well on their way to reestablishing the program. Navy’s win this weekend goes a long way to breaking some of that momentum, and perhaps more importantly, stems any recruiting advantage Air Force may have built up from an “on the scoreboard” basis (I say this because Air Force still has several recruiting advantages over Navy.) Most importantly though, it puts Navy back on track for the season, and gives the Midshipmen momentum heading into the middle of the season.

Picking Up the Pieces

Where do the Falcons go from here? Air Force has seemingly faded down the stretch after the rivalry game with Navy over the past five years, and after starting off 3-0 the Falcons now find themselves at 3-2. Conventional wisdom would tell us that Air Force should be able to get to 6-6 or 7-5 with the schedule they have, but after imploding down the stretch last year nothing is certain. I don’t hate Air Force with the same passion as other Navy fans do, and to tell you the truth I hope they do make it to a bowl game for Navy’s strength of schedule benefit.

Looking Ahead

Up next for Navy is Pittsburgh, a team, and a program, which has underachieved and finds itself in a state of disarray this season. After winning their first two games against Eastern Michigan and Grambling, the Panthers have dropped three straight, including devastating losses to Connecticut and Virginia, two decent, but not great teams. If you’re asking me, I’ll tell you we have a good shot against Pitt. The Panthers have suffered a host of injuries this season, and have pressed in true freshman Pat Bostick to start behind a struggling offensive line. The Panthers have imploded on defense over the past two weeks, and have yet to face an offense like Navy under the Wanstache. Still, Pitt has no shortage of talent, and with a loaded Big East conference schedule ahead of them, this is a must win situation for not only the team, but their embattled head coach.

In case you haven’t noticed, Zerbin Singleton has been great this year. With Shun White out with an ankle injury Zerb really stepped up against the Falcons, rushing for 65 yards and a score. But numbers don’t tell the whole story for Zerb, whose second effort and refusal to be denied helped Navy pick up key first downs and keep drive momentum going…Last season Ram Vela was a slotback. This summer he was a cornerback. On Saturday he played the “raider” position, which for all intensive purposes is just a cool name for outside linebacker. He played it well too, recording six tackles on the day and showing real versatility against the run and the pass. After two missed Joey Bullen field goals I would not be surprised to see Matt Harmon start next week, that being dependent upon the status of his groin of course. That being said, if Navy needs to kick a 40+ yarder with only a few seconds left to win the game, you have got to go to the unicable ice man…Reggie Campbell’s 37 yard touchdown run was just another example of his great athletic ability. Not to take anything away from any of the other slotbacks, but he’s the only guy with the quickness, speed, and instinct to turn a run like that back to the middle of the field and score. I hate to sound like a simpleton, but a guy like that has got to get the ball more than five times in a game…


phelix said...

what recruiting advantages does air force have?

Adam said...

I'm making the presumption that the new admin at USNA won't help our case as far as inter service academy recruiting goes. You understand these kinds of things better than I do, do you think that's an unfair assumption?

phelix said...

Yeah, a little. I don't think it's really that big of a deal. Supes usually last for about 3 years. If you figure that plebe year isn't much different than it's always been, then guys being recruited now won't feel much of the effects of this superintendent. It's this year's 2/c and 1/c that are kind of getting screwed. If a recruit goes to the prep school, this supe will probably be gone before his youngster year.

Air Force's biggest recruiting advantage is that its prep school is on site. I don't think that outweighs all of Navy's plusses. Navy has a greater variety of career choices available, and has IMO a much better location. And that's before we even get to that whole winning thing.

Gary said...

I agree with Kudos to Kaipo for his performance.
I know I have been PRO JB but Kaipo did a good job vs AFA.
However- I remain skeptical to see what can be done vs Pitt.
I know that Pitt is on the downslide but they still have size and obviously more talent and speed and athleticism.
I am like you I dont hate AFA and root for all service academies-but they were way too chippy and you see none of that gargabe with Army.
Also I highly overrated them after the TCU win and truth be told -"they stink".
As far as recruiting advantage-that should still be in Navys favor as long as PJ adn Chet remain.
I think the records-national exposure-Bowl games should make that a fact.
Of course beating even a down trodden ND team and ending the losing streak would also be a nice plus too.
But despite feeling good after the AFA win -I want to see how we fare against Pitt and Wake- and I still remain highly skeptical of beating ND-no matter their record.

BTW-IS that negative feeling still permeating the Brigade and the new Supe?
Now what is he doing to make things worse?

Anonymous said...

I do feel good about the win. The QB long run was exhilerating. The squeemish reflection that troubles me is AF infractions and the 474 AF yards... and for 59 minutes of the game our QB managed to average only 1.5 yards per carry.

I hope Pitt has an off day.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I missed this game! I did see Kaipo's run though, I think my confidence in him is starting to work it's way up.
Btw, I was wondering what Navy was ranked?

football dad dan said...

Just back from a business trip, ... so a bit late on an input. Did go to the game on Saturday, ... and as satisfying as it was getting that "W" against those Zoomies, ... It still has to be a serious area of concern that AF moved the ball all day through the air & almost totaled 500 yards of offense. Even though the Navy "Dee" did "stand tall" on a few occasions w/ their backs to the goal line, ... an honest analysis has to be that AF did more to "lose" that game, ... than Navy (with the exceptions of a few plays) did to "Win" it.
BZ to Kaipo on that back-breaking long run, ... but as already mentioned, ... he averaged less than 1.5 ypc in his other 14 carries ---> The PJ option offense cannot succeed with that kind of production from the QB.
Pitt is Beatable by this Navy team (even with the horrible defense), ... but once again, the "O" must execute & maximize scoring opportunities ---> Can't throw dumb INTs, can't continue missing FGs,... and can't continue putting the offense in 3rd & long situations.

Gary said...

While Pitt is beatable-this game also scares me as one that could put us in a national embarrasment just as easily.
Its the type of game where Kaipo does not perform (like Rutgers)or well enough.
Honestly it seems Kaipo breaks 1 or 2 long runs and his stats get fluffed by those when overall his runs are for minimal yardage and many for no gain or loss.
I think that PJ will have to notice if Kaipo grows "deer in headlight eyes" early that he better get JB in there for a change of pace.
For some reason Pitt putting up 50 plus is a constant thought in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Football Dad_

Thanks for a perceptive, objective, tell-it-like-it-is analysis of the AF game.
No head-in-the-sand win-induced euphoria. The LB's and DE's did look a lot better ( thankfully ). There's hope, but we have to jack things up in the areas you mentioned, or Pitt is going to do us damage.

football dad dan said...

Agree that this upcoming "spot-lighted" ESPN game next Wednesday night is one that Navy should be very wary of ---> Pitt has the size & talent to put a real "hurtin" on Navy, ... and this would be the perfect venue for another "class-less act" like Dave Wannstadt to really run up the score to distract his growing list of nay-sayers (especially in the Pitt alumni crowd).
Imparative that Navy's offense not make mistakes. Over time the Navy "Dee" will improve their level of play, ... and there were certainly some signs of that this past Saturday (albeit against an equally sized opponent "O"-line).
Frankly, ... as evidenced by the way he has handled the slot backs, ... I have little faith that PJ will deviate from the way he "substitutes/rotates" players, so am not expecting anyone but the starters to get "PT" ... despite the game situation.

Anonymous said...

The way we " subtitue/rotate " players ( last year ) is the reason we found ourselves this year with no one on defense who had game time experience.

We do the same thing ( last year ) on Offense, only more so.

football dad dan said...

You are "preaching to the choir" brother ----> I expounded on this issue before. )o:
What's a shame is that ALL these kids bust their a**es in practice everyday, ... and deserve the opportunity to get a little "PT" during the game. Even during the "blow-out" wins over the likes of UCONN, Stanford, EMICH, Duke, Temple last season, ... PJ & coach Green stayed with the starters well into the 4th quarter, ... and in some cases the entire game. Who cares if we only beat EMICH by 2 TD's vice 3 or 4??? Just "shooting ourselves in the foot". )o:


Rockon2413 said...

I don't have much to say but,I hope their will be no scandal that rocks the Naval Academy , such as last years incident involving crimes


Adam said...

If anyone is still reading this, please nevermind that last comment and choose not to respond. This is why I use comment moderation.