First and foremost, obligatory reference to the insane final game statistics.
Speechless. Ridiculous. The Sky is Falling. OMG. What. The. Hell. Dude...
These are only a few mong the many printable sentiments echoed by fans during Navy's 73-62 victory last night over the North Texas Mean Green in a game which saw the highest combined point total by two teams in the modern era. Basically, If you like offense this game was like Christmas, and if you like defense you've probably already died of shame.
Emotionally speaking this game probably drove you absolutely crazy and most likely to the verge of rational incapacitation. My emotions watching this game went as followed:
Annoyed - Mad- Pissed - Somewhat relieved - WTF?!? - OMG - This is actually kinda funny- Hysterical - Violently Hysterical - Is this actually happening? - Relieved- Jaded- LOL and so on...
You get the point. Watching this game was like watching someone walk off a plank into shark infested waters only to jump back up on ship and do it again like ten more times. No wonder Paul Johnson looked noticeably shaken up after the game.
We'll get to the doom and gloom stuff in a second, but I don't think you can say enough about Navy's offense, in particular the mindset of the players. The word resilient certainly comes to mind, but at this point the Midshipmen offense is beyond resilient. It's not just a matter of scoring 74 points almost at will, but of doing so with the clear knowledge that anything less is a recipe to lose the game. The fact that Kaipo-Noa and the offense can keep a collective nerve with that knowledge is nothing short of incredible.
The numbers themselves are overwhelming; 680 yards of total offense, 572 yards on the ground, six different ballcarriers finishing with over 50 yards on the ground, and a whopping 10 yards a pop on the ground. For as good as Navy's offense has been in the past, these are really unprecedented numbers in terms of what Navy has done under Johnson.
But any discussion of record setting numbers has got to start with the offensive line. This was by far the best combined performance by the line all year, and in my opinion one of the best performances by an offensive line since Johnson has been here. If you get a chance I'd recommend going back and taking a look at the achieved feed, and you'll get a first hand account of what we mean when we talk about getting blockers to the second level. Antron had a particular awesome game, and got to the second level so quickly I nearly thought about writing Paul Johnson and requesting Antron be moved to slotback.
Speaking of slotbacks, how about the performances of Shun White and Zerbin Singleton? The two combined for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and that's not even factoring in Reggie Campbell, who, despite being banged up scored a touchdown on the ground and took a free kick back 73 yards for another score. Ok, on to the bad news...
"We've got to do something. We've got to make some changes...We've got to do something."
There is very little I can even attempt to say about the defense, and even if there were anything to say, I don't even know where we'd begin. I, like Paul Johnson, am bordering on speechlessness, which to be frank is a difficult and alien position for a blogger like myself to be in. It's as if we held a convention on all the defensive struggles this year, and to kick it off we let a freshmen quarterback and what is essentially a high school coaching staff run up and down the field in one of those early basketball season exhibitions that features some D-I school beating up on a D-III school. Obviously we knew Navy would struggle with the spread, but I at least didn't expect the Mids to have that much trouble. It was, in many respects, the same old story. Missed tackles, guys out of position, and guys playing slow. Mostly though, guys just looked confused (especially the corners) and as easy as it is to say "we need to make a change" I'm really not sure how you go about doing that. For years we've prided Navy's defense on, at the very least, not allowing the big play, but all it took was watching one North Texas drive to see that wide receivers were running past the entire defense.
Yes, there is consolation in the fact that the defense only gave up 13 second half points, or the fact that they intercepted two passes, but let's be real here folks, the mere phrase "we gave up 46 first half points" does not bode well for a college basketball team, much less a football team. During the game I noticed a lot of fans calling for the head of Buddy Green, and as much as I think such speculation is premature, you can't help but look to him at times like these. We've all been saying the same thing again and again; nobody expects the defense to find the solution, but we should be expecting at least some improvement. That's what I think what makes this most recent performance so hard to digest, because after holding Notre Dame to 28 points in regulation last week, Navy's defense appeared to take a major step back against what is, by conventional wisdom anyway, a lesser team. Time will tell if this North Texas team is for real, but it goes without saying that this game had as much to do with Navy's defense just flat out not playing well as it did with North Texas playing their best offensive game ever. As far as Buddy Green in concerned I think you have got to give him another year, but if the defense can't make noticable improvements by next season, his job could be in trouble. And, for the record, it's not as if I'm the only one with these sentiments.
The turning point of the game came just before the half, when Navy scored with 1:16 left in the first half to cut the North Texas lead from 18 to 11. Navy’s defense then came up with a huge stop, forcing North Texas to punt the ball with only 24 seconds left. After a solid punt return Navy got the ball at midfield, and Kaipo-Noa proceeded to throw a fly pattern to Reggie Campbell, who caught the ball and ran out of bounds at the North Texas three. On the very next play Zerb took an option pitch and went into the endzone to cut the lead to only four points. Within the final two minutes of the half, Navy effectively canceled out North Texas’ earlier onside kick, and with the score right after the half the Midshipmen were able to take the lead. Fantastic game management by Paul Johnson and clutch play by both the Navy offense and defense.
This And That
I give credit to Todd Dodge and his offense, and to tell you the truth had Navy not been on the other end it probably would have been fun to watch his offense at work. Like Adam Ballard said in the postgame, this North Texas program may very well be something of a sleeping giant, and one has to think that in a couple of years Dodge will have this team back in bowl games and at the top of the Sun Belt standings. That being said, I think Dodge had a better defense at Southlake Carroll, and I'm not even joking on that one...Just when you thought Navy couldn't possibly play any more people on defense, we actually saw Jordan Reagan in the secondary yesterday. I just thought it was kind of funny, especially because when I asked him during the summer if he thought he'd see any playing time this year he was quick to reply "nope." He's a Carrollton guy, so at least the one time he did get to play it was in his home state. To bad he couldn’t come down with what looked like a sure interception just before the end of the first half. Irv Spencer is a legitimate beast and perhaps the only consistent bright spot on Navy's defense...Kaipo bruised his knee during the game, but Jarod Bryant came in to play most of the second half and did a fine job, rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown. Coach Johnson indicated in the postgame that Kaipo should be back next week...Speaking of Kaipo, the guy was money on all his throws (4-5 for 108 yards and a TD) and did an excellent job inviting the hit on the option and getting rid of the ball…Freshman defensive back Emmett Merchent returned two kicks, one going for 57 yards, in yesterday's game...Oh yea, Shun White is fast, Adam Ballard is a beast, and technically we still don't have the worst defense in the country…And did I mention we’re GOING TO THE Poinsettia Bowl!