Friday, September 28, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada was perfect throwing the football until late in the second quarter, when he threw a very, very bad pass that was picked off before the half. Other than that the guy played a great game, and made some nifty runs that put Navy in manageable third down situations. Jarod Bryant was lights out in relief, leading the offense to a fourth quarter comeback by catching a touchdown pass, running for a two point conversation, and making an incredible run to put Navy in field goal range for Bullen's game-winner. Despite whatever controversy that may or may not exist on the Internet, this is the biggest strength of the team right now.
Duke did a good job on the interior line getting to the fullback and tackling at the point of contact, but even with Vince Oghobaase and the other big bodies up front Ballard and Kettani were still able to combine for nearly 100 yards down the pipe.
We didn't see a whole lot from the slotbacks on Saturday, with Reggie Campbell leading the bunch with 47 yards on only four carries. Shun White went out early with an ankle injury, while Zerb Singleton did it all including hauling in three passes for 48 yards. Bobby Doyle did a good job coming in late and threw a absolutely perfect ball to Jarod Bryant for the game tying touchdown. Blocking was a little sketchy at times.
Wide Receivers: A-
OJ Washington, Greg Sudderth, and Tyree Barnes all got into the action on Saturday, with Washington catching a touchdown pass as well as catching a two-point conversation. Sudderth did an excellent job hauling in his touchdown, while Barnes had a nice catch coming back to the ball and nearly taking it to the endzone. If nothing else, these guys proved that they have athletic ability and sure hands, and that they're more than capable of making plays in the offense.
Offensive Line: B+
I thought the offensive line struggled early in the run game, although played well in pass protection and helped give Kaipo all kinds of time in the first half. As the defensive line started to wear down the offensive line came alive, and did a good job getting guys to the ground at the point of attack and on the second level.Defensive Line: C-
Containment is still a hug issue, as is tackling, in particular around the goal line. Nate Frazier was the lone bright spot on this unit during the game, recording six tackles including a key sack in which he showed great quickness on a stunt. The defensive ends need to show better presence and "feel" for where the quarterback is and cannot lose outside containment on third and long situations.
We've seen a lot more effort out of the linebackers over the past two weeks, and were starting to see senior leaders Irv Spencer and Matt Wimsatt step up. This unit still doesn't have the big play ability that last year's group did, and isn't as instinctive against the run. It will be interesting to see how they match up against Air Force, which doesn't have the personnel advantage that most of Navy's opponent's have.
Yikes. Ok, let me start with the positives. Ketric Buffin continues to play very well, intercepting his fourth pass of the year on Saturday which tied him for second in the nation in picks. Blake Carter, who had been conspicuously absent from the past three games, made some good plays in space and proved to be a good tackler. The bad news however is that we gave up 428 yards through the air to Duke, which, if your keeping track, is 133 more yards than we gave up to Brady Quinn and Notre Dame last season. What's really scary is that 235 of those yards came to Eron Riley, who neither Darius Terry nor Greg Thrasher could really control. I give Peter Vaas credit for calling a good game and Riley credit for making some great catches, but you have to be concerned with our ability to contain the long pass play, especially with a freshmen free safety who seemed out of position at times against Duke.
Special Teams: A+
Joey freaking Bullen. Need I say more?
Monday, September 24, 2007
In an attempt to cover this somewhat chronologically, I'm going to start off by saying what a good job Navy's defense did on the first series of the game. The only question I have is what the hell happened after that?...
...Speaking of "what the hell" kind of moments, have we gotten to the bottom of Duke's first touchdown yet? I've heard a lot about how the coverage was bad all day, but Darius Terry actually had great position on the ball and should have prevented the Duke wide receiver from making the play. Obviously the guy ran two or three yards out of bounce, but the call on the field was that he was forced out. From the replay it looked like he probably started out before Terry's back made contact with him, and even in that situation I don't know how you can say he was forced out when Terry is playing the ball. A dumb call and a fluke play but at least it gives the defense a lesson in never quiting on the play...
...Kaipo-Noa did a very good job throwing the ball around early, largely due to very good pass protection from the O-line. I was for the most part really impressed with Kaipo's accuracy, which we knew coming into the season was much better than it was last season. The interception he threw though was horrible, contrary to the belief of the fan in front of me, who placed the blame on Reggie Campbell. Anytime you stare down a 5'6 receiver who is double covered your asking for trouble, and that interception is definitely on you. Kaipo-Noa struggled with reads early and didn't gain much running the ball, but he did do a good job in the second quarter of making something out of nothing. He didn't have the amazing make ten people miss run Jarod had later in the game, but give Kaipo credit. He's not exactly a dear in the headlights out there...
...I think we're seeing a transition from Ballard to Kettani at the fullback position. That's not to say both won't still get carries, but with Kettani's speed and first step it just makes more sense to have Eric in there. One thing he does need to do better is work on picking his legs up as he hits the hole. I saw him stumble on one to many arm tackles during the game. Other than that the guy is a beast, as is Ballard, who still maintains his status as a legitimate badass...
...I've been telling everyone and their mother about Greg Sudderth's sick nasty athletic ability, and on Saturday we finally saw it as he climbed the latter between two defenders to pull down a long grab at the Duke two yard line. Sudderth has ideal size and body control which make him perfect for the wide receiver position, it's just a shame it took the coaching staff so long to realize he couldn't tackle. On a related note, OJ Washington and Tyree Barnes also made plays in the pass game, only confirming the fact that this is the best group of Navy wideouts in a long time.
...A number of people have been asking what's been going on with Reggie Campbell. I don't think he's in any kind of a "funk" so much much as he's just not getting the ball enough. I say this with a degree of reluctance, because I know how fast Navy fans are quick to jump on the "get the ball to the slots" argument that has become the stuff of "Ask the AD" legend. Still, Reggie has looked good when he has gotten the ball on the outside, and I have to say I was very much surprised to see him not get the ball more against Duke, especially with Shun White out. I know we tell ourselves that we're an offense of interchangeable parts, and as much truth as there is in that we all realize that Campbell's is on another level athletically than much of team. Not to incur the wraith of Paul Johnson, but this only semi-knowledgeable blogger would like to see Reggie get the ball more...
...Defensively we played about 50 people on Saturday. That's probably not an accurate number, but you get what I mean. Anytime you see Ram Vela on the field at nickelback, you know Coach Green is reaching down deep (not a shot at Ram, who should be a starter by the time he's a senior.) This is both a good and bad sign. On the negative side of things, you realize that guys weren't getting the job done. Yet by the same token you have to realize it was a very humid day and Coach Green had to try to keep guys fresh. Our defense is bad, I know, but more specifically we're not getting good play out of our defensive ends and our second cornerback. I use the term second cornerback to denote whoever is opposite Rashawn King, who is money against the run and pass. I know Terry had a great game against Ball State and had some good coverage even against Duke (In which he was burned for a couple of touchdowns), but between him and Greg Thrasher we don't have a lot of vertical speed. This is a concern this year with the simplified defense and the new safety package, which is putting a lot of stress on the corners to keep the wide receiver in front of them. As far as our ends go, we're just not keeping containment, which is honestly all they have to do. We did see some ability from Blake Carter (against the run) and Nate Frazier, who despite being doubled most of the game got good penetration and even recorded a sack on a stunt in which he came all the way around the tackle...
...Irv Spencer had two chances at turnovers, but dropped a second quarter interception and inexplicably lost a fumble recovery. Not getting the fumble recovery maybe almost cost us the game, as Duke would go on to score before the half before Kaipo's interception in which they would go on to score again. Had he recovered that fumble, it's probable that Navy goes into the half with a ten point lead. A similar thing happened last week against Ball. We're just not catching the breaks this year...
...I refuse to talk about the quarterback situation in terms of a controversy. It doesn't matter how much I like Jarod or whether or not I think he could do a better job than Kaipo, it's not my call and I realize that the coaching staff has a much better grasp on this than anyone else. I will say that I hope Jarod can be integrated more into the offense, because as he showed on Saturday, he's a gifted and versatile athlete who can do any number of things for your football team. All for putting him back there with Reggie of kickoffs say "I..."
...From what I'm hearing Shun White just suffering a sprain and should be back and ready to go this week. Speaking of slotbacks, how about Bobby Doyle? Between him, Greg Shinego, and Scott Oswald we are solid as far as the three deep goes...
...September 22nd is hereby Joey Bullen Day. Honestly, if he's not the clutch Navy performer of the decade, I don't know who is. Props to coach Johnson for going with him even though he hasn't been great in practice...
...We need a horse collar rule in college football...
...How big was Navy's win? Well, as Bill Wagner claims today in the Capital, it just may have saved the season.
..I guess the fans in section 30 should not have laughed our collective butts off when Peter Vaas told his guys before the half that "it ain't even close to being over" before a silenced Navy-Marine Corps stadium. I guess he was right...
(Photo courtesy of Paul W. Gillespie of the Annapolis Capital)
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I am an idiot.
Why, you ask, am I an idiot? Well, to put it bluntly, I just missed the single greatest Navy comeback since the 2005 Air Force game. Let me attempt to explain.
I was one of what I can only presume to be a fair amount of fans who left today's game early. With a paper for my old English literature class due Monday that I have still yet to start and the pressing need to get some exercises for the day, I made, with some four minutes left in the fourth quarter, one of the biggest strategic blunders since Mussolini's invasion of Greece in 1940. I don't ask for sympathy, and I don't reckon I deserve any either, but what transpired within the next hour was the single greatest thing I have ever heard via the radio.
Let's back it up. Duke had us on the ropes late in the third quarter, as Thaddeus Lewis suddenly turned into Donovan McNabb and systematically picked apart our defense en route to a 428 yard day through the air. Duke was well on it's way to another score when Duke running back Re'Quan Boyette seemingly just gave the ball to Navy linebacker Tony Haberer on a bizarre fumble sequence, after which Navy managed to do next to nothing on the ensuring series. It was at this point that I had had it. With my forearms looking like the middle of a poorly cooked steak and the general aura of "we're about to give up 50 to Duke" I made the aforementioned decision to pack it up. Obviously this makes me a horrible fan, so I give you all permission to chastise me for the next week. Nevertheless, as I left the stadium I couldn't help but feel that this was one of, if not the worst game the team has played within the past five years, and as I heard the roar of the Brigade behind me I knew Lewis and the Blue Devils were closing in again. When my father and I got to the car, I didn't even bother to see what Bob and Omar had to say, I just turned it to music.
And so began the usual chatter. You know, the "I can't believe we lost to Duke" chatter, followed of course by the proverbial "we're going to get killed next week" kind of chatter. Then of course comes the awkward silence of presumed defeat, followed by the sinking feeling of knowing that the outlook for you week just got a whole lot bleaker. Then, for no apparent reason, something happened.
My father wanted to check WNAV. I had no idea why, but thinking the game was probably about in the books I offered no resistance. Amazingly, Navy had not been buried beneath a hail of Duke touchdowns, and "only" found themselves down by eleven with most of the fourth quarter left. After Joey Bullen barely knocked in a 35 yard field goal we told ourselves that it was nice, but that there was no way we were coming back. At this point I guess I should mention that whenever my Father and I talk football, we always do it in terms of what should happen if something else happens first. For instance, "if we stop them on this series than Jarod and the offense should go for two if they score a touchdown." Then one of us (usually me) says something along the lines of "but we're not gonna stop them." Once again my friends, I am an idiot. Anyway, the next ten minutes we're incredible, with Omar, Bob, and John (but especially John) basically going crazy in the booth. With cautious optimism I held out hope, in the back of my mind kicking myself for not staying a few more minutes just to see what Duke did with the football. First came Bullen's 35-yarder, then the defense stopping an ultra-conservative Duke attack. Then the fun part. Jarod leads the offense down the field, punching the ball in as he catches a pass from slotback Bobby Doyle. Pandemonium on the airwaves as Bob Socci's voice fluctuates with the intensity of a 13 year old boy jacked up on candy and Nintendo, which in this circumstance was perfectly understandable. Then it happened.
After Navy hit the two point conversion Duke appeared to fumble on the ensuring kickoff. However, after the review, the officials gave the Blue Devils the football, at which point anyone listening to the radio expected John Feinstein to unleash a hail of f-bombs. Amazingly, Mr. Feinstein showed remarkable restraint (unlike myself), and as I was ready to toss myself from a moving vehicle he checked himself. That was it though, we told ourselves, that was the game. Can't help the fact that the officials screwed us, again.
At this point I was tempted to turn from WNAV, perhaps letting some old country music song about some guys girl who up and "rund off" take over the last mile or two of road before home. But, knowing that I needed at least some closure as far as the game was concerned, decided against it, and instead allowed myself to listen to Thaddeus Lewis march the Blue Devils down the field en route to what figured to be an easy score. Then came a key third and eleven which Duke needed to get to even think about a field goal, and just as Ball State did last week, so did the Blue Devils pick it up in a third and long situation. Now sitting in my driveway looking like a schmuck I was finally ready to turn the game off and be done with it, but to my complete and utter befuddlement (as well as Mr. Feinstein's) Duke was called for holding. Breathing a sigh of relief I prepared for the ensuring 3rd and 21, swearing that if the Blue Devils converted I would hurl myself wildly off the three foot embankment on the side of my driveway. Then, it happened. Not a second after Ketric Buffin's interception at the 18 yard line, I let out a bellowing "I AM AN IDIOT" (plus or minus some other words mixed in there) before flashing a a willy grin and parking myself next to the car and preparing myself for overtime.
I have to admit, after last week I still didn't think we would win, and if we were to win I recognized that it would probably have to come with the less than a minute left in regulation Jarod had left. Amazing, I told myself, that he should find himself in the same situation as last week. You of course know the rest better than I do, but as Jarod drove the Midshipmen into field goal range it started to become clear that after last week's heart breaker the junior from Hoover, Alabama was not going to let it happen again. Apparently neither was Paul Johnson, who put in Mr. Cool (aka Joey Bullen) to attempt the 44-yard game winner with four seconds left. Immediately my mind flashed back the the 2005 Air Force game in which Bullen nailed a game winner from 47-yard out on a day in which I had the foresight to actually stick with my team. I expected Duke to try to ice him, but Ted Roof, knowing that Joey Bullen is the uniceable iceman who eats ice for breakfast (with skim milk), figured it was pointless. So as that 44 yard field goal split the uprights and Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium rocked the afternoon sky over Annapolis, I sat flabbergasted in my driveway, ecstatic over the win while incredibly disappointed of my attributes as a Navy fan. I've seen a lot of great finishes over the years, but I'd have to say this one ranks among the top, perhaps even approaching the 2005 Air Force game in drama and late game heroics. And to think that I had to hear it on the damn radio.
Once again, let me concede that I am indeed and idiot.
What we saw today was not pretty, not by any stretch of the imagination. Navy's defense was systematically sliced, diced, and chopped during the first half, and despite scoring points and moving the football, Navy's offense once again turned the ball over at key times. Yet for all the pain of three quarters of play, what you did see (and I hope, unlike me, that you actually did see it) was a group of young men who never quit and fought to the the very end. We as fans and armchair commentators often throw around words like character and perseverance, and often times use these terms too liberally. But with a much maligned and very young defense, I think it's more than appropriate to say that this entire team showed a lot of character today, and that the efforts of the players and coaching staff proved that this team is not going to role over and play for next year.
Don't get hung up on the fact that it was Duke. This is the mistake I made when I decided to leave the stadium today. This was the mistake I made as I sat roasting in the autumn sun at halftime, somehow trying to find the good in a game that looked like it was going south quickly. If there has been one thing we all have learned from four weeks of the 2007 college football season, it's that competitive parody has reached an all time high, and that style points matter only for those with a championship in mind. Heck, Ball State should have beaten Nebraska today, and put up more yards on their defense than they did on ours. And our pain is nothing compared to the folks in Louisville, who saw their Top 20 team get buried by an 0-3 'Cuse team with a quarterback I was watching carve up my alma mater just two short years ago in Baltimore. I can't tell you whether or not this win will get us back on track, but I can say that it gives us a chance. In the Any Given Saturday environment we find ourselves in, coming out with the win becomes the most important thing, and in that respect we can say that the team did exactly what it needed to today. Strap on your seatbelts guys, because whether your a pessimist or an optimist in your outlook, it certainly looks like we're all in for a wild ride the rest of the way.
All of you who stayed are all great Americans,
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
But even without forcing a ton of turnovers, Navy's defense could be playing better than it currently is. Case in point, take a look at the 2005 season, in which an inexperienced Navy team went -6 in the turnover department and still went 8-4 with a bowl victory over Colorado State. So, if forcing turnovers aren't the issue, what's so different about this year's defense that has caused all the panic?
Obviously, the answer at this point is Navy's run defense, which let's face it, sucks. But it's not like this has been a reoccurring problem, at leats not in the recent past. Let's go back again to last season and explore this facet of the game. Last year the Mids ranked 32nd in the country against the run, due largely to two separate dynamics. The first, or the cynics view as I like to say, has to do with the relative ranking of the pass defense (the aforementioned 100th in the country, leading other team's to throw more.) The other reason, however, has to do with how Navy's personnel understood the scheme and executed their proper assignments. This is the part where I throw out terms that make me look like I know what I'm talking about, namely gap responsibility and containment, something that the Midshipmen excelled at last year and struggle with this year.
So, what exactly is the problem this year which has caused Navy's defense to give up large amounts of rushing yards and fail to do the things last year's defense did? Obviously, we have to start with personnel, even though I'm usually not huge on emphasising the role of individual players. The reality is that this year to date, we have seen a considerable drop-off in ability at the linebacker position, specifically the outside backer position that was vacated by David Mahoney and Tyler Tidwell after the Care Car Bowl. I don't know if this is so much a referendum on how good the Matt's are (Humiston, Wimsatt, Nechak) so much as it demonstrates just how special David Mahoney and Tyler Tidwell were. Dave was seriously one of the most dynamic defensive players to ever play at the Academy, and just had the raw athletic ability and omnipresent football sense to come off blocks and fly to the ballcarrier. Tyler had similar ability, although not to the level Mahoney had, but most importantly these guys were smart and understood their roles. When I see the defense missing tackles in the backfield and failing to bring down the quarterback in blitz situations, I can't help but think that Mahoney or Tidwell would have made at least some of those plays. This was especially a problem against Ball State and Temple, as we saw Nate Davis and Adam DiMichele extend drives by using their feet to either buy time or rush for the first down in third down situations.
The other main problem has to do with defensive alignment. I could try to explain what exactly is going wrong, but because I'm no expert on the subject and because Phelix already has it covered, I'm going to refer you to the Bird Dog for a more thorough explanation. Below, Phelix takes over for Bill Wagner when discussing defense alignment:
PJ is referring to how the defensive line and down linebackers are supposed to line up across from the offensive line. These assignments are the fundamentals of pass rushing and gap control in the running game. For example, in the five technique that PJ is talking about, the lineman/LB is lined up on the outside eye of the tackle . His responsibility would be the C gap, between the tackle and tight end. In the nine technique, the lineman/LB is lined up on the outside eye of the tight end and is responsible for outside containment. Now, multiply missed assignments like this by each down lineman or LB and it’s obvious how there can be such wide running lanes for opposing RBs, and why opposing offensive lines have no problem handling our pass rush.
So there you have it. In a nutshell Navy's defensive lineman and linebackers are not keeping gap responsibility, and because of this are getting blown up on running plays and basically taking themselves out of plays because of where they are lined up pre-snap. This is largely due, I presume, to the loss of Clint Sovie at the middle linebacker position, a point which has forced Coach Green and Coach Johnson to try to simplify the defensive shceme. What I don't understand is why exactly Irv Spencer couldn't make the calls, and despite the question being brought up in a previous presser, I don't remember hearing a straight answer (anyone?) In any case, this may be slow and trying process, but at some point this year either Pospisil or Haberer are going to have to step up and take responsibility for lining up the defense. This concept also goes hand in hand with the personnel argument, and if we explore the issue we can see how last year's defensive linemen understood their gap responsibilities and for the most part were where they needed to be. John Chan was especially disciplined in this regard, as well as being an underrated player against the run. While the Midshipmen defense last year may not have been as fast as this year's, they were more often in position to make plays because they had been groomed in the scheme and understood their responsibilities, something Navy's young defense this year has struggled to do without the likes of Clint Sovie and Jeff Deliz. This is why it drives me crazy to hear the talking heads on ESPN and the like go on all day talking about size, speed, etc, because at the basic core of defensive football, you're not going to succeed if you don't play smart and know your assignments.
I genuinely believe that our offense is good enough this year to score on everyone we play, but obviously that's the least of the team's concerns right now. Still, if the defense can find something of an identity and perhaps correct some of these problems with alignment and scheme, Navy will still have a good shot at the postseason, and could be well on the way to achieving the ultimate goal of the CINC trophy.
Wagner: Can I ask you something without making you mad?
Johnson: Maybe. I don't know.
Wagner: I was talking to a Navy fan and he said he follows the coverage and that he noticed something and I'm just going to put it to you. He says that it seems like when Navy loses you blame the players, ie we can't execute fundamental plays, but that the success of the team the last four years has been attributed to brilliant coaching. How do you respond to that?
Johnson: Whatever he thinks. I don't go down to McDonald's and start second-guessing his job so he ought to leave me alone.
Wagner: But do you feel like it can't be both ways?
Johnson: You know what? I could care less. I'm old enough where I could give a crap what the fans think or what you think to put it in a nutshell.
Wagner: Wins and losses are evenly distributed as far as credit and blame, right?
Johnson: If you could ever find one time that I said we won the game because of brilliant strategy I will kiss your butt at city dock and give you two days to draw a crowd. Find it and bring it to me. Tell that guy that if he wants to talk to me I live at (address given but deleted for the transcript) I will be right there. Come ring my doorbell and I will be glad to talk to him.
For those of you thinking I'm going to laud Coach Johnson for another fine and witty response, well, I'm not going to. Johnson has made quotes like this in the past but this is one of the few times I can remember that he seemed to get really defensive about the whole notion of how he does his job. It's not without reason, but in a way it seems to speak to where the team, and the program, are after last week's loss.
As for the question itself, I think the fan probably misinterpreted Paul Johnson's response after games. I think what he/she meant to say was that it seems like Johnson is not overly positive after a win in regards to praising individual players, and seems to come down on the whole lot after a loss. This is a much more accurate depiction of the post game scenario than the idea that Coach Johnson sits around and says that everyone sucks and he's the only thing going for the team. In fact, I would argue that's what a number of Navy fans do (myself NOT included.) The question at this point is irrelevant, and for the moment I'd like to address the reaciton to "the question" by Navy fans.
I think this blaming Bill Wagner stuff is nonsense. I've seen a number of Navy fans question why a veteran like Wagner would incur the wraith of Coach Johnson, to which I only say, "why not?" News flash, the guy is a reporter, he's not the Sports Information Director. I know we have a very supportive local media contingent, but what do you expect him to do, just go with the flow and be Paul Johnson's yes man? It doesn't matter if you think it was a stupid question, the point was that it elicited a response, and had it not been asked we wouldn't be sitting here talking about it. As Mr. Wagner said in a followup blog post, if the team is underperforming it's his job as a reporter to try to understand why that is. In hindsight, yes, he probably should not have asked that particular question, but that doesn't mean he should never ask a question not dissimilar to the one he asked. After all, it is his job.
Paul Johnson is who he is. He's an excellent coach and has a personality some people like and others don't. I guess the point I'm trying to get at here is that you can be someone who is uncomfortable with his personality without claiming that he's not doing a good job with the program. You should, as a fan, be able to say "I don't like the way Coach handled that question" without people accusing you of not understanding Navy football or Coach Johnson. Just so long as you recognize how successful Navy has been under Johnson and how he is the foundation for that success, you should be able to think whatever you want about his personality. And now, back to our regularly scheduled "what the hell is wrong with our defense" coverage.
Monday, September 17, 2007
(Notre Dame bloggers, please use the following variation on the above: the over/under on wins in your next five games is being set at 1.5. Can you make a good case for the over? (Next five: vs Michigan State, at Purdue, at UCLA, vs Boston College, vs USC)
I love how this question is applicable for every blogger except me. It basically screams Navy football doesn’t matter. Nevertheless, I’ll take this opportunity at assessing Navy’s two main team goals, namely getting to bowl eligibility and winning the Commander in Chief’s trophy. As far as the former is concerned, I still believe that it’s a good possibility. Navy’s defense may be among the worst in the country, but the offense has proven that it can move the ball almost at will and with the likes of Duke, Delaware, Northern Illinois, Army, and North Texas on the schedule, six wins should be in range. As far as winning the CINC trophy, I really think Navy will have trouble with Air Force this year, if for no other reason then the aforementioned fact that we can’t stop anyone on defense. I’d love to say we should beat Air Force this year, but with the way we’re playing right now I just don’t know.
Outline the (realistic) best case and worst case scenarios for your team.
The defense finds some semblance of an identity and while not playing lights out, plays well enough to let the offense win games. Navy has a decent shot at winning the aforementioned games against the likes of Duke, Delaware, Northern Illinois, North Texas, and Army, and if the Midshipmen can avoid shooting themselves in the foot they should win all five of those games. In addition to these five wins, Navy does still have a shot against the likes of Air Force, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, and even Wake Forest. While pessimistically inclined Navy fans have written off beating the latter two, I think that it is plausible that Navy takes at least one of those games (most likely Air Force) and that it isn’t impossible for Navy to take two of those games, perhaps against a banged up Pitt team or an offensively inept Notre Dame team. Believe it or not, 7-5 or 8-4 are still within reach, although don’t mention it to most Navy fans, who’ll tell you you’re making unrealistic expectations for the team.
By the same token though, a worst case scenario is also possible, and maybe at this point more likely. Navy could very well drop the decision to Duke this Saturday if the defense can’t get itself in order, and go on to lose to an Air Force team that suddenly looks like one of the best in the conference. With the moral of both the Brigade and the team low, the team struggles to get back on track the rest of the season, and drops games against Notre Dame, Pitt, and Wake by large margins. While the Mids finish fairly strong against a weak schedule, it’s not unforeseeable that a team like North Texas could “upset” Navy, especially considering the way they are playing offensively. Like it or not, 4-8 and 5-7 are just a few bad games away.
We're only three games in to the season, but teams and storylines are starting to take shape. Compare your team to a character or theme from a fable or children's tale.
Definitely the mid 19th century children’s book Der Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman (the author, not the Nazi.) As Dwight Shrute reminds us in Season Two of the Office, this book of cautionary tales that his Grandmater used to read to him is not a complete waste of time to the modern reader. Just as the roving tailor guy cuts off the thumb of the kid who won’t stop sucking it, so do opposing offenses cut through Navy’s defense when the middle linebacker fails to line up the defense correctly, which happened on basically every play on Saturday.
Imagine you're the coach of your team. Give three specific changes you'd implement immediately which you think would have the biggest impact on improving the team.
1. Stop Blitzing Up the Middle- I’m in the minority here, but as soon as people realize that blitzing the middle linebacker isn’t going to get any more pressure on the quarterback the sooner they’ll realize that keeping that middle linebacker in the middle of the field takes away the easiest completion in the game and prevents the quarterback from scrambling for obnoxious amounts of yards.
2. Let Joey Bullen kick field goals- Harmon is usually a reliable kicker but Bullen has a “big” leg and has shown the ability to kick in the clutch, something I think we’re going to need as the season goes on. At least give Joey a shot is all.
3. Get the ball to the slots more- Ya’ll know what I’m saying.
USC, LSU/Florida, and Oklahoma have established themselves as the frontrunners in the early going. Which other team or teams are you eyeballing as potential BCS party crashers?
Even though I hate them, I think it’s conceivable that they go undefeated this year and dominate the conference. They’ve already beat a John Tentua defense everyone always goes all “OMG!” about, so playing at Virginia Tech shouldn’t be as big of a deal especially considering how opportunistic BC has been on defense and how not opportunistic VT has been on offense. Miami shmamy and FSU is always overrated anyway, so yes, I think BC wins the conference and could actually eyeball and undefeated season.
Week 3 Blogpoll coming later today/tomorrow morning. I have a feeling you're not going to like it...
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Yes, Kaipo did take a costly sack and Jarod fumbled in overtime, but outside of these two plays both of the quarterbacks played well. Kaipo-Noa rushed for 117 yards and two scores during the first half, while Jarod Bryant did an admirable job coming in and not missing a step for the injured Kaheaku-Enhada during the second half. The Hoover High product ran for 77 yards while directing the offense, and looked poised and in control for the entire second half. Kaipo is still the clear starter, but give Jarod credit. If he can correct his fumbling "issues" he's probably just as good as an option quarterback as Kaipo-Noa.
You couldn’t have asked for a better performance by Navy’s fullbacks, as Adam Ballard and Eric Kettani combined for 201 yards rushing. Ballard started off strong and was off to a fine day until Kettani came in and exploded in the second half, using his excellent speed en route to a 126 yard, two touchdown day. I’m a huge fan of both of these guys and their running styles, but it’s apparent that Kettani’s speed and athleticism give Navy a chance to score on plays Adam might not be able to break. I look for Coach Johnson to continue to go back to both of these guys (but especially Eric) next week.
The slotbacks had a good day running the football, as Reggie, Shun, and Zerb combined for 135 yards on an 8.4 yard per carry average. Shun also had two catches on the day, while Zerb had a late grab on the final drive before overtime. Shun’s third quarter fumble was HUGE and is the only thing that detracts from a solid outing on Saturday night.
Wide Receivers: B
OJ, Greg, Tyree, and Curtis did what they were asked to do going into the game, and that was block the heck of Ball State. No catches, but you can’ really blame them considering how many yards Navy ran for.
Offensive Line: B+
Probably lost in the shuffle of the entire game, Navy’s offensive line played its best game of the season and outside of a single holding penalty (albeit a crucial one) the unit kept it together. Antron and the guards did a great job opening up lanes in the middle, while the line showed the ability to get guys to seal off the linebackers on the second level and allow for some big gains outside. They will be challenged by a much more imposing Duke defensive line next week, but it’s good to see progress here.
Defensive Line: D-
I think we might have been better just lining up three cones and throwing them at the offensive line. Seriously, we’ve got nothing going up front, and this unit was just getting pushed all over the place. Let’s try to think past the “we need more pressure” argument that so many fans throw out and just concentrate on filling the gaps, something we NEED our D-linemen to do. Yet Nate Frazier and the DE’s were almost unheard of for the entire game, getting pushed off the point of attack on a down by down basis, and failing to generate any penetration against the run or the pass. I've gotten used to see us give up 250+ passing yards, but I thought our rush defense was better than that.
Navy’s linebackers did not have a good day, duh. I’ve been really disappointed with the performance of Matt Humiston and Matt Wimsatt to date, each of whom looked out of position and slow against the Ball State running game. Both of these guys need to show a better job reacting and coming off of blocks if they’re going to hold off the likes of Craig Schaefer and Matt Nechak. It’s tough to be critical up the middle, because after Irv went down we were left with sophomores Pospisil and Haberer, each of whom have very little experience. I know this unit didn’t get much help from the defensive line, but they have got to do a better job tackling and playing in space.
Despite giving up 277 yards, this was not a complete disaster of a day for Navy’s secondary, which benefited from career days from Ketric Buffin and Darius Terry. Darius was a guy I was high on coming into the year and with the limbo-like situation of Greg thrasher did an fine job playing the cornerback position Saturday night. He’s and instinctive player and a courageous tackler who probably saved a couple of long gains with his ability to knife past blockers and pursue the ballcarrier. He also played decently in coverage despite being a “mismatch guy” at 5’7. And of course there was Ketric, who made a nice interception in the endzone and batted down a crucial third down pass in the fourth quarter.
We collectively suck. I really don’t think I need to say anymore.
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!
Friday, September 14, 2007
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.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Case in point, MAC Report Online and The Sports Network, which both predict Ball State wins against Navy's embattled defense. It doesn't matter if nobody is familiar with either of these websites, what matters is that the perception of this Navy team has changed, and that suddenly they find themselves back to being an underdog even though Vegas may disagree.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, maybe it's just what Paul Johnson needs. A humbled team with a lot of young guys on defense which people are now starting to doubt. Last week I wrote that the Rutgers game would tell us a lot about the character of this Navy team. Well, I lied, because it looks like this Saturday's contest will tell us everything we need to know about the rest of the year. If Navy can win this game, I think the team will start to take on an identity of its own and develop some momentum for the rest of the year. However, if Navy loses this game things could get ugly, and fast. I'd rooting for the former.
Injury Update: The Baltimore Examiner writes that Jeff Deliz is " likely out for the season" and that either Kevin Snyder or Wyatt Middleton will get the call to start the game Saturday.
Edit: Wagner confirms that both Deliz and Sovie are out for the season. I hate football.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Needless to say, I was very much upset to learn of this behavior. I don't have much sympathy for people who are intoxicated, much less college students who are intoxicated. Being drunk is not an excuse. Let me say that again. Being drunk is not an excuse. If you're one of those people who thinks everyone does it and that's just part of college and to a lesser extent college football, well I've got news for you. Everyone doesn't do, and I'm living proof of that. Furthermore, it does not matter if the opponent was the United States Naval Academy or Whatever State, that kind of behavior and vulgarity does not have a place in major college football games, which are frequented by young children among others.
I am bias, I realize. For those of you who don't know, my father took me to Navy football games since before I can remember. Amazingly, he took me to Navy and other small time college football games exclusively until I was eleven or twelve, for the precise reason that he did not want me exposed to the excessive profanity and disgusting behavior we often associate with the NFL. If you want to be loud and obnoxious, go ahead, I won't stop you. My friends know that I myself have done my fair share of heckling at baseball games (hey ump, did you see that? the third base coach winked at me. he winked at me!) but I know where the line is. Obviously this line changes with each environment, but it should never involve throwing out f-bombs, and should never account for insulting the men and women in uniform and the men and women who will soon be wearing the uniform. If you can't grasp that concept, just imagine yourself telling your hard earned tax dollars "f-you."
Another thing that really makes me upset is who this chant was directed at. What the hell did Reggie Campbell ever do to deserve that? He's one of the most humble and sincere guys you will ever meet in your life. It's one thing to get rowdy at a player who throws out bulletin board material or whatnot, but to pick on a competitor like Reggie (who oh by the way will be a commissioned officer this time next year) is uncalled for and asinine.
Lastly, this is doing a great disservice to all the Rutgers fans who stuck with this team throughout the dark years of the program's history, and disgraces the university, it's football program, and the administration of the school. There is a reason Fox News and other media outlets picked this story up, and it ain't because they care about the Heisman campaign of Ray Rice (classy guy btw) or the race for first in the Big East. Like it or not if your a Rutgers fan, but I have a feeling more than a few fans from opposing teams are going to bring this up as the season goes on.
I may be hammering a dead horse, but so what. It was about time I actually spoke my mind on this blog. Back to Ball State tommarow.
Davis is surrounded by a relatively talented group of skill position players, including wide receiver Dante Love, who was a second team All-MAC selection last year and leads the team with three touchdown receptions. 6’7 Tight End Darius Hill will likely present matchup problems for Navy’s undersized defense, while the running back MiQuale Lewis has shown some ability early in the year. The offensive line isn’t overpowering like Rutgers’ but it is veteran and as you can expect has a significant size advantage over Navy’s defensive line.
It’s tough to get a hold on where Ball State’s defense is at this early in the year, although it would appear as though they’ve improved from last season. The Cardinals held Miami (Oh) to only 13 points in week one and held Eastern Michigan to sixteen. I wouldn’t get caught up in defensive rankings this early in the year, especially considering Ball State has “only” played MAC foes Miami (Oh) and Eastern Michigan. While it’s too early to tell how good either of those two teams are, this defense is good enough defense that Navy cannot turn the ball over, a phrase which I think I’m going to find myself repeating all season.
The Early Word
When looking at this game, we can’t overlook the fact that Ball State has not played Navy in the Paul Johnson era, and that the Cardinals did not have extended time to gameplan for the offense (they might have, but not to the extent Temple or Rutgers had.) These are crucial advantages for the Midshipmen that most scouting reports tend to overlook, and factors which I believe will lead to a Navy victory. This game should give the Navy offense to “get back to the basics” so to speak and not necessarily need to try to compensate for an extremely disciplined and fast defense like the one we saw against Rutgers. I'll have a further preview concerning the individual matchups on Thursday and Friday, but my early word is that the Midshipmen will win this game, but proabably not by much.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Take some time to remember what occurred six years ago today, and find some way to honer the victims of 9/11 in your own way. I don't mean to get all preachy on you, but if you ask me, we've done too much to block out that day and not enough to remember it, and that's doing the ultimate disservice to those who lost their lives and all those who serve our country and continue the fight that began that sunny Tuesday morning.
Also of note, I'm currently tied for first in the Inthebleachers.net Pick 'Em. I of course will be pulling away from ESPN.com's Bruce Feldmen and the rest of the pack very shortly.
Also again, I'm currently in fifth place out of thirty teams in the HP Fantasy Challenge.
For those of you wondering why I can't stand the Rutgers program and dislike the University as a whole, read this. I don't care if everyone does it, college students in this country by in large need to to stop acting like assholes every chance they get. For the record, I dislike most universities, but that's just the against the grain college student in me.
And, of course, the elusive presser. Maybe more on this later.
Tomorrow we're talking Ball State, so be here.
Monday, September 10, 2007