Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Q&A With Her Loyal Sons

Our coverage of Notre Dame week rolls on with a the first of two Q&A's with Irish bloggers, this one coming with Matt from Her Loyal Sons, one of the top Notre Dame football blogs out there. You can catch my answers to Matt's questions on his website tomorrow, and also be on the lookout for my somewhat rushed interview on The College Football Weekly Blog Radio Show later today. Alrighty then, let's get cracking.

First and foremost, in as much or as little detail as you want, can you explain to all of us what the hell happened over the past two months?

Ok, here we go: A lot of ND fans, and even some "objective observers" would tell you that ND has fallen victim to a "perfect storm." And what they seem to mean is a "perfect storm" of "excuses." We try not to put much stock in excuses because first and foremost we want ND to be a winning program, and if something is causing that not to happen, then that something needs to be fixed. So instead of saying the ND football team has fallen victim to a perfect storm of excuses, let's instead say that the 2007 Notre Dame Football Season has been the result of a perfect storm of issues, and the issues are all fixable.

And here are some of the issues in no particular order of importance or severity:

1) Poor recruiting by the previous head coach: As much as non-ND fans hate to admit, Willingham's recruiting "efforts" were miserable after his excellent first full class (the one that included Brady Quinn and the like). Not only were his following classes short of quality, but in quantity as well. ND hardly has any 5th year or "regular" seniors left on the team. So as good as Charlie Weis' recruiting efforts have been (2 classes already at ND were "top ten" classes, the current crop is ranked "#1"), the Irish are really lacking in guys who've "been there and done that." This is also really killing ND in terms of leadership. On the offensive side of the ball, only 1 elected captain of the team (TE John Carlson) sees regular playing time. Another captain on the offense was appointed by the coaches to help address the lack of experience and leadership on the offense and, frankly, has made about as many mistakes as any player on the ND roster in 2007.

2)Youth: Closely related with issue #1; A ton of players in key positions on the field for Notre Dame (particularly on offense) are very inexperienced. The top 3 tailbacks are freshmen and sophomores. The top producing receivers are freshmen and sophomores. The top 2 QBs are a freshmen and a junior with 2 years of eligibility remaining and, before the 2007 season, fewer pass attempts than I've fingers. And I lack fingers to spare. Meanwhile, the offensive line is anchored by a single 5th year senior and then a bunch of guys who've hardly played at all. The one other guy who's had many starts on the OL, sophomore Sam Young, played Right Tackle during 2006 and now plays Left Tackle. As you probably know, that an entirely different bag of chips.

3) Scheduling: As of this week, Notre Dame, despite having played nobody in several days, has played the most difficult schedule in the country according to the Sagarin Rankings. Not only is the schedule tough by national standards, but it created a combination of bad match-ups for Notre Dame. ND had to start an inexperienced QB and offensive line against Georgia Tech and John Tenuta's Blitz-happy defense. Then it started another highly inexperienced QB in Happy Valley for a night game. Follow that up with a game against a desperate and much deeper and experienced Michigan, and you just have to roll your eyes and shrug. Notre Dame, by Notre Dame standards, should be able to handle that sort of start. This season ND didn't even acquit itself admirably.

4) Coaching Mistakes: Ultimately, Charlie Weis is still a 1st time head coach who is learning on the job in the toughest, most scrutinized position in all of college sports, and he made a few "rookie mistakes" this year. For starters, he's been conducting less physical practices than you might expect from a college team largely because he was more concerned about his personnel depth issues than making sure young guys were ready to execute at "full speed." He also took his "NFL mentality" to the extreme, trying to scheme around Georgia Tech's defense with a hybrid offense that incorporated elements of the Spread Option – an offense with which none of the players at ND were familiar – because Weis always tries to "win the next game." As a result, a QB who is not even with the team anymore started the 1st game of the season, and ND spent time "scheming" rather than worrying about things like excellent fundamentals and execution. A lot of coaches would worry about building a solid foundation and then hoping that the foundation would prove to be enough to eek out a win or two against tough competition, but Charlie always, always goes for the win first and foremost. Luckily, from statements he's made in recent press conferences along with changes to the conduct of practices made over the course of the season, Charlie seems to have identified those mistakes and is now working to correct them so that we don't suffer the same results in 2008. As ND fans, we knew this sort of thing could happen with a 1st time head coach, but we certainly hoped that it wouldn't.

Clausen or Sharply? Who is the answer for next year? Who will start against the Midshipmen, and more importantly, will they actually do something?

Sharpley will start. Weis made that clear pretty much immediately after the Southern Cal game and has reiterated that fact this week. Clausen could probably use the rest as he's been quite banged up thanks to pretty poor protection efforts by the offensive line. Sharpley has a strong arm but some real accuracy issues. Hopefully 2 weeks of extra practice as the "#1 guy" will help him work that out. It'll be the first time in his career at ND that he's had this much practice as the starter. It would probably also help him if his offensive line can keep the pass rush at bay so he can set his feet and feel comfortable in the pocket. If all that happens, look out because ND does, in fact, have at least one receiver who can run right by anybody in college football (Golden Tate) and a couple of guys that can probably make a few things happen on short passes, not to mention a guy that should have had the best season for a tight end in call of college football (John Carlson).

As for next year's "answer," your guess is as good as ours. Sharpley, we believe, does have 2 more years of eligibility and seems to possess some level of leadership ability. Clausen, who seems to still be healing from off-season elbow surgery, does actually look to be the guy with the most "upside." Add to that mix the entrance of Dayne Crist, a current verbal-commit, who some say has as much if not more potential than Clausen, and we've got quite the QB battle brewing for 2008. One real advantage ND will have in 2008 that it did not have in 2007 is that all of the QBs who are in contention for the starting job are of the same "mold;" All of them are "drop-back pocket-passing QBs." In 2007, with Demetrius Jones fully in the mix for the starting job, that just wasn't the case.

It's likely that a lot will be made regarding the 119th ranked Notre Dame offense lining up across from the 105th ranked Navy defense. Personally I think Navy's defense is hopeless, but what are your thoughts on this matchup of less than stellar units?

Looking at the rankings, ND has faced the #7 (GT), #12 (PSU), #21 (UM), #36 (MSU), #56 (Purdue), #42 (UCLA), #20 (BC), and #4 (SC) defenses in the country thus far. Navy has faced the #102 (Temple), #13 (RU), #22 (BSU), #114 (Duke), #72 (AF), #97 (Pitt), and #90 (WFU) offenses along with Delaware (not ranked among Bowl Subdivision Teams). So the easily opposed force has faced off against defenses with an average rank of about 25th while the easily moved object has countered offenses that average a rank of about 72nd. So strictly by the numbers we have to give ND the edge. That said, as we've so vigorously pointed out earlier, this team is extremely young and extremely prone to errors. As much as very good defenses have beaten ND's offense, so too has ND's offense beaten itself. That's sort of the X-Factor. If Navy can manage to confuse ND and get them to make some mistakes, we'd say this match up comes down to a pick'em. ND definitely has a ton of raw-talent starting on the offense, but it hasn't shown much polish over the course of the season.

Notre Dame's defense has been suspect against Navy's option offense early in games over the last two seasons. What does new DC Corwin Brown bring to the table, and do you feel confident that he and his scheme can stop Navy's rushing attack?

The biggest thing that Corwin Brown has done is bring a new attitude to the ND defense. The past 2 years, Rick Minter ran a "read and react" defense. Corwin Brown takes the initiative much more, and his new 3-4 scheme allows ND to attack an offense from multiple angles on any given play. However, the option offense of Navy forces any defense to simplify things and play disciplined, assignment football. Brown has no experience scheming against such an attack, and the option pretty much takes any advantages ND's new aggressiveness might cultivate and throws it out the window.

When ND is coached well, they always seem to take about a quarter to adjust to the speed and precision with which Navy runs the option. You just can't duplicate that in practice against a scout team, and ND only sees the option once or twice a season. Hopefully ND will be able to limit any early-game advantage Navy has while ND adjusts, and then ND can minimize Navy's points. Corwin seems to be a very shrewd man. Even when he does take risks, they seem to be pretty calculated (ignoring, for the moment, a random call for press-coverage on a 3rd and 29 here and there). If nothing else, ND has more overall speed on the defensive side of the ball thanks to some new talent and the 3-4 scheme, so that should help mitigate a few mental errors. Watch out for freshmen Kerry Neal and Brian Smith; two freshman outside linebackers that get every ND fan's adrenaline pumping.

From what I can gather, there seem to be two different schools of thought on the issue of this year's Navy-Notre Dame game. Some Domer fans hold this game as a must-win, buck-stops-here scenario, while others seem to kind of take up the attitude of "it may as well happen this year" to any Navy upset possibility. How do you feel about this game, and what would a loss to the Midshipmen on Saturday mean for the ND program and the Navy rivalry?

We hope Navy eventually wins one of these games and we hope we never see it. Purely from a PR perspective, ND must win this game above all others. The blogosphere, the media, and the college football fan-base just wouldn't let a Notre Dame loss to Navy die until ND wins another national championship, and maybe not even then. As much as it's important for ND to finish the season on a few high notes, it's also vital that ND avoid any perceived "embarrassment" while trying to maintain an excellent 2008 recruiting class. That's not to say that losing to Navy would be an actual embarrassment to ND, but you can bet that all observers outside of the ND and Navy communities would try to sell it that way, especially to recruits.

The one thing I can say with a high level of confidence is that if Navy were to win on Saturday, it would not, despite some opinions, mean that Charlie Weis needs to be worried about his job. The guy has already managed to get Notre Dame to 2 BCS bowl games, and we've seen what he can do with a team when his decision making is firing on all cylinders. That's bought him a little patience from the ND fan-base. Things have a way of snowballing in either the positive or negative direction, and this season has already been a prime example in the negative. We think most of the Notre Dame faithful have come to accept that. Weis will have time to fix this because Weis earned it, but we're sure he's aware that patience never comes with an infinite supply. What we expect to see, and hope to see, on Saturday, is a young team start to realize just how much talent they really do have. There are some guys on this Notre Dame team with jaw-dropping ability, but they haven't had much room to breath, grow, and realize their own potential. Hopefully this ND/Navy tilt looks fairly similar to the previous two, but I suspect Paul Johnson and the Midshipmen will do all they can to ensure that will not happen.

Should Navy win on Saturday, it would be another great chapter in a long, wonderful story. The Notre Dame/Navy tradition is one of the best in college football, and we're proud to have Navy on the schedule every year.

Go Irish and Beat Army.

I want to thank Matt for taking some time to fill us in, and wish the Irish a great 3-0 end of the season after November 3rd.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Confidence Factor

After an extremely busing morning, I finally had some time to sit down this afternoon and watch Coach Johnson's practice presser from yesterday. One of the first things that hit me was his mood, which seemed to be pretty good considering what had just happened and what lies in front this coming Saturday. Anyways, of all of Coach Johnson's presser's thus far, I think this one really got to the core of the problems this season, and highlighted a factor which I think up to this point I think we've overlooked.

This of course is the so called "confidence factor" of the team and specifically of the defense. While I did not cover it in my analysis of Navy's defensive problems on Sunday, Coach Johnson made a convincing point when discussing the role of individual and team confidence when talking to reporters on Monday evening:

"The old adage is it's never or bad or as good as it seems and that's true with the defense. We are making critical mistakes. We have to do better on third down. We have gotten people in third-and-long and when we do that we have to get them off the field. We are going to have to go back and simplify things some more and throw some stuff out. It's clear to me that guys aren't playing fast and they don't know what they are doing so we have to do a better job of getting them up to speed and it's our job as coaches to find something they can do. It's not what we know (as coaches). It's what they (the players) know. At the same time, they (the players) have to do a better job of listening, of putting their eyes where they belong and doing what they are coached to do. They can do that. It's not all physical. The worst thing that can happen is you put a guy out there that isn't sure what he's doing or where he's going and all of a sudden a guy with average speed becomes really slow. We have to get to a point where our guys just line up and play, because I think they want to and I think they will play hard. We have to find something they can do. You have to understand what you are doing so you can play fast. You have to play and you can't be afraid to make a play. There is no question we have to get better. I am surprised we haven't played better on defense, but part of it has been injuries and part of it is the confidence factor hasn't been there. We have had way too many guys play. You aren't going to get better if you keep rotating all the time, but that's been hard to do because of injuries. I will still say that these guys are more athletic than the guys that played before, but they aren't playing football as well as the group that played before them. Those guys were seasoned and they were heady. If one guy didn't get lined up right, somebody would correct him. There is no question that losing Sovie and Deliz hurt us, because they knew where everybody was supposed to line up and they would move guys into the right position if they lined up wrong. I'm sure some of them know what to do, but they are afraid to tell somebody else to move because they are afraid they aren't right."

Frankly, I think Coach Johnson is right on, and gives a simple, but poignant, explanation to a problem which we as fans have been scratching our heads about all season. That's not to say that the contributing factors haven't played a huge role in the process, but the continued slide in defensive ineptitude has clearly been hastened by a lack of individual and team confidence. So what exactly does that mean?

I tend to think of it as a deterministic factor, a sort of (excuse my language) "oh shit" factor that plays into the collective conscience of the defensive unit. It is the old saying of "playing not to lose" instead if "playing to win." It's thinking too much on the field, it's not reacting because you're nervous about giving up a big play, and it's not being instinctive or playing with controlled aggressiveness. It is, in it's essence, being unsure of yourself on the field, and not playing up to your ability because of it.

It's almost like the Midshipmen defense is embroiled in a "funk" of epic proportions, with each new, rotated player struggling to play to full speed because he's more than aware of the defenses reputation. This lack of collective and individual confidence has been exasperated greatly by the loss of veterans like Deliz, Sovie, and Buffin, who have in fact "been there and done that" and have a proven ability to make game changing defensive plays. One thing that comes with having a young defense is an added emphasis on emotion and momentum, two key and overlooked factors which the Midshipmen have lacked for much of the year. Having momentum is huge, because it gives players confidence, which in term allows them to take chances and play with more courage and intensity. Lack momentum and you lack confidence, and begin to doubt your ability to make a play and thus don't play to the level your capable of.

I think Coach Johnson's comments should be taken as a positive. Remember, it's not all physical. That means the pieces are there, although at the present they just horribly spread out over the radius of oh, say, China. The key going forward is to develop some kind of continuity and to get guys to plays as they are capable of. It's a lot easier said than done, but who knows, it could just be as simple as a big third down stop to get some kind momentum on this defensive team. And I'm not talking to holding teams to a couple of touchdowns, because we all know that ain't gonna happen, but I remained convinced that if the defense can regain the confidence factor then they will be able to produce the 2-3 defensive stops per game that will allow the team to win. And that, more than any defensive ranking, is the most important thing.

The Pro Version: Some of you know I'm a Bills fans, and for those of you who don't, well I'm a Bills fan. You may also be aware that the Bills suffered an unreal amount of injuries this offseason, and after having one of the worst defenses in the NFL were forced to adapt with second and third string players. As my father said, there is a good lesson to be learned from this example, and even though it's not completely applicable in the case of the Midshipmen, it's worth thinking about.

Injuries: Maybe it's because I was distracted from the 59 points surrendered to a I-AA team, but I failed to really notice the injuries the Midshipmen sustained on Saturday. Word on the street is things are not good, as Coach Johnson was somewhat mum on Rashawn King, although he did say that he expected McGinn and Kettani ready to go for Saturday. I can't overemphasize the impact Rashawn going down would have on the team, as Coach Green would likely be forced to reach into the bowels of the roster to produce a replacement. Factor in the fact that Kevin Snyder mysteriously was held out of Saturday's game, and we could be looking at a working secondary composed of guys who were exclusivly second and third stinger's coming into the year. Suit up Jordan Reagan, your time to shine may actually be at hand.

Weis Calls Campbell a "Pain in the Butt"

Notre Dame Press Conference lauding Navy's offense. Also stumbles over the litany of personnel changes in the secondary, in the process breaking the news that S Kevin Snyder had an undisclosed injury last week. Why was I ignorant of this? Transcript link to come later tonight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Time Has Come

Well, it's here. No sense mulling about an inexplicable loss to a I-AA team when we're only days away from taking on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I'm spending the day handling numerous requests for Q&A's in the lead up the game, but I invite everyone (Notre Dame and Navy fans alike) to take a look at the now Infamous Window of Opportunity post I made nearly a year and a half ago. Here's an excert:

Notre Dame, [a 2006 BCS Bowl] contender, could be severely weakened in 2007 if the incoming Freshmen classes of this and next year do not pan out positively. Their are serious questions about the ability of the Irish to put together a good Defensive and Offensive Line, and the graduation of the current All Americans could leave the Irish open for an upset. However, the Irish are building what may become the best talent pool in the nation, and the opportunity to beat the Irish may only come in the developmental stage of that talent. Navy, on the other hand, is steadily improving but still yearning to prove it can play with College Football elite. Perhaps after this year, we will know where this team really stands, and can venture a more perfect guess at 2007, which may be the last window of opportunity this team gets at taking down Notre Dame in a long time.

Prophesy, or dumb luck? Well, considering how bad our defense has been it may be neither, but it's as good a place to start as any in talking about this game. We'll have to wait until Saturday to see, but when the movable object meets the resistant force 43 years of history will be on the line. All it takes is one time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Why Is the Defense So Bad?

Now that we've collectively vented, it's time to turn our attention to the central question of the the 2007 season; Why does Navy's defense suck so much? Well, to attempt to explain this question I thought it apt to look into some of the known contributing factors as well as to explore the possibility of others, with the most notable of these being the job performance of defensive coordinator Buddy Green. As usual (in fact more than usual) I'm interested to hear the opinions of other fans on this assessment, and hope that maybe we can come to a uniform understanding of how the Midshipmen could be giving up 460 yards per game and more than 38 points per game against I-A opposition that has a combined .500 winning percentage.

Injuries- Don't get me wrong, Navy's defense still wouldn't be very good had the Midshipmen not lost Jeff Deliz, Clint Sovie, and Ketric Buffin, but chances are the defense doesn't sink into the depths of the Division 1 ranks had those three veteran players not gone down. Losing Sovie was huge not only because he called the plays and set up the defense, but because he had playmaking ability. With all due respect to Tony Haberer (who will get better with age), the sophomore has been badly exposed in zone coverage and doesn't play with near the same motor Sovie does. Deliz going down took away one of Navy's most sure tacklers, and with respect to Wyatt Middleton put the Navy defense in a bind. Middleton has talent, but he doesn't have the consistency or experience this defense badly needs. The loss of Ketric Buffin to a broken arm against Pitt deprived the defense of yet another good, disciplined tackler and took away maybe the only player on Navy's defense who is capable of jumping routes and picking passes off. Losing any one of those guys hurts enough with an inexperienced defense, but losing all three players virtually deprives the defense of it's most clutch assets. And it's shown too, as Navy has been hard pressed coming up with turnovers and has been absolutely dreadful on third down this season.

Youth- Coming into the year we all realized Navy's inexperienced defense would struggle. That defense, already fairly young to begin with, got a lot younger with the early season injuries to Deliz and Sovie, and continues to be dominated by either young players with no experience, or older players with limited experience. Any way you cut it, the point is that we're playing more underclassman than in previous years. Obviously, this is a problem at any school, but particularly at Navy, where players need the time to physically develop and to learn the scheme and systems. Take away a year or two of that process before a player has to go in, and you're naturally going to have guys learning on the fly and in the process struggling to contain offenses.

Leadership- In the past we've had continuity in terms of class and guys who lead collectively. Even in 2005, when the defense was very much inexperienced, did we see guys step up and take a leadership role. In that case it was the players from the Class of 2006. This year the defense is playing numerous players from all four classes, and although the sophomore class appears to be filled with some talent, no group of players has yet to really assert a leadership role. Irv Spencer and Matt Wimsatt have stepped up with individual efforts and shown flashes of team leadership, but I still don't think they've been able to pull the entire unit together and establish cohesiveness or continuity. Again, part of this comes back to the fact that Coach Green has been playing basically everyone on the three deep at one point or another.

Effort- This is not an opinion call on my part. Not only has Paul Johnson publicly questioned the effort of this Navy defense (after the Ball State loss) but the media and fans has started to wonder whether or not the drive and determination that were hallmarks of previous Navy teams are there at all this season. Theoretically this Navy defense should be the most talented under Coach Green, yet we're learning first hand that the fight and heart given by previous Navy defenses far outweighs any advantage in 40 times or shuttle runs that this defense has. But then again, I guess it's hard to give the maximum amount of effort when there is no unit cohesiveness and your getting pulled out every other series for an underclassman who is just as lost as you are.

Personnel?- Buddy Green did a good job in previous seasons of masking Navy's obvious talent deficiencies on defense with his zone coverages and relatively simple defensive gameplan. This hasn't been the case this year, as Navy's defense has been out-hustled, out-worked, and just plain out-athleted on numerous occasions this season. Part of this has to do with the teams Navy has played this year compared to previous years, but to explain away the problem to just playing better teams with better athletes isn't going to work. Part of the problem, as I've alluded to, is the constant rotating of players in and out. Basically everyone on the three deep has played at some point this year, and aside from rocks like Irv Spencer and Rashawn King, most players have come out in different packages. Also, I'm no recruiting expert and I honestly have no idea what goes on at NAPS, but one has to wonder if the team is just not getting the right kinds of players. David Mahoney, Rob Caldwell, and Tyler Tidwell weren't exactly hot recruits, but they matured into good players who got the job done. Is it simply a case of waiting on players to develop, or is there a problem in the development process? I don't know, but all I'm saying is that from watching this team is seems more apparent then ever that they are just physically being dominated. I'm hoping this goes back to the inexperience issue, because if it doesn't we're in real trouble.

Coaching?- All throughout this season, I've defended Buddy Green and explained away the defenses lack of production to injuries, youth, and bad fortune. But if your not at least entertaining the thought that Buddy Green has done a less than impressive job at the helm of the defense, than your probably smoking something illegal. I thought John Feinstein made a great point on the postgame show yesterday when he said that nobody expects Navy's defense to be good, but that we should have expected it to be showing at least some improvement by now. The mere fact that Navy's defense has progressively gotten worse, coupled with the idea that their is no unit cohesiveness and the aforementioned questionable effort, lead me to think that some of the blame could, and perhaps should, be leveled at Coach Green. Obviously there are factors like injuries he can't control, but then again there are other factors, like play calls and personnel packages, which are entirely in his control. Of certain concern is the issue of blitzing, in particular when to blitz and who to blitz. Has anyone else questioned why Ram Vela is constantly blitzing from the edge, only to run into a tackle who easily redirects him out of the play? I sure have. In addition to questions over scheme, there are also questions regarding personnel. Why, can someone explain to me, was Greg Thrasher playing free safety yesterday? Not only is he a cornerback by nature, but he isn't a very good tackler and has barely played since his decent 2005 season. I know Keven Snyder is no Josh Smith, but it makes more sense to stick with the guy who went in when Ketric went down and has shown some promise in run support. After all, he's going to be around in the offseason when the team is trying to get better, as opposed to Thrasher, who will graduate in May. Now, I want to be careful with the implications of all this, as I'm not by any means advocating the firing of Coach Green that I've heard some fans at games call for. To often in today's sporting environment do we assign all the blame on the coach or coaches, and are quick to dismiss them without giving them a chance to adjust. And adjust is exactly what Coach Green needs to do. This defense needs to show some improvement by seasons end, and, once more, needs to be better next season. We've afforded him and factored in the excuses, but after a certain amount of time I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the play of the entire unit to be raised and for improvement to be made.

The scary part of all of this is that we're witnessing these defensive deficiencies through the eyes of the 16th ranked offense in Division I-A (nomenclature back by popular demand.) Could you imagine the course of events had the offense not played so well up to this point, and if, God forbid, we'd had to punt more than once per game? Even more pressing is the question of whether or not their is any silver lining to be taken from this, or if we're in line for further digression and struggles both this year and next year. I don't have the answers, but if the above problems cannot be addressed at some point, then I fear that even games against Northern Illinois and North Texas will come down to the wire.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I hate football. No really, I mean it this time. How in the hell do you score 52 points, compile more than 500 yards of total offense, and still lose a football game to a I-AA team?

I'm sick of playing this game where we talk up the other team, continuing to laud the opposition like masters of diplomacy. Delaware might be a good team, but to give up 59 points to them is simply ridiculous. I mean c'mon, even Division II West Chester held the Blue Hens to "only" 41 points. No, I'm not going to play that game, I refuse to acknowledge the fact that Delaware is that good.

Navy's defense is beyond bad. In fact, it's beyond horrible. I mean, with less than 50 seconds left to go in the first half, the defense surrendered a mind boggling 74 yards and a touchdown to a Delaware offense with no timeouts left. Nate Frazier, true to form, made an incredibly idiotic mistake on an offsides penalty that stopped the clock and allowed Delaware to set up for a touchdown on the very next play, as the Midshipmen surrendered whatever advantage they had going into the half. I think surrender is an appropriate word to use, because when you look at this game and others, Navy's defense has allowed the opposition to dictate the game and move as they please. I don't even know why we blitz really, as every blitz seems to be picked up with ease. Speaking of blitzing, can we please stop blitzing Ram Vela on the outside on every other play. It's an easy read for the quarterback and an easier block for the tackle, and all it's doing is giving the opposition and easy throw and catch.

Despite the incredibly poor play of the defense par usual, the turning point in this game was not the touchdown allowed right before the half, but rather Kaipo-Noa's misguided pitch on Navy's third drive of the game. Consider the fact that the Midshipmen were up 14-7 at the time, and the defense, amazingly, had just stopped Delaware's offense for a second consecutive series. With an offense that scores on nearly every series, Navy had a very good shot at taking a two possession lead against the Blue Hens, and perhaps even more importantly had a shot to give their beleaguered defense some confidence and momentum heading into the remainder of the game. But it was not to be, as Kaipo-Noa tossed a late pitch that was intercepted by Anthony Bratton deep in Navy territory. I don't know what was going on with Kaipo, but he hasn't looked as smooth or confident running the option over the past two weeks. In fact, he was very hesitant to pitch the ball early despite having several favorable pitch reads. It could be physical, but you have to wonder if the margin for error that Navy's offense has been experiencing has gotten into Kaipo's head. The point was that when he did decide to pitch it he threw it away, and with it went Navy's momentum. Even still, we must be careful not to assign the blame of this loss with the offense, which for much of the game operated flawlessly en route to it's highest scoring day of the season. Still, even as the occasional offensive miscue is to be expected, Kaipo-Noa's fumble was huge in that it changed the entire dynamic of the game, and swung momentum back to the Blue Hens.

The rest of the game was all downhill. Even as the Midshipmen scored almost at will, Delaware's offense did Navy one better, and a third quarter Eric Kettani fumbled seemed to seal the deal for the Blue Hens. Like last week, this week's loss came down to Navy turning the ball over and the opposition taking advantage. Once again, Navy's defense failed to anything to slow down the opposing offense, while the inability to force even a single turnover put the offense at a significant disadvantage. And then there was the kickoff coverage unit, which proved once again that when it comes to special teams, Navy has a long way to go.

I seriously don't even know what to say anymore. Starting on Monday I 'm suppose to do a number of interviews and question and answer segments in lead up to the Notre Dame game. The game that just a few weeks ago everyone and their mother starting saying would be the game in which Navy finally climbed that 43 year hill. Now not only do Navy's prospects for upsetting the Irish seem slim to none, but Navy's bowl prospects (which looked like a sure thing two weeks ago) seem to be doubt. I don't mean to take anything away from Delaware, but let's get real, this game had a lot more to do with Navy just being bad than Delaware being good.

Something is going to have to give, and for the Midshipmen to accomplish even some of their goals coming into the season someone is going to have to step up on defense and make a play. If not, we will continue to be subjected to shootouts with mediocre teams, with the prospects of victory hinging upon the flawless execution of an offense in a game which isn't often conducive of perfect play on any level.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Scouting Delaware

Ah, the Fighting Blue Hens, I do remember thee. After a two year hiatus, Navy (4-3) and Delaware (6-1) resume their intermittent series on Saturday, when the 9th ranked Blue Hens of the Colonial Athletic Conference come into Annapolis to face off against the Midshipmen. Delaware, while an FCS team, has no shortage of offensive firepower, and apparently no shortage of confidence either.

The Blue Hen offense is among the most dynamic in the FCS, averaging 469 yards per game (5th in the FCS) and scoring an average of nearly 37 points per game. The Blue Hens are lead by quarterback Joe Flacco, a former Pittsburgh transfer who has thrown for just under 2000 yards this season with a 9-3 touchdown-interception ratio. Flacco has excellent size (6'6, 230) and a strong, accurate arm (over 72 % completion percentage), and was recently ranked as the top FCS quarterback prospect from He's surrounded by a veteran and talented group of skill position players, including wide receivers Aaron Love and Mark Duncon (both over 400 yards receiving.) Delaware's main horse however is Omar Cuff, a senior running back who led the team in rushing the last time Deleware played Navy in 2004. Cuff turned heads this year in week one in which he ran for more than 200 yards and a record seven touchdowns against William and Mary, and so far this year has rushed for 875 yards on a 5.1 ypc average. Delaware's defense would seem to be the weaker portion of the team at this point, and isn't filled with as many former FBS transfers as the offense is. Nevertheless, they've gotten the job done early this season, especially against the run. Delaware has the 8th best run defense in the FCS, led by a talented defensive line which includes former Notre Dame starter Ronald Talley.

But for as good as all these numbers and rankings sound, let's not forget the Blue Hens are in fact in a different division than the Midshipmen, and have "padded" some of those offensive numbers against the likes of a Division II West Chester team and some sktchy FCS teams. In fact, Delaware has only won one game this season against a FCS opponent with a winning record, and that came in a 49-31 win over William and Mary in the opener. When you consider facts like this, Saturday's game figures to be especially interesting not just because it's Delaware's first game against a FBS team this year, but because it's Delaware's first game against a decent team period.

Which leads me to my main point. Delaware is a good team, no doubt. But when one considers the lower division the Blue Hens are playing in and the teams they've played against this season, it certainly would appear that the Blue Hens are in no position to call this a "should win" game. We have been constantly exposed to the "history" argument of Delaware fans, who point to the team's 2003 upset of bowl-bound Navy as precedent to predict another upset. Yet this year's Delaware team is not as good as the one which came into Navy-Marine Crops Memorial Stadium in 2003 and walked away with a win. And if your going to talk about history, let's not forget the last time these two teams played, when Aaron Polanco and the 2004 Midshipmen handled the Blue hens with ease.

Had this been any under top level FCS team, I may be more inclined to view the Blue Hens as having a good shot at coming out of this game with a win, but because of the history that is there and because of the comments made by wide receiver Aaron Love earlier this week, I'm more than inclined to think the Navy players will have no shortage of motivation in the lead up for this game. Don't get me wrong, this will likely be a close, hard fought game, but when you breakdown the matchups it looks like Navy's offense should have a significant advantage over Delaware's defense. Many Delaware fans have pointed to the Blue Hens victory over Rhode Island, which runs a similar option offense to Navy. Yet last year's UConn team similarly thought a dominating performance over Rhode Island would translate into success against Navy, but as we all know Brian Hampton and the offense put up more than 600 yards on the Huskies that day.

The real challenge for Navy is going to be containing Cuff, who is a legitimate candidate for the Walter Peyton award (the FCS version of the Heisman.) Navy has struggled against running backs with the ability to break tackles, which is definitely one of Cuff's specialties. I also think Navy's defense will struggle with Delaware's offensive balance, especially when the Blue Hens come out in Shotgun formations. Still, we can't completely ignore the distinction between divisions, and while we can see that previous Navy teams were decidedly less talented to Coach Keeler's championship Delaware teams, we can say that this year's Navy team had as much, if not more, pure talent than Delaware. Combine this advantage with Navy's offensive system, Paul Johnson's coaching, and the extra motivation sparked by Love's comments, and I see the Midshipmen coming up with a critical turnover on defense and comming out on top.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Breaking News: Navy and Maryland Agree to 2010 Game

2010. M&T Bank Stadium. This is going to put me at odds with a number of good friends. Oh well.

More to Come Later...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So You Think You've Got Talent, Eh?

Just in case the team needed a little more incentive this week:

"Athletically, I think we're just as good as Navy, if not better," (Blue Hen) junior wide receiver Aaron Love said. "We shouldn't have any problem winning this game."
Thanks to an anonymous comment for pointing this out!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rematch? Say Whaa?

By now you've undoubtedly heard that the Air Force Falcons are bowl eligible. If this is an excruciatingly painful concept to grasp, I apologize, but just keep saying to yourself "31-20" and I'm sure you'll get over it. Nevertheless, the Falcons are more than likely going bowling for the first time since 2002, and are in prime position to finish second or third in the Mountain West conference. All of this of course begs the question of which bowl game the Falcons would be playing in. Remember, the Poinsettia Bowl- which Navy is slated to play in if the Midshipmen can win six games- has the second choice of a Mountain West eligible team after the Las Vegas Bowl, and traditionally picks the second best team in the conference. So what if the Falcons finish second, would they be playing in the Poinsettia Bowl in a service academy rematch?

It's actually not a new question, but one which gained steam after both the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post had stories regarding a potential rematch this morning after Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun sounded off on the issue on Sunday. Coach Calhoun said he would welcome a 'rematch,' which of course isn't very surprising when you consider his team was on the losing end of the original matchup. But the Gazette claims more than just coaching speculation in its assessment, and actually claims that the bowl people are mulling this over.

Weldon Donaldson, a representative of the San Diego bowl, brought up the interest in the service academy game. He noted there had not been discussions with Navy officials or coach Paul Johnson to determine interest. Navy defeated the Falcons 31-20 on Sept. 29 in Annapolis, Md.

After I first read this earlier this morning, my first thought was a rather poignant "are you kidding me?" College football is a game predicated on the regular season, and outside of conference championship games rematches are usually not a good idea unless yours is the team with something to prove. Fortunately, Capital columnist and Navy beat writer Bill Wagner got a jump on the response, and clarified that any potential rematch was out of the question.

Bruce Binkowski, executive director of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, told The Capital this afternoon that if Navy qualifies for the game as expected the opponent would not be Air Force."We will not schedule a bowl matchup with teams that played during the regular season. No bowl likes rematches," Binkowski said. "We are not interested in a Navy-Air Force rematch so you can close the book on that idea."

So there you have it. It's not going to happen. By my estimation, this will likely mean Air Force will end up in the New Mexico bowl, which, believe it or not, may be more inclined to pick the Falcons over the Lobos, who also figure to be bowl eligible. This means, barring an Navy collapse or BYU meltdown, that the Midshipmen will likely face off with either the Wyoming Cowboys or the New Mexico Lobos. I am, by some accounts, a Wyoming fan, and personally would like to see the matchup of Wyoming's defense verses the Navy offense. But just as long as we're not playing Air Force again, I would be happy with any of the bowl eligible teams in the Mountain West conference.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Non-Wake Player Notes

I forgot to cover these two news worthy items last week, and perhaps to save myself some aggravation from rehashing Saturday's game, have decided to postpone the usual "Sunday Night" notations until Monday afternoon. As for last week's news, it's a good news/bad news story.

Let's start with the bad news, because it's better to end with the good news as far as I'm concerned. It has been reported and confirmed that plebe quarterback Robby Davis will transfer from the Academy. If you're not familiar with Davis (who was on the JV team) you may recall that he was the first player of the Class of 2011 to commit to Navy last summer. A talented option quarterback from Starrs Mill, Georgia, Davis was regarded by many (including myself) as the best player in Navy's most recent recruiting class. It is being reported that Woffard and Georgia Tech have expressed interest in his services. I've never met Davis, but wish him all the best down the road.

Now for the good news, or at least the good news if your coming at this from a football perspective. Jeff Deliz, who went down for the year against Rutgers in week two, has withdrawn from school for the semester to rehab his injury. I know what your thinking, that's good news? Well, yes and no. Deliz suffered something called a "Lisfranc" fracture, which apparently is a pretty big deal, and was unable to keep up with his academic duties because of it. This means he'll need an extra semester to graduate, and, as the Washington Post is reporting, may end up petitioning the NCAA for another year of eligibility. This is something of slippery slope at the Academy for obvious reasons, but the precedent is there with players like Napoleon McCallum. From what I've read, most fans and graduates seem to think that as long as Deliz will need an extra semester to graduate, he may as well have the chance to play football if he decides that's what he wants. This shouldn't be much of a problem from the NCAA's perspective, so if he decides to pursue this course of action and is allowed to do so by the Academy he could be in a position to play next season. Remember though, this is all speculation at this point, and was brought up as a possibility after Christian Swezney inquired about it last week. While Jeff was absent at practice last week, he was in fact at the game on Saturday. We'll wait and see, but above all I hope Jeff gets healthy and does what he feels is best for him at this point in both his academic and professional careers.

Wake 44, Navy 24

There really isn't a lot to say. We knew this was going to happen eventually. With a defense among the worst in major college football there becomes just so little room for error on the part of the offense, and despite the ability of Navy to stay in "shoot-outs" it was only a matter of time until the inevitable slip-up occurred. That slip-up came on a second and eight with just over six minutes to play in the second quarter, when Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry came unaccounted for into the backfield on a freeze option play and absolutely leveled Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who did not return to the game after the hit.

Navy's offense never recovered, and after trading blows with Wake up to that point the wheels came off as the Midshipmen, led by backup quarterback Jarod Byrant, fumbled away the ball three times. Those three turnovers led to 17 Wake Forest points, and with the defense forcing Wake to punt only once in the game, there was no way the Midshipmen could recover.

This was a game which really started out with so much progress, and when Navy took a 17-14 lead in the second quarter I have to say I generally started believing that Navy could pull this one out. But in the end Wake's obvious personnel advantage in speed and athleticism won out, as Josh Adams and Kenny Moore accounted for more than 77% of Wake's offensive production. Wake's aggresive defense forced the issue for Navy, while a talented and deisciplined secondary took away the big pass play of the option. At 4-3, the roller coaster continues, and like it or not, there is still is very little room for error when the Midshipmen host 13th ranked (FCS) Delaware next weekend in Annapolis.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Navy Keys to the Game

1) Make Wake Make Mistakes- Normally, I'd think of something intelligent to say like "get in Skinner's throwing lanes" or "mix up the zone packages to confuse him" but seeing as though techniques like that only work when your defense is playing well, I might as well not say them at all. Here's the deal, Wake Forest quarterbacks have combined for 12 picks and only five touchdown passes so far. That's a weakness you want to try to exploit, but one which is easier said than done. Ketric Buffin (4 int) looked like he was starting to develop into a ballhawking player who could jump routes and anticipate throws, but with him out for a month Navy doesn't necessarily have the playmakers to force turnovers. Nevertheless, Navy's defenders are going to have to find away to make something happen, and if that means taking chances so be it.

2) Don't Give Up the Big Play- We've already talked about forcing turnovers, but just as important for Navy is not allowing the big play when Wake has the football. Once again, this is a lot easier said than done. I've been having nightmares about Kenny Moore running circles around arm tackles for nights, and until I see otherwise I'm going to be extremely skeptical of the defenses ability to contain Moore and Adams. To be successful and stay in this game, Navy is going to have to force Wake to drive the length of field and trade field goals for touchdowns. It's not just on defense either, as Navy's special team (especially the kickoff coverage unit) will need to stay disciplined and not allow Wake' talented skill position players to get loose.

3) Don't get too Cute- Wake's defense has not been as good as last year's version, and by most accounts Navy should be able to move the football against the Wake front seven. However, one thing Paul Johnson and the offense have to keep in mind are Wake's five defensive touchdowns this season, in particular Wake's four interception returns for touchdowns. With a defense that's equatable to a speed bump trying to stop a blitzkrieg, Navy's offense can't afford to lose serve and give points away to Wake Forest. This doesn't mean playing conservatively, which is also a good way to kill drives if you ask me. Rather, it means playing within yourself and doing what your team does best. It also means, in my opinion anyway, staying away from Alphonso Smith, who unlike other Pitt or Air Force cornerbacks, does not drop the football when thrown to him.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scouting Wake Forest

As we looked forward towards the season during the spring and summer months, it appeared that the Midshipmen would face their toughest test against Rutgers in the second game of the season. And while we still have half a season to go and taking nothing away from the Scarlet Knights (except, of course, their idiot students) it now appears that the Wake Forest Demon Deacons- last year’s ACC champions- pose the biggest test for Navy in the 2007 season.

Wake is a good team, perhaps even better than last year’s version. Those are some lofty words, but considering the Deacons haven’t had the benefit of last year’s amazing turnover ratio it may not be as ridiculous as it sounds. Like Navy, Wake Forest struggled early in the year, losing games to 3rd ranked Boston College and a 20-17 contest to Nebraska on a late no-call on what appeared to be obvious pass interference. And, like Navy, Wake fell behind early in their fourth game, and just as it looked like the prospects to repeat as ACC champions were in doubt, the Wake Forest defense picked the team off the ground and sparked a huge comeback against Maryland. Wake proceeded to win the next two games, bringing their season record to 4-2. Now, on the cusp of the Top 25 and eyeing the “easier” portion of the conference schedule, Wake is in good position to make a late season run as ACC Atlantic division champions, and in the process end any talk of a 2006 “fluke.”

Any discussion of Wake Forest has to start with seventh year head coach Jim Grobe. The job he’s done in setting up the program for success took time, but as we saw last year it ultimately culminated in a winning campaign. Grobe of course got his “break” at the Air Force Academy, where he served as an assistant for Fisher DeBerry for ten seasons. Grobe’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach is Steed “I have a freaking awesome name” Lobotzke, who Grobe coached at the Air Force Academy in the early nineties. Obviously both of these coaches bring portions of the option offense with their pedigrees, but have also adapted it to today’s contemporary game of zone everything. Earlier this week, Paul Johnson equated Wake’s offense with the current Air Force offense under Troy Calhoun, only that the former was Air Force on “warp speed.” Having had the opportunity to watch quite a few Wake Forest games this season, I can certainly back up what coach Johnson is saying, and after watching Wake beat Florida State 24-21 the other night I’d say that Wake’s offense I a more efficient, more talented machine than what Coach Calhoun is running in Colorado Springs.

Despite being 89th in total offense, Wake Forest’s offense scares me, and not only because Navy’s defense (ranked 102nd in the country) is so bad. Remember, this is a Wake team which was without quarterback Riley Skinny for several weeks, and one which played the likes of Boston College, Maryland, and Florida State. You get the point, they haven’t exactly had time to pad the stat book. Nevertheless, this is a dangerous offense that features a veteran, talented offensive line and a host of speedy skill position players. And that’s not even mentioning their quarterback, who oh by the way was 2nd Team All-ACC as a redshirt freshmen last year. As coach Johnson alluded to, what Wake does offensively is not unlike Air Force, although the Demon Deacons don’t rely on speed option looks as much as the Falcons do. There is in fact no easy way to describe Wake’s offense beside “variable” as they run a number of looks from various sets, including zone reads, counters, end-arounds, and just about anything else an NFL fan would describe as “trickeration.” Unlike Air Force however, Wake is running this offense with much more talented personnel and a much better offensive line. So instead of gameplanning for one Chad Hall, you’ve got to account for three or four of them, plus figure out how to come off blocks while playing disciplined in the secondary. Wake’s rushing offense is of considerable concern for Navy, especially with Navy’s struggles up front. The Wake Forest offense leans heavily on a group of talented backs, among them redshirt freshmen Josh Adams (364 yards, 5.3 avg) and senior Micah Andrews (223 yards, 3.3 avg.) Wake’s most dangerous offensive player is Kenneth Moore, a wide receiver who does just about everything for the Demon Deacons. Moore is a guy with breakaway speed and phenomenal vision, and is the kind of guy that Wake will try to get the ball to in a number of ways. With Wake’s imposing and athletic offensive line lead by center Steve Justice, my biggest concern is that Navy;s linebackers will struggle to read and react to plays, and by the time they do Wake will be able to get a body on them. For as good as this offense will be against Navy however, there are weaknesses. Foremost among these have been turnovers, as Riley Skinner has nearly doubled his interception total from all of last year in only four games of action thus far. He’s thrown nine interceptions to only four touchdowns; a disturbing statistic when you consider Wake’s passing offense operates in a similar facet a Navy’s. Likewise, for as good as Wake is at the running back position, keep in mind that talent wise this team isn’t exactly USC yet. This means that on the off chance Navy’s defensive players do find themselves in position, they will have the opportunity to make plays on the football or the ballcarrier.

On the other side of the ball things don’t look so daunting for the Midshipmen, who sport the 21st best offense in the country and the top ranked rushing attack. Wake is currently ranked 46th in total defense, and sports the 22nd ranked run defense yielding just over 100 yards per game. For perspective, consider that Army ran the ball 38 times at Wake’s defense, but only came up with 117 yards (just over 3 yards per carry.) I know Army isn’t exactly Navy running the ball, but it’s going to take more than will alone to move the football against Wake. Wake’s biggest strength on defense is clearly the secondary, in particular the cornerback position. Alphonso Smith is a shutdown guy with big-play ability, and has already taken three interceptions back for scores this season. Navy does get a break in that this Wake Forest defense has been geared more towards balanced, pro-style offenses this season, but talent wise this front seven is right up there with Duke and Pittsburgh. It will be especially interesting to see how Wake’s front seven react to Navy’s triple option offense. One would figure that that because of the nature of Wake’s offense that the defense would be welled schooled in the attributes of defending the option, although it’s worthwhile to point out that triple option out of the flexbone isn’t exactly the zone-read/spread offense that Wake runs. I’m of the undaunted opinion that Navy can move the ball on most anyone, and despite having an especially quick front seven I think Navy will score on Wake. The real question will be whether or not Wake’s defensive speed can translate into turnovers, which the defense lived off of last season. Wake has scored five touchdowns off of either interceptions or fumbles this season, and one of the keys to beating the Demon Deacons is not giving them “easy” points on defense.

It’s also worth noting that Wake is solid on special teams, a facet of the game that Navy has struggled with this season. Sam Swank, the Wake Forest kicker, is perfect on field goal attempts and extra points, and is two of two at distances over 40 yards. Don’t overlook Swank in this game, especially considering how Navy’s games have gone over the past couple of weeks. He’s one of the best kickers in the game and if it comes down to a crucial kick, don’t for a second think Grobe won’t have the confidence in him to get it done. The aforementioned Kenneth Moore is also dangerous punt returned who has already scored once this year.

Wake Forest is a good football team, one which rightfully deserves to be on the cusp of the Top 25. They are talented, veteran, and more than anything else well coached. Yet for all we’ve heard about Wake Forest, it’s worth mentioning that they are not by any means a dominant team. It’s an important distinction to make, and a quick perusal of Wake’s results show that over the last two seasons they’ve only really “blown out” one team (oddly enough, last year’s 30-0 romp of Florida State.) This means, among other things, that Navy will have the capability to stay in this game, despite the obvious advantages Wake holds in most facets of the game. Let’s not sell ourselves short here. The offense is very good, and what they did to a fairly decent Pitt defense lack week can only be described as impressive. I’m not saying were going to see another 500+ yard game of total offense, but let’s just say I have a haunch this isn’t going to turn out like last year’s homecoming game. While Wake’s defense isn’t bad, I’d be careful to overestimate their capabilities, especially against an offense like Navy’s. Remember, the last time Grobe and his team (Seattle bowl bound Wake in 2002) played Navy they gave up 27 points to a much less talented team that only won two games that year, and despite the huge strides Wake has made they aren’t beyond being upset. By the same token, if the Mids do lose to Wake, it’s not the end of the world. Remember, this is a streaking Wake team right now that could very well find itself in the ACC title game by year’s end. This is going to clearly be Navy’s toughest test all year, but with the way Kaipo-Noa and the offense are clicking I would not count the Midshipmen out.

Navy’s Keys to the Game and Final Prediction coming Friday Morning. Also, be sure to check out The Old Gold & Blog, where Zach and Phelix from the Bird Dog have done a little Q&A regarding the game.


Jom Grobe is an Expert in Coach Speek

It's that time of the week again. As Navy head coach Paul Johnson was busy calling Wake's offense "Air Force at warp speed," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe was busy talking the fear of God into his team and the local media in his Tuesday press conference. Here's a snippet:

"We haven't seen anybody slow these guys down. They've only punted around six times in six games. That tells you how good they are offensively, and then defensively, they're a typical Academy football team. They're going to play hard from start to finish...It's as tough a game coming up this week with Navy as any we've played all year."

That's some high praise, especially considering that Wake Forest opened with undefeated Boston College, which is now the #3 team in the country. Last I checked, Maryland and Florida State ain't too shabby either. But if you think that was some loaded language, check out what Wake center Steve Justice said with regards to Navy's defense:

"I think their defense is good. I just think their offense, they put some points on the board and they run the ball really well. So, we've been watching film of their defense. They have a lot of good players. And they have a bunch of different fronts. So it's going to be hard for us to go in there. They have a good defense."

Did someone just use the words "good" and "[navy's] defense" in the same sentence? What happened, did someone send these guys tape from last year? In all seriousness, this is the best job of a coach getting his guys schooled in the art of diplomatic language that I've seen all season. It almost reminds me of last week, except that instead of the fans, it's the coaches and players from each team trying to define why the other will win. It almost makes you wonder why we can't just get back to the days when you could say someone sucked and then proceed to prove that assertion right.

Full Scouting report on Wake coming tonight/tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Feldman Chimes In

Bruce Felman, formerly's homeless man look-alike and one of my challengers over at the pick 'em, has chimed in regarding the upcoming Navy-Notre Dame showdown early next month. While this topic has taken on a taboo, "we don't talk about this like Harry Potter don't talk about that bad guy or whatnot" dynamic amongst Navy fans, Feldman calls the Nov. 3rd matchup the ninth most intriguing game of the second half of the season.

Forget USC-ND: This is the Notre Dame game worth tuning in for. If there was ever a season where Navy had a chance to knock off the Irish, this is it. ND has won an NCAA series-record 43 straight games against Navy. They've done so in nine different stadiums, but this is the worst Irish team in that span. Their offense is horrible and their run defense isn't much better (93rd overall) and Navy has a very potent ground attack. The Irish have scored 80 points in the last two meetings in this series, which is exactly the same number of points the Irish have scored in their first seven games this season.

My thoughts? Heck, like I'm going to talk about this game a whole two and a half weeks before this game actually takes place and jinx our chances. I will, however, shamlessly plug my own work and nudge you with a "I saw it coming" nudge.

Air Force Envy

From the latest AP poll...

Others Receiving Votes: Penn State 95, Virginia 85, Illinois 75, Boise State 37, Alabama 27, Wake Forest 18, Wisconsin 18, Rutgers 18, Clemson 9, Connecticut 7, Florida State 6, Maryland 6, Air Force 4, Brigham Young 2, Troy 1.

This is not a huge shocker. After all, we've talked about rankings in the past, in particular where Navy and Air Force stand in relation to each other. As I pointed out after the Air Force victory, several "ranking" services had Air Force ahead of Navy even after the Midshipmen defeated the Falcons. Two and a half weeks later find ourselves dealing with the same question, and can clearly see that the Falcons, at least in some peoples' minds, are better than the 4-2 Navy team which beat them.

Or are they?

It's important to remember that this is the Associated Press poll, which means, among other things, that the press votes on who belongs where. Air Force, as much as it may bother us to admit it, has done better than expected, and like it or not finds themselves at the Top of the MWC standings. What, pray tell, do you think the voters representing the MWC are going to do when they see that? I don't blame these voters, and as much as it may bother some Navy fans I'd probably do the same thing if I were covering a conference. Remember, people stick with their conferences, that's just the way it is. Had Navy been in a conference and Bill Wagner and Christian Swezney had votes, what do you think they would do?

Don't take it too personally that Air Force gets four votes in the AP poll while Navy gets none. While it may appear on the outside to reflect the "same old story" in regards to Navy not "getting respect," you have to look at these kinds of things objectively. If it's the "respect" angle your looking at, I think you'd be hard pressed to really find intelligent fans and media who think Air Force is a better team than Navy (outside of Colorado Springs of course.) While there is some credence to the argument that Navy matches up better against Air Force than other teams, that still shouldn't explain away the situation. If it's the exposure angle your looking at, well, I don't see how you could possibly see four votes in the AP Poll trumping three ESPN televised games, Sportscenter highlights, and a schedule that features Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame. By the same token however, this exposure may hurt Navy's ability to get votes in the poll, as actual, non-biased voters cringe at the sight of a defense ranked in the bottom 15 nationwide. And you know what, that's not necessarily as bad thing. With the defense we have right now, Navy doesn't deserve to receive Top 25 votes, although something tells me the Midshipmen may pick up a few votes as the season goes on.

If this issue of Air Force receiving votes is getting under your skin, don't let it. The Navy football team needs to worry about who's up next, and if they can take care of the rest of the schedule you'll find that these things work themselves out in the end. By the same token Air Force can't afford to worry about picking up four votes, and if the team can't deliver against BYU, Wyoming, or New Mexico then it's likely that the MWC voters who voted for the Falcons will switch gears to whoever looks like they'll have the inside track for the conference. This after all is college football, a what-have-you-done-for me-lately game characterized by intense regional loyalty and more than its fair share of politicking. At the very least, take comfort in knowing that your resident BlogPoll voter is having none of the hype, and will instead cast his 25th vote for the BYU Cougars.

In Case You Missed It, my semi-weekly post covering the rest of the college football world, will be up later today at SaturdaySoundsOffs.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ketric Buffin Has a Bum Arm

By now you've probably heard, but since I haven't mentioned it yet I may as well. Ketric Buffin, Navy's starting rover and maybe the defenses' best player, went down with a broken arm early in the game against Pittsburgh last Wednesday night. Buffin had been one of the few bright spots for Navy's much maligned defense, and had to date compiled 26 tackles and a team high four interceptions. The timetable for Buffin has unofficially been put at 4-6 weeks, which means that in a best case scenario he'd be back for North texas on November 10th. This injury hurts, but it hurts in a more darkly comedic manner when you consider that Buffin had been the one calling the defensive plays after Clint Sovie went down for the year against Rutgers. With Ketric going down, Navy's already struggling defense is going to have to have to find someone to call the plays against Wake Forest, which is easier said then done when we consider the chaos that ensued after Deliz and Sovie went down.

Jesse Iwuji is currently listed as first on the depth chart at rover, although the pre-practice week depth chart in a situation like this means about as much as any "moral" victory Navy pulled out against Ball State several weeks ago. Junior Kevin Snyder took most of the snaps against Pittsburgh, and all things considered play o.k. Obviously Coach Green will be watching these two players closely this week, but my best guess at this point is that they'll both see time against Wake Forest next Saturday. Not a good sign going into the next month, but this team didn't come this far to let another injury stand in the way.

Midterm Report

Can you believe we're already half way through the 2007 college football season? I sure can't, and six games in a part of me still feels like we're waiting in eager anticipation for the season to start. In this six Navy games we've witnessed so far this year, I think It's safe to say that this team has already experienced it's fair share of ups and downs, wild comebacks, and heartbreaking loses. Let's briefly recap some of the story lines we've seen up to this point.

Right Where we Need to Be?

Let's head back a ways, specifically to the weeks proceeding the kickoff of the 2007 college football season. If, at that time, you would have asked the average Navy football fan what Navy's record would be halfway trough the year, chances were they'd tell you 4-2. If you were hopelessly optimistic like me, you may have even said 5-1. This optimistic forecast wasn't just Navy fans either, as Athlon,, and most preseason publications pegged Navy to start off 4-2 for the season. While we haven't exactly gotten to this point by way of which we all thought, the point is that after a rocky start to the year the Midshipmen are, by many accounts, right where they need to be. Obviously the defense has not been very good (104th out of 119) but the offense has risen to new heights behind Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku Enhada. It may not have been pretty, and it doesn't figure to get much better, but the 2007 Navy Midshipmen haven't dropped the bar yet when it comes to winning, and are right where they need to be to accomplish most of their preseason goals.

Inside Track

After beating Air Force by a more "comfortable" margin two weeks ago, the Midshipmen have the inside track at capturing their fifth consecutive Commander in Chief's trophy. While Army has not fared too poorly this year (the Black Knights are currently 3-4) Navy has beaten Army the past five consecutive years and matches up well against the Cadets from West Point. Paul Johnson will try to make it six in a row when he the two teams square off December 1st in Baltimore.


Navy has already taken it's fair share of injuries this season, including three critical players on defense. Losing safety Jeff Deliz and Clint Sovie was huge in that it took away the defenses' two most experienced players, while losing Ketric Buffin the other night takes away a valuable asset in the secondary and forces coach Green to go with another inexperienced backup. While Navy's defensive problems run deeper than just inexperience and youth (tackling is, uh, kind of a big deal these days) the loss of these three players have made it especially difficult for coach Green to field a cohesive defense.

Leading the Way

After six games this season Navy leads the nation in rushing, and is halfway home to becoming the first team in FBS history to lead the country in rushing three consecutive seasons. The Midshipmen are currently averaging 345.5 yards a game, which is more than 30 yards more than the next closest team (West Virginia is averaging 311.2 yards per game.) While we've all come to expect Navy's offense to put up rushing yards, the Midshipmen aren't too shabby all around either, currently ranking 21st in the country in terms of total offense with still the "easier" portion the schedule to come.

Offensive Play of the Half

Jarod's Bryant's 39-yard run with less than forty seconds left in the game against Duke put the Midshipmen on track to getting in field position for Joey Bullen in one of the more improbable comebacks during Paul Johnson's tenure here. With overtime looking certain, Jarod seemingly made every defender on the field miss as he advanced the ball to Duke's 39 yard line, which gave the Navy offense a more manageable position to inch closer towards field goal range. Bullen's kick as time expired evened Navy's record up at 2-2, and may just have prevented an early season collapse.

Defensive Play of the Half

No brainer, although there is a clear second. Rashawn King's pass defense against Oderick Turner on fourth a goal from the two against Pitt gave Navy a win over a BCS conference team which many people did not expect Navy to beat. Rashawn had given up a touchdown on a fade pattern earlier in the game, but was in perfect position when it counted in overtime. Honorable mention goes to Ketric Buffin's interception of Thaddeus Lewis against Duke and Tony Haberer's fourth down stop against Air Force.

Looking Ahead
The second half of Navy's schedule is not daunting, not by any means. Obviously, Navy isn't going to scare anyone by just "getting off the bus" as Coach Johnson likes to say, but the Mids should achieve bowl eligibility. Whether or not that comes with a certain degree of cardiac strain, well that's yet to be decided, but considering North Texas and Northern Illinois are both one win teams at this point, six wins is in reach for Navy. But let's be honest here, while six certainly looks attainable, who among us would be completely satisfied with going six and six? Ok, ok, I know, the gravy argument. But after starting the season 4-2 the Midshipmen have a real shot at 7-5 or 8-4, with even 9-3 not out of the question (although, admittedly, very unlikely.)

Crystal Ball

Four weeks ago it looked like Navy may be lucky to limp to 6-6, but after winning their past three games the Midshipmen now seem poise to achieve bowl eligibility and then some. Wake Forest is going to be a huge game that the Mids will be heavy 'dogs in, while Delaware, North Texas, Northern Illinois, and Army should be be wins. Notre Dame is the question mark a lot of people don't want to touch, and after a couple of improved performances it no longer looks as though the Mids stand as good of a chance as they may have two or three weeks ago. But regardless of what happens against Notre Dame or Wake, the aforementioned games are in fact very winnable, and even with Navy's defensive shortcomings the offense should be able to reach a new level as the season goes along. I would not be shocked to see a team like Delaware beat Navy, but by the same token I wouldn't be shocked either if this happened to be the year Navy finally beat Notre Dame. If there is any insight we can draw from the first half of Navy's season, it's that we've got to take it game by game, and despite the positive outlook for the rest of the season, this team isn't likely to get a "breather" the rest of the way.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

After Action Report: Navy Downs Pitt 48-45

Wanting It More

If there is one theme which we can find in the 2007 Navy football team, it’s that of resiliency. We saw it against Duke, we saw it against Air Force, and of course we saw it last night against Pittsburgh.

This wasn’t your garden variety comeback type resiliency though, and dare I say what we saw last night took a little more guts and a little more heart than anything we’ve seen up to this point. This was a game that Navy appeared to have thrown away, a game in which a series of Midshipmen miscues and missed opportunities seemed certain to cost Navy a win. From Joey Bullen’s 35-yard missed field goal before the half to Nate Frazier’s incredibly inopportune neutral zone infraction in the first overtime, the headline that was building past 11 PM last night seemed to be all about how Navy should have won this game, but instead snatched certain defeat from the jaws of victory. Enter resiliency.

I don’t want to sound like I’m overly praising the defense, because God knows Good Counsel could have put up yards and points on us, but the defense did manage to stand tall in key situations. From holding Pitt to a field goal on first and goal in the third quarter to not allowing Pitt into field goal range even after a big fourth down conversation with only minutes to go, Navy’s defense did just enough to allow Navy’s offense to get the job. And did they ever. Navy raked up 497 yards of total offense including 331 on the ground en route to their 48-45 win, all of this coming against what had been a fairly solid Pitt defense. Quarterback Kaipo-Noa was nearly flawless while Reggie Campbell had a huge game with three total touchdowns.

But the real story here was the fourth quarter and subsequent overtime period, as two desperate teams battled it out to gain control of the course of their season. I tip my hat to Pitt’s players, who fought hard all game probably knowing that their season was, for all intensive purposes, an impending disappointment, while at the same time still can’t find the words to describe how awesome it was to see Navy’s players fight to the very end. There must have been three or four occasions in which I thought Navy was done for good, and after Pitt’s huge fourth down conversion inside their own thirty late in the fourth quarter I broke out the proverbial “I hate football” routine. Yet, somehow, Navy rebounded on defense, and amazingly came up with a stop before midfield.

Kaipo-Noa did a good job just getting the offense down the field, with some real help from Tyree Barnes, who finally emerged after five quiet games to become a factor in the receiving game. Yet, as Joey Bullen lined up for a 48-yard attempt with :07 second left, I’ll be the first to tell you I thought that if it did not split the uprights, Navy’s chances were surely over.

Fortunately I was wrong, and unlike the Duke game I stood fast in the hope that something could happen. After holding Pitt on third down on their first series of overtime, I felt a renewed sense of confidence that the team may sneak out of this one, that was until Nate Frazier jumped into the neutral zone on the field goal attempt and basically gave Pitt a first and goal. So, once Pitt scored a touchdown I thought I had to be over, but fortuantly Kaipo-Noa and Reggie Campbell don’t roll over so easily, and just a few seconds later the two teams found themselves tied again. At this point in the game it’s about who wants it more, and considering how desperate Pitt had been playing, I still thought it was only a matter of time until the Panthers just outlasted us. But the Midshipmen never quit, and after scoring on the first possession of the second overtime regrouped on defense and forced Pitt into a third and goal from their own two.

That’s where it gets unfortunate if you were a Pitt fan, as Dave Wannstedt called a play-action pass on third and goal. Considering how Pitt had been pounding the ball up and down the field all night, I thought it was just a forgone conclusion that Pitt would stick it in. Yet after missing the pass on third down, Paul Johnson rolled the dice, with the weak part of his team nonetheless, and asked them to stop Pitt’s offense on fourth and goal.

The rest is simply a shining example of Rashawn King’s awesomeness. Why Wannstedt chose to throw a fade I don’t know. Maybe he thought Rashawn couldn’t defend the fade because he gave up a touchdown on one earlier, or maybe he just thought Navy was going to bring everyone up the middle. But whatever the case, he call a play against Navy’s best and most experienced defensive player, and true to form Rashawn came up with a huge breakup to give Navy the game. It was a wild, nearly heart-attack inducing finish, but honestly, would you rather it had ended any other way?

Come to think of it, don’t answer that.

Game Balls

Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku Enhada- How about Kaipo? Once again Navy’s junior quarterback had a huge statistical day, operating cool and collected under pressure to lead Navy’s offense to 48 points against what had been the 9th rated defense in the country. Kaipo-Noa continued to prove naysayers wrong with his improved accuracy and field vision, going 9-12 for 166 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while at the same time running for 122 yards and a score. Interestingly enough, he said he played “horribly” in the post game press conference, most likely in reference to a number of missed reads he made. Still, he’s proven that he’s the complete package as an option quarterback, and is starting to hit “his rhythm” we always talk about Navy quarterbacks getting into. Honorable mention to Reggie Campbell, who scored three touchdowns and quite nearly broke a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Rashawn King- Rashawn had a tough first half matched up with highly touted Pitt receiver Oderick Turner, but the junior came up with two critical plays in the second half, including the game winning pass defense in overtime. Rashawn also picked off a deep ball in which he was in man coverage with Turner, who is one of the better receivers in the Big East. He also added nine tackles, including six solo stops.

Loved the Playcalling

I thought coach Johnson called his best offensive gameplan of the season, going toe to toe with Wannsted and not blinking in a game in which they both seemed to coach with a calculated, if not sometimes frantic, desperation. After the game Wannstedt admitted he would have never of went for so many fourth down conversions had his team not been so desperate this year, and for Navy to withstand all those conversions and match on fourth down conversations offensively shows the confidence coach Johnson has in himself and his team. One interesting note is that Coach Johnson did not call for the fake punt, which clearly Pitt was expecting (I though I heard Pitt’s defenders saying “watch the fake” on the ESPN broadcast.) Instead, Veteto took matters into his own hands, and if he actually takes it back outside after cutting inside it looks like he may have had a first down.

TV Coverage Woes

Lou Holtz has been criticized up and down by Navy fans, and with good reason. Last night he was completely off his rocker, often making nonsense statements and failing to give Navy much credit for anything. That he could say Pittsburgh was sending a message to the Big East was ludicrous, while his constant referral to Navy’s offense as “the wishbone” made about as much sense as May Day’s obsession with Eric Kettani’s wardrobe. I don’t hold much animosity towards the old coach, and to tell you the truth when he’s not talking about Navy I don’t mind him. Yet he was completely out of control last night in what I would dream a sub-par performance of coverage by ESPN. On the plus side Rece Davis proved once again to be a knowledgeable, in-the-loop broadcaster who at the very least has the audacity to pronounce Kaipo-Noa’s name correctly.

What This Means

Navy gets another pseudo bye-week heading into their October 20th match up with Wake Forest, which, believe it or not, should be a close game decided in the fourth quarter. Navy’s offense has reached a new level of execution for this early in the season, to the point where I would suggest we could start seeing point totals above 50 in the coming month. The defense, however, continues to play fundamentally poor, as tackling has been, as they say, “optional.” For Pittsburgh, the loss last night takes away any hope of somehow climbing back to .500, as the Panthers now enter a tough Big East conference schedule in which their only chance for victory may come against Syracuse. While Navy may not have beaten the Pittsburgh team we expected coming into the year, this was nevertheless a “good” win over a BCS conference team with no shortage of talent. Obviously there is still a lot of work to be done defensively, but believe it or not I think we are starting to see a young group mature. Now all they have to learn how to do is tackle.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Navy-Pitt Second Half Live Blog

Notable Quotes from various game-time conversations:

"this is putting more strain on my bad heart than pt this morning..."

"was that not the scariest pass ever?"

"thank God the future of our navel is under control'

9:55- Time to see who wants it more. I expect both teams to have moderate success on defense with the halftime adjustments, but something has to give. Mark my words, first team to turn it over loses.
9:58- Hand to hand combat in Alumni Hall at halftime. That sure kicks the hell out of the marching band!
10:01- How come in these kinds of game we get a key holding penalty and the other team doesn't?
10:02- This is very very very bad.
10:05- We are getting killed off of play action. We need to get guys to stay on their men.
10:07- No this is not a touchback. I have no idea what the official was looking at.
10:18-Now we're down, and break wise, we're even. We need to score here just to stay on serve.
10:18-Hmm, I was not aware that Kettani rushed for 250 yards in the bowl game. Thanks for the heads up Coach Holtz!
10:23- TOUCHDOWN NAVY. What else is new. We need a stop or this thing will go on forever. Please no, I still have to finish that paper tonight before PT in the morning...
10:39- Ben Gabbard with a four yard gain!
10:41- TOUCHDOWN NAVY! Oh m God, we're winning again. Dare I even try to suggest our defense can hold? I think I will, at least I hope they will.
10:44- Rashawn King is the freaking man.
10:49- Kettani hit the wrong hole. Look for the fake punt...
10:50- Crap. You could see that coming. Veteto should have stayed outside after cutting back, but give Pitt credit. Once again, crap.
10:52- Our linebackers might as well not have torsos. All I see are arm tackles. We must hold them to a field goal here.
10:55- Pitt, believe it or not, is getting predictable on offense. They continue to run it on second down, and just scored off of a draw. I yelled draw right as they came out of the huddle. I don't think Pitt's OC has the balls to throw it deep, so if I were Buddy Green, I'd load the box and/or fire the outside backers. But then again I ain't a real football coach so take that with a grain of salt.
11:00- Time for a New Mexico.
11:05- I don't like where this drive is going. We're going to give it back to Pitt with just enough time. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but I think we've lost...
11:11- We need a stop here. That or let them score and go for two after we score.
11:13- Wow, Nate is getting destroyed. The whole Eric Kettani dresses well angle is getting old.
11:15- I hate football.
11:19- Pitt's offense is pissed.
11:20- 86 seconds left. We can do it. We did it against Duke.
11:27- Here we go, the ice man.
11:28- Joey Bullen cannot be iced. He's got one more in him. I can feel it.
11:30- Well that was a freaking shame. How big was that missed field goal?
11:32- I can't believe I'm about to say this, but if Pitt wins this game it's because of Wanny. He's been coaching with a frantic desperation that has given his team the ability to come to this point in overtime.
11:36- OMG a stop!
11:37- Nate Frazier just did the dumbest thing ever. What the hell was he trying to do anyway?
11:40- Pitt scores, almost certainly the winning score. If Navy somehow manages to score on the next drive, Johnson should go for two. We need to force the issue or we're just going to die.
11:44- TOUCHDOWN NAVY- Mids back even with Pitt, but another chance to win the game and we don't get it done. How big was that penalty now?
11:49- Sack on Kaipo. Game over. I hate to say it, but dammit.
11:50- Here's what's going to happen. Pitt is going to run the ball down our through and most likely score.
11:52- Fourth and Goal. Here we go...

Pitt Navy Live Blog: First Half

7:00- We're an hour away from game time and I'm an hour away from procrastinating the conclusion to this paper on ancient Chinese legalism until tomorrow morning. It seems like neither Pitt fans nor Navy fans really want to go out on a limb and say that their team will win, so it should be an interesting game, considering someone will have to win.
8:05- Apparently we run the "wishbone." Lou Holtz is a senile old man.
8:06- Mids in Alumni Hall watching the game look good. Reggie Campbell refereed to as a "small fry." Roger the Dodger in the House. Nobody cares about you Mark May.
8:10- Pitt gets the ball first. We shall see.
8:15- Well, we broke serve. Navy's defense does a good job holding and not giving up another third down. Reggie gets a flag for "running" after a fair catch. Whatever.
8:19- TOUCHDOWN NAVY! Reggie takes the toss to the house. Frankly, that drive looked incredibly too easy. I'm scared.
8:30- Damn. Pitt picks up a big fourth down after getting close on 4th and 12. We have got to do a better job on third downs. Now we're getting run all over...
8:32- Serenity freaking now. I knew that looked too easy. Here's the deal, we have to tackle. That drive should of been stopped for a field goal attempt, but because three guys cant tackle one guy, Pitt scores a touchdown. We need to respond, or we lose.
8:36- Mark May needs to stop gushing over Lesean McCoy. If you love him so much why don't you marry him there big man.
8:38- Stop showing this damn sandwich ESPN. It's annoying me.
8:41- Lou Holtz is out of control. I truly do not know what to say. Flexbone coach, it's called the flexbone.
8:47- So, are we going for it or not? Right here I think you have to kick, but then again I'm not an award winning football coach.
8:52- If this is reversed I will disown football forever.
8:55- TOUCHDOWN NAVY! Oh jeez that was the scariest pass ever...
8:55- Well, if you couldn't see that coming a mile away...
8:58- Paul Johnson just made the goofiest face.
9:00- Why is it that we can always stop the offense on the first series but can't the rest of the half?
9:06- Yea, there is holding going on...
9:12- I :heart: the inside fullback trap!
9:16- TOUCHDOWN NAVY! How about Adam Ballard and that offensive line? Hell, I think May Day may have even enjoyed that just a little bit. Seriously, this back and forth is going to happen all night. I hope you have plenty of good cholesterol, because this one could get tight.
9:22- We are not doing a good job accounting for people out of the backfield...
9:23- I tell ya, Bostick can make some throws, even though he has the slowest delivery ever...
9:26- Oh jeez, Rashawn didn't have a chance. I'd be careful to laud Bostick and the Pitt offense too much, our defense just hasn't been good. The balance of the Pitt offense is causing us a lot of problems...
9:30- What can I say? This is the game, this is likely how the second half with be, although I'd look for each defense to come up with maybe one or two stops. One thing to watch out for is the onside kick. Wanny used it coming out of the blocks against Virginia, he may gamble again. I seriously hate games like this. Key play of the first half? Bostick making that eleven yard throw on 3rd and 12...
9:34- "The future of our Naval?" Once again, Lou Holtz is out of control...
9:35- Huge field goal attempt upcoming. This actually could swing the game in Navy's favor considering what we've seen tonight.
9:38- Heads up Wanny, it's more than the pass that's getting you. Does anyone have any halftime thoughts? Anything, dare I say, witty to report?