Thursday, November 29, 2007
You may have noticed that I've been conspicuously quiet when it comes to all the Paul Johnson coaching rumors that are going on. This is partially due to the busy nature of schedule, but also because I don't think such speculation is very fair during the season, much less Army week. We can talk about valid scenarios once the season if over, but all we're hearing right now is internet rumormongering, and frankly that's not worthy of our time. Secondly, if you haven't heard Navy's very own Zerbin Singleton will be awarded the Disney's Wide World of Sports Spirit Award during the ESPNU College Football Awards on December 6th, an event which you'll be able to catch on ESPN from 7:30-9:30. In addition to winning this award, Singleton has been named Brigade Commander for the second semester. Both of these are terrific achievements, and if you've ever met Zerb you can attest to the fact that there is no more deserving person for such an honor than he is. Lastly, if you haven't been checking out the articles leading up to Saturday's game, you may want to get on that. I've particularly enjoyed a recent article on the up-and-down career of Greg Thrasher, who had a huge game against Northern Illinois a few weeks ago. Lastly, and most importantly of course, BEAT ARMY!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Kaheaku-Enhada, who sat out the home finale against Northern Illinois, seemed to be moving quite well in practice this week so perhaps this is much adieu about nothing. However, don't be shocked if he undergoes surgery during the offseason.
Personally, I'm worried. I don't want this to sound like a shot at him, but it seems like Coach Johnson always under-reports the injuries to the media. I know he's doing his job, but ever since that whole DeJuan Price fiasco a year ago I tend to take "week to week" to mean "out indefinitely." Am I just being cynical, or has anyone else noticed this?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
For the past five seasons the majority of Navy fans have penciled in the final regular season game of each year as a "W." Oh don't tell me you haven't done it at least once, after all we can talk about the greatness of the rivalry and all it symbolizes all day long (and certainly with good reason) but when it comes to the Army-Navy games of late, Paul Johnson and the Midshipmen have dominated. In fact, from the years 2002-2005 Navy outscored Army 176-54 in a series of games that for all intensive purposes were not even close. That was until last year when, in Robby Ross' final game, the Black Knights put on an inspired first half performance and came within several late offensive miscues of beating the Midshipmen. This year Navy once again comes in with a winning record and having already cliched a bowl game, while Army limps in with only three win on the year. Like last year, however, Army will be no "gimme" for the Midshipmen, who are looking to extend their winning streak over the Black Knights at six games.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Yet not everyone feels the same way. Last year I penned a piece for the Fan House in which I asserted that the Army-Navy game was not only the best rivalry in college football, but arguably the best rivalry in sports. Period. Since that time I've heard plenty of chatter regarding what truly is the "best" rivalry in sports, with irate fans from Michigan and Ohio claiming their own cross state rivalry, as well as a fair share on snooty and condescending cosmopolitan types who inevitably claim that we jingoistic Americans neglect to feature the finest rivalries of premier league "futbol" or whatever they are calling soccer these days. Yet, even in the face of these arguments (some better than others) many of us are undeterred, and continue to point to that first Saturday in December as the most platonic example of what a rivalry should be.
With each team being some half a century removed from being in the National Title picture, it's not difficult to see why there are doubters in the conversation. Yet for as much is made about Michigan-Ohio State or Alabama-Auburn, at the end of the day those local rivalries are just that, local. Don't get me wrong, I'm not naive enough to think that people from around the country don't have rooting interests in those games, and by no means am I suggesting that such rivalries don't often have major implications on the college football postseason. But what happens when your not a fan of either of those schools, and when you couldn't care less about the implications of those games? The great thing about Army-Navy is that everyone has some kind of connection to the game, even if your not a graduate of one of the institutions or have some other proximal affiliation with the schools. With personnel from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps stationed around the world and often in areas of danger, I don't need to tell anyone that this game is anything but localized, and despite the certain fact that the eyes of the college football universe won't be trained on M&T Bank Stadium exclusively, it doesn't diminish the importance the game holds for the teams and their fan bases.
Later in the week we'll get to breaking down the matchups of this game, and sometime following the game I'll get around to writing a somewhat lengthy and long overdue post about myself and my own personal, albeit limited, experience with the rivalry, as well as where I plan to go with the blog itself in the coming months.
Until then (as if I had to tell you): BEAT ARMY
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Northern Illinois's Offense Had As Much to Do With Navy's Defensive Improvement as the Defense Itself
Fact. This is a tough call to make because either way you slice it I think it's apparent that we saw improvement from the defense on Saturday. That being said it should be obvious by this point of the season that Navy's defense plays much better when it's against teams that play a more conservative style of offense, which the Huskies did on Saturday. Northern Illinois ran the ball 44 times against Navy, on an average of 3.4 yards per carry. As we all know, Navy's biggest defensive porblems have come against the pass, but NIU completed only 20 passes against the Midshipmen. So what does all this mean? It means that Northern Illinois ran the ball, and they did so in fairly predictable situations. For as bad as Navy's defense has been all year, they actually have played decently against inside rushing games (think Notre Dame) and that's exactly what we saw on Saturday. Of course it took some great efforts like Ross Pospsil's 20 taclkle day, but for one of the only times all season Navy's defense was simplified partially due to the nature of the offense the Mids were playing. Navy's defense played better on Saturday, that's a fact, but they did so largely because they were playing a team in which the matchups were much more favorable.
At leasts one Navy "senior" will be back next season
Fact. We learned late last week that both safety Corey Johnson and wide receiver Greg Sudderth are being extended academically through the Fall 2008 semester, while the status of FS Jeff Deliz still appears to be up in the air. Johnson is a guy who has a year of eligibility left, while the Mids will have go to the NCAA regarding Deliz and Sudderth, both of whom should be able to get an extra year of eligibility if indeed that's what they decide they want to do. In any case, I think it's fair to say that at least one of these "seniors" will be back next year, which, football-wise anyway, is a good thing.
Jarod Bryant is a More Decisive Runner than Kaipo-Noa
Fiction. This was one of those points that Scott Zolak was really trying to hammer down during the broadcast, but one which probably doesn't ring true. I say "probably" because you've got to realize that the two quarterbacks have different running styles, and that Jarod's is more conducive to called plays that don't feature as many option or read elements. Phelix did a great job breaking this down in his postgame over at the Bird Dog, and as his research shows 40% of the plays Navy ran were predetermined runs, while another 40% were one-read option plays that included a number of midline options (option to give or follow the fullback inside.) With 80% of the plays being called involving one read or less (as well as 9% of plays being pass attempts) it's easy to see why Jarod would look a lot more "decisive" at quarterback. This isn't to say that Jarod is not a decisive runner, because he is. He's quicker than Kaipo between the tackles and arguably has better vision inside, and used these assets en route to a 139 yard day on the ground. However when we're talking about being purely "decisive" it's apples and oranges because of the different strengths and weaknesses of each quarterback and the now prevalent fact that the offense does take on a different look and feel with Jarod at the helm. It's easy to say that Kaipo is less "decisive" than Jarod, but you have to remember he usually has an extra one or two reads when he's in the ballgame. So no, I don't think Jarod is necessarily a more "decisive" runner than Kaipo, but I also don't think that diminishes the job he's done in relief all season.
Hope everyone has a happy and restful Thanksgiving and enjoys some very exciting college football action over the next few days.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Q: When this game first came out on Navy's schedule, a lot of Midshipmen fans thought it would be a good "measuring stick" game against what has been one of the MAC's best teams over the last several years. Yet the Huskie's have been down this year, and at 2-8have fallen to the bottom of the conference. In as many or as little words as you like, can you "fill us in" so to speak on what's gone wrong for the Huskies?
A: There are a lot of places to go with this question. First of all,there have been more injuries this year than any year Joe Novak has been coaching. He's said repeatedly in interviews that he's seen nothing like what has happened this year. We've had 13+ season-ending injuries and our defensive line has been hit the most, with 6 guys out for the season. Secondly, we almost have a non-existent senior class this year. All 4 of our captains are juniors and there are only 4seniors on the 2-deep, including our backup FS and the Kicker. It's clear to see that this team is very inexperienced and lacks veteran leadership. One thing representative of this is turning the ball over, and we have kept doing this consistently, as we rank 117th in the nation in turnover margin with a -14. It also doesn't help that we have a new offensive coordinator in Roy Wittke from ASU and it didn't seem like everybody was on the right page until last week's win vs Kent State.
Q: You mentioned the other day on your blog that Northern Illinois has experienced a plethora of injuries at the running back position, with leading rusher rusher Justin Anderson listed as "questionable" with a bum knee. QB Dan Nicholson also had to leave the game early last week after suffering a concussion. Will both of these players play, and what impact, if any, will their loss have on the tam if they don't?
A: I fully expect both Justin Anderson & David Bryant to play in this game. They have been dealing with injuries like these for a while now. I am more worried about Justin Anderson because of his punishing running style. He is more likely to get banged up early and have the speed back Bryant relieve him just like what happened in the last game. If they don't play, then there's nothing left in the cupboard,because all we have left is guys that haven't received a carry this season. With Dan Nicholson, he has gotten rocked a few times this semester and he consistently comes back and plays decent. Honestly,he can't get any worse with his 9-14 TD-INT ratio, and it seems the WRs are finally getting in rhythm with him at QB. God forbid our backup QB Ryan Morris comes in and plays. All he will do is hand the ball off over and over again, as he is a former walk-on with considerably less talent. Novak says Nicholson has a 75% chance he's going to play Saturday.
Q: Navy has been notoriously bad on defense this year, especially against teams which run more "spread" oriented offenses. Can you tell us a little about the Northern Illinois offense, including who the playmakers are and what kind of looks the offense gives?
A: Yeah, we don't run the spread so you can be a little less worried.We pretty much run a one-back balanced attack. We use a run-first orientated mentality and that has always been the case with Joe Novak as head ball coach. There's a lot of pre-snap motion and it seems like we are trying to get our TEs involved a lot more involved in the offense. Our huge playmaker right now on offense is WR Matt Simon.He always is consistently good and comes through with huge plays. One other player to look for (other than RB Justin Anderson of course),would be WR Britt Davis. He has been inconsistent all season, but has tremendous athletic ability and can make the tough catch. Also, look for RB Justin Anderson to come out of the backfield a lot and make some catches. Also our offensive line looked like a freaking bulldozer last Saturday so I would watch out. Those guys are hungry.
Q: Gearing up for Navy's offense can be a touch task for a team which doesn't face it on a yearly basis. What is Head Coach Joe Novak getting his team prepared, and do you expect the Huskies to have any success against Navy's offense?
A: All week HC Joe Novak's been saying that nobody is going to stop Navy's offense, and the best that we can do is slow it down, by controlling the ball on offense and obviously scoring a lot on that end too. That's what he has been preaching. The defense has been working hard on their assignments for defending Navy's offense. I doubt we stop you guys at all really. Well, we do have really good linebackers, so I'm pretty confident that we can stop your offense a few times. And you don't throw the ball, so our "Huskie Prevent D"isn't going to consistently give up yardage and let you guys come back if we take the lead early.
Q: I'm not sure if you're a prediction guy, but how do you think this game will play out?
A: I believe that the new-found confidence after a win at home will travel to Annapolis and the Huskies will get this win in a shoot-out,41-38, barring any significant injuries on our offense.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Coach Johnson Weekly Presser (Navysports.com)
Northern Illinois Poses Potent Threat For Mids (Bill Wagner, The Capital)
NIU Weekly Press Conference (NIUHuskies.com)
NIU Game Press Release (NIUHuskies.com)
Senior Day Coverage:
No Beating Around the Bush: Reggie Campbell (Bob Socci, Navysports.com)
Navy Profits from Slots (Bill Wagner, The Capital)
Also, for all our future scholars out there. Actually go to your classes, that way you don't hear about having a ten page paper due a whopping whole day before it's due.
EDIT: Also learn how to spell "Wednesday"
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Speechless. Ridiculous. The Sky is Falling. OMG. What. The. Hell. Dude...
These are only a few mong the many printable sentiments echoed by fans during Navy's 73-62 victory last night over the North Texas Mean Green in a game which saw the highest combined point total by two teams in the modern era. Basically, If you like offense this game was like Christmas, and if you like defense you've probably already died of shame.
Emotionally speaking this game probably drove you absolutely crazy and most likely to the verge of rational incapacitation. My emotions watching this game went as followed:
Annoyed - Mad- Pissed - Somewhat relieved - WTF?!? - OMG - This is actually kinda funny- Hysterical - Violently Hysterical - Is this actually happening? - Relieved- Jaded- LOL and so on...
You get the point. Watching this game was like watching someone walk off a plank into shark infested waters only to jump back up on ship and do it again like ten more times. No wonder Paul Johnson looked noticeably shaken up after the game.
We'll get to the doom and gloom stuff in a second, but I don't think you can say enough about Navy's offense, in particular the mindset of the players. The word resilient certainly comes to mind, but at this point the Midshipmen offense is beyond resilient. It's not just a matter of scoring 74 points almost at will, but of doing so with the clear knowledge that anything less is a recipe to lose the game. The fact that Kaipo-Noa and the offense can keep a collective nerve with that knowledge is nothing short of incredible.
The numbers themselves are overwhelming; 680 yards of total offense, 572 yards on the ground, six different ballcarriers finishing with over 50 yards on the ground, and a whopping 10 yards a pop on the ground. For as good as Navy's offense has been in the past, these are really unprecedented numbers in terms of what Navy has done under Johnson.
But any discussion of record setting numbers has got to start with the offensive line. This was by far the best combined performance by the line all year, and in my opinion one of the best performances by an offensive line since Johnson has been here. If you get a chance I'd recommend going back and taking a look at the achieved feed, and you'll get a first hand account of what we mean when we talk about getting blockers to the second level. Antron had a particular awesome game, and got to the second level so quickly I nearly thought about writing Paul Johnson and requesting Antron be moved to slotback.
Speaking of slotbacks, how about the performances of Shun White and Zerbin Singleton? The two combined for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and that's not even factoring in Reggie Campbell, who, despite being banged up scored a touchdown on the ground and took a free kick back 73 yards for another score. Ok, on to the bad news...
"We've got to do something. We've got to make some changes...We've got to do something."
There is very little I can even attempt to say about the defense, and even if there were anything to say, I don't even know where we'd begin. I, like Paul Johnson, am bordering on speechlessness, which to be frank is a difficult and alien position for a blogger like myself to be in. It's as if we held a convention on all the defensive struggles this year, and to kick it off we let a freshmen quarterback and what is essentially a high school coaching staff run up and down the field in one of those early basketball season exhibitions that features some D-I school beating up on a D-III school. Obviously we knew Navy would struggle with the spread, but I at least didn't expect the Mids to have that much trouble. It was, in many respects, the same old story. Missed tackles, guys out of position, and guys playing slow. Mostly though, guys just looked confused (especially the corners) and as easy as it is to say "we need to make a change" I'm really not sure how you go about doing that. For years we've prided Navy's defense on, at the very least, not allowing the big play, but all it took was watching one North Texas drive to see that wide receivers were running past the entire defense.
Yes, there is consolation in the fact that the defense only gave up 13 second half points, or the fact that they intercepted two passes, but let's be real here folks, the mere phrase "we gave up 46 first half points" does not bode well for a college basketball team, much less a football team. During the game I noticed a lot of fans calling for the head of Buddy Green, and as much as I think such speculation is premature, you can't help but look to him at times like these. We've all been saying the same thing again and again; nobody expects the defense to find the solution, but we should be expecting at least some improvement. That's what I think what makes this most recent performance so hard to digest, because after holding Notre Dame to 28 points in regulation last week, Navy's defense appeared to take a major step back against what is, by conventional wisdom anyway, a lesser team. Time will tell if this North Texas team is for real, but it goes without saying that this game had as much to do with Navy's defense just flat out not playing well as it did with North Texas playing their best offensive game ever. As far as Buddy Green in concerned I think you have got to give him another year, but if the defense can't make noticable improvements by next season, his job could be in trouble. And, for the record, it's not as if I'm the only one with these sentiments.
The turning point of the game came just before the half, when Navy scored with 1:16 left in the first half to cut the North Texas lead from 18 to 11. Navy’s defense then came up with a huge stop, forcing North Texas to punt the ball with only 24 seconds left. After a solid punt return Navy got the ball at midfield, and Kaipo-Noa proceeded to throw a fly pattern to Reggie Campbell, who caught the ball and ran out of bounds at the North Texas three. On the very next play Zerb took an option pitch and went into the endzone to cut the lead to only four points. Within the final two minutes of the half, Navy effectively canceled out North Texas’ earlier onside kick, and with the score right after the half the Midshipmen were able to take the lead. Fantastic game management by Paul Johnson and clutch play by both the Navy offense and defense.
This And That
I give credit to Todd Dodge and his offense, and to tell you the truth had Navy not been on the other end it probably would have been fun to watch his offense at work. Like Adam Ballard said in the postgame, this North Texas program may very well be something of a sleeping giant, and one has to think that in a couple of years Dodge will have this team back in bowl games and at the top of the Sun Belt standings. That being said, I think Dodge had a better defense at Southlake Carroll, and I'm not even joking on that one...Just when you thought Navy couldn't possibly play any more people on defense, we actually saw Jordan Reagan in the secondary yesterday. I just thought it was kind of funny, especially because when I asked him during the summer if he thought he'd see any playing time this year he was quick to reply "nope." He's a Carrollton guy, so at least the one time he did get to play it was in his home state. To bad he couldn’t come down with what looked like a sure interception just before the end of the first half. Irv Spencer is a legitimate beast and perhaps the only consistent bright spot on Navy's defense...Kaipo bruised his knee during the game, but Jarod Bryant came in to play most of the second half and did a fine job, rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown. Coach Johnson indicated in the postgame that Kaipo should be back next week...Speaking of Kaipo, the guy was money on all his throws (4-5 for 108 yards and a TD) and did an excellent job inviting the hit on the option and getting rid of the ball…Freshman defensive back Emmett Merchent returned two kicks, one going for 57 yards, in yesterday's game...Oh yea, Shun White is fast, Adam Ballard is a beast, and technically we still don't have the worst defense in the country…And did I mention we’re GOING TO THE Poinsettia Bowl!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Long story short, they have a good pass offense, we have a bad defense, and if you put two and two together that could mean bad news for Navy. If you need more info, I'd go ahead and consult The Bird Dog.
I will however be live blogging the game on Saturday afternoon, so I invite everyone to at least check in during the action. If you're watching the game you'll be on the Internet anyway, so be sure to stop by. Until then, I'll mostly be posting links I come accross.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
This is of course your classic "trap" game. Navy, 5-4 and coming off of an incredibly emotional win, travels to Denton, Texas to take on a 1-7 team which has shown glimpses of ability this year, but has really yet to play a complete game. We see these games all the time, and under Paul Johnson the Midshipmen have done a good job preparing for seemingly "lesser" opponents off of big wins. But then again, we have really yet to see a win as big as what we saw on Saturday, and the mindset of the team coming off of the win is anyone's guess. The biggest challenge this week for the Midshipmen is going to be staying focused. Everyone wants to talk about the Notre Dame game- and rightly so- but as far as the team is concerned the most important game of the season becomes Saturday's matchup in Denton. The Mean Green, led by first year head coach Todd Dodge, are going to be hungry after a 1-7 start, and will have plenty of incentive to beat the team that just beat Notre Dame the week before.
I don't want to talk up North Texas too much, because (as I predicted in the off-season) the reality is they aren't a very good football team at this point in time, but are still more than capable of beating a Navy team that does not show up to play. Defensively, in particular, I worry about Navy’s ability to contain North Texas’ spread offense, which averages just under 300 yards per game through the air (12th Nationally.) The Midshipmen defense is going to have to play one of it’s best games of the season if Navy is to avoid another down to the wire finish. Fortunately, if there is any coach in the country who can make a 1-7 team seem like USC, it's Paul Johnson. Don't be fooled, Navy should beat North Texas, but then again just a couple of weeks ago we were saying how Navy should beat Delaware, and we all know how that ended.
Other Stuff: Adam Ballard, despite being a legitimate pro prospect at the fullback position, says that a possible future in the Marine Corps is right now more important than any chance at making an NFL roster...Wondering where Greg Sudderth was for the Notre Dame game? So was I, until I read on Bill Wagner's blog that the senior wide receiver suffered a season ending ankle injury in practice last week. Helluva shame for a guy who had been bothered by injuries for most of his career...Five Blog Poll voters, including myself, gave Navy a 25th place vote in the most recent poll if for no other reason than it seemed like a fun thing to do after Saturday's win...Finally, North Texas game notes.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Video of "The Stop"- Awesome video of the final play and ensuing celebration from a Midshipmen at the game.
Highlights from the Game- Video highlights from numerous plays throughout the game, including Ram's sack.
John Feinstein on NPR
Monday, November 05, 2007
So often in big games we here that same cliche of "guys made plays" just thrown around. It's a cliche I've come to hate, but one which I can't help but find myself embracing when discussing Navy's timely defensive performance on Saturday. Let's face it, Navy didn't play a perfect defensive game by any means, but when the going got tough these guys never quit, and when the team needed stops the most the defense came up with them. On a day of big plays here are the three biggest from the defense:
Ram Vela Goes Superman
Only two days after the game the image of Ram Vela hurling himself over the head of Armando Allen has already reached iconic status, and rightfully so. Not only has his picture been in the sports section of every major newspaper in America, but the sophomore from San Antonio has already reached cult-hero status at EDSBS.com. Contrary to the captions in those papers, Ram didn't actually register a sack on the play (it was credited to Kahur-Pitters) but the disruption caused was enough, as the play itself gave the Midshipmen a much needed shot of momentum after he has previously whiffed on an easy sack minutes earlier that let the Irish back into the game. Oh yea, and it stopped what everyone thought was a sure fire, game-winning scoring drive for the Irish. To his credit, Ram never quit after the 4th and 14 conversion, and neither did Navy's defense.
Kahur-Pitters Take It In
In my mind, this was really the critical turning point in the game. Navy, trailing by one, had survived a missed Notre Dame field goal late in the third quarter, and as Kaipo-Noa and the offense took the field it looked as though the Midshipmen were going to be able to pull ahead. But Navy's drive stalled at the Notre Dame 29, and Joey Bullen was unable to connect on a 47 yard kick, giving the ball back to the Irish and swinging momentum back in favor of Notre Dame. I don't know about you, but I sure had a sinking feeling at that point, knowing that the offense may have just missed their one opportunity to take the lead. But to their credit, the defense never quit, and Michael Walsh and Nate Frazier crashed down on Evan Sharpley, in the process knocking the ball free deep in Notre Dame territory. Kahur-Pitters, who seemingly came out of nowhere this week to have a huge game, did a good job picking up the fumble and running it in to give Navy their first lead of the game.
Navy's final defensive stop will forever be remembered as "the stand." In his post game comments, Coach Johnson told the media that he "sent the house" on the play, indicating that he blitzed all eleven defensive players. It was a gutsy yet calculated move, as Johnson guessed correctly that after failing to throw for the conversion on the previously called back play Wies would not risk throwing it again. The play was made possible by a great push by Nate Frazier up front and a fine job by Blake Carter crashing from the outside, forcing Travis Thomas to cut right back into a slicing Irv Spencer. Great call, great execution, and above all, the greatest defneisve play I have ever witnessed.
Putting It All Together
Last week, I echoed the words of Paul Johnson in saying that Navy's defensive struggles were not all physical, and that if the Midshipmen could just find a way to play with confidence then Navy would be successful against the Irish. This week we saw exactly that, as the Midshipmen defense fed off of the entire team's momentum and played with more tenacity and more speed than we have seen in week's past. Also critical to our understanding of Navy's defensive success are the negative plays forced. Navy had had just five sacks all year until Saturday, when the Midshipmen defense sacked Evan Sharpley a whopping four times for 35 yards. I thought the defensive line did an outstanding job the entire game, in particular Nate Frazier, who overcome weeks of criticism by stepping up and getting penetration in the backfield when it counted. Michael Walsh played a good game to, as did Kahur-Pitters. Wyatt Middleton, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a still undisclosed injury, was having an awesome game in run support, as was Blake Carter, who despite being out of position of a Notre Dame touchdown pass made some greta tackles to prevent long gains. And then there's Irv Spencer, who once again showed that when it comes to playing with fire and intensity, he's on par with the best linebackers of the Paul Johnson era. I could go down the entire list, but at one point another almost every member of Navy's defense made a play which, in it's own small way, helped build up the unit's confidence and contribute to the win. These efforts were no limited to just starters though. Darius Terry, who came in for an injured Kevin Edwards for several plays, made an excellent play to seal of Robby Parris from catching a touchdown pass, while Ross Pospisil and Emmett Merchent came in late in the game and were in on several big stops in overtime. After the Delaware loss, I questioned if Navy's defense was going to get any better this season. I know we need to keep it in perspective (especially against a struggling Notre Dame offense) but after Saturday evening I'm excited to see what the future holds for this young Navy defense.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Where should I start? Where can I start? I mean seriously, after 43 years, more than double my life mind you, where could I possibly start?
I guess the only place to start is at the end, more specifically the play you’ve by now seen a million times, and, if you’re like me, could see a million times again. It was a play that probably never should have happened to be honest, a play that was born from a questionable pass interference penalty that seemed to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But after 43 years, three overtimes and a fourth and goal stop called back, Navy’s much aligned defense wasn’t going to settle for another week of woulda, coulda, and shouldas, and wasn’t about to let the window slip away.
It was a fitting end to a game which Navy fans are already calling one of, if not the best finishes in the program’s long history, as Navy’s much maligned defense stood tall and stopped Travis Thomas in the backfield on a second fourth and goal in the third overtime. It was, as it has been said many times today by many different people, the stuff of which legends are born, and I consider myself both extremely blessed and extremely fortunate to have witnessed it in person.
When I got back from the airport this morning I read that Coach Johnson gave the team three keys to success in his pregame speech. He told them, three strait times, to believe that they could win. Never was a cliché more apt or appropriate, and never have they rung more true. Navy won this game for a lot of reasons, many of which we will undoubtedly look into in the coming days, and not the least of which was the final stop on fourth and goal.
But if you ask me, Navy won this game because in the end the Mids wanted it more, and because in the end players like Ram Vela decided that they didn’t want to be the guy who was remembered for missing an easy sack that allowed the Irish to climb back in. It was because a guy like Nate Frazier played his ass off all game, and that what looked to be a hodgepodge of defensive backs before a game showed up and made plays when it mattered.
As I look back on this game, typing this report while watching my taped copy for the second time this evening, I can’t help but stare at disbelief at the screen for a moment, asking myself if this really happened, if I was really there. But watching those vital snapshots, the images of Vela over Allen and Kahur-Pitters rumbling into the endzone let me know that what we saw last night was something that we as Navy fans will never forget.
There have been some people who’ve already started saying that this win doesn’t mean as much because of Notre Dame’s 1-8 record. These people have no idea what they are talking about. As Coach Johnson said last week, this is still Notre Dame, still bigger and stronger, still faster and more athletic, and still filled with 43 years of winning tradition over the Midshipmen. For an outsider, it may have been hard to see a David vs Glioth matchup in a showdown of 1-7 and 4-4 teams, but make no mistake about it, that’s what it was yesterday, and will be for some time to come. But for one time, just one time, David came out top, and in the process vindicated 43 years worth of balls to the walls never-say-die Navy football players. And to think, all it took was a little belief, and a defense that refused to quit.
God, do I love this game.
Random Navy fans were hugging me, Notre Dame fans shaking our hands and offering us congratulations, and I even had a "Yes!" shouting match with some kid who ran up to me at some point during the celebration. In all, it was the mot amazing thing I've ever witnessed at a sporting event, and maybe even in my whole life. I only wish every Navy fan could of been there in that cold twilight yesterday evening, because God knows there are many more individuals who have suffered through this streak on a much deeper, longer level than I could even imagine. Like Paul Johnson said, this one is for you guys.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Part 2 of the Q&A with HerLoyalSons.com.
Keep an eye out for another Q&A over at the Blue Gray Sky.