Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vote for the Navy Football Play of the Year

The award circuit for college football may be over now that the Bowl games are in full swing, but here at Pitch Right we're honoring the best players and plays of the season. Today we're starting the voting for the best play of the year for the 2007 Navy football season with five plays I've felt should be in the discussion. Think I missed a play worthy of mention? Just mention it below and I'll gladly consider it, and be sure to vote for the play of the year on the sidebar to your right.

Play of the Year (Nominations)

"The Leap"

The already iconic image of Ram Vela flying over Armando Allen's head to disrupt Evan Sharpley and Notre Dame's offense on a 4th down play that may have given Notre Dame it's 44th consecutive win over Navy. The play was so much more than just the critical stop that pushed the game into overtime, but a play which swung the game's momentum decidedly in Navy's favor after Notre Dame stole momentum midway through the 4th quarter. It's come to symbolize the never say die attitude that is a hallmark of this Navy program, and the triumph of the guy who they thought was too small or too slow to play Division I-A football.

Bobby Doyle to Jarod Bryant

In a game filled with big plays and game changing moments, this one stands out to me as the most memorable. There was Buffin's interception and Jarod's 35 yard run in which he seemingly made every Duke player miss in the open field, but none of it would have been possible had reserve slotback Bobby Doyle (a former QB at Chardon High in Ohio) not thrown a picture perfect pass to backup quarterback Jarod Bryant for the two point conversion. Not only did it tie the game at 43, but it helped to save a season that seemed to be rapidly heading for disaster.

Bullen Does It Again

Taken as statistics only, an outside observer may have seen Joey Bullen's kicking career at the Naval Academy as decidedly average. But for periods of inconsistency and even losing his job for much of the 2006 season, Bullen always proved himself in the clutch and came through when the game was on the line. As incredible as his 44 yard field goal as time expired to beat Duke was, maybe more incredible is how the former backup came in almost stone-cold to redeem himself and prove that it wasn't just the starters who don't quit.

Off to the Races

Up 24-20 with just over nine minutes left in the game, Navy needed a score to keep Air Force at arms length and make it a two possession game. With a defense that had struggled and an Air Force offense determined not to be defeated for a fifth straight year, the Mids got a much needed lift when Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada accelerated past the entire Air Force defense en route to a 78-yard touchdown run off the option. The play put Air Force into panic mode, and helped lead Navy to it's fifth consecutive win over the Falcons.

Not One Step Back

Resiliency. We talked about it so much in the course of the season, but there is no more perfect example of it than in the final play of Navy's 46-44 overtime win at Notre Dame. After four quarters and three overtimes the 2007 Navy football team was not about to let it's best chance in year's pass them by. Need I say more?

Be sure to check in tomorrow afternoon when I present my individual awards for the 2007 Navy football season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

I'm peacing out until next Friday. Headed to Siberia (aka Buffalo) for Christmas. Crank up Handel's Messiah, watch a bowl game, and eat a honey glazed ham. Seriously, does it get any better? Have a blessed Jesus' Birthday.

Never Stopped Fighting

There's a lot you can say about the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl. There's the blown touchback call, the sloppy field conditions, and the Navy ball control mistakes which ultimately lead to a Utah win. There was a tough game for one of Navy's football's most dynamic players of all time, the Utah halftime adjustments, and the struggles of a coaching staff to adjust to calling a game without their former leader. But I don't want to talk about that stuff right now. I want to talk about a team which never stops fighting.

I want to talk about Zerb Singleton and Adam Ballard and Irv Spencer. I want to talk about Matt Wimsatt, Antron Harper, OJ Washington, and the rest of a senior class which has distinguished itself amongst the most winningist classes in the Academy's history. I want to talk about a group of guys who came into the Academy when there was still a good deal of uncertainty surrounding the program, and the team which developed from that. I love this team. I love everything about it. They're gritty but not to a fault, there resilient but they can still get the job done. They embody every cliche you could throw at them and much much more, and they've made the 2007 football season one of, if not the most memorable season in decades. And even though for the second straight year I unfortunately thank them the day after a heartbreaking loss, it by no means diminishes everything they've accomplished in their four years at Navy, and the greatness which surely awaits them in the coming years.

I think this program is in good hands. I'm going to miss Reggie slicing through opposing defenses or Irv coming out of nowhere to lay the wood, but I know that the program is as strong as it's ever been and that there is a another class ready to step up the plate and take on the challenge. There are so many good things to talk about, so many exciting and new story lines to look into. As we head into the off season we look froward to another season of recruiting and spring practices, and of the perpetual hope which comes with the changing of the seasons. But even as we do so we fail to forget the players who brought us to this point, and we thank them for the enjoyment they've given us over the past four year, and for the service they are about to render for the good of our country.

In the darkened hours of this morning Irv Spncer gave an interview for a postgame report in which he said that Navy football isn't about the coaches or the ups and downs of the college football landscape, but rather about the players who make up the small fraternity they call the brotherhood. I'm grateful to have been able to watch the class of 2008 take it's place in Navy football history, and excited to watch the next set of players take their rightful place on a team and a program which has never, and will never stop fighting.

You guys are freaking awesome.

Quite obvious, If you ask me...

...that this was a touchback.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

P-Bowl: Second Half Live Blog

Halftime Thoughts: Well, we're ahead. Barely. Still, I've got to give Navy's defense a lot of credit, especially Irv Spencer, Ross Pospisil, and Ram Vela. We've been seeing Utah really run the ball aggressively inside, but also try to get the running game going on the edges using some fakes and misdirection. As far as the offense goes, we just need to eliminate mistakes. Too many false starts for starters, but I don't need to tell you that the back breakers we're Reggie's fumble and the missed 50 yard field goal. I loved Coach N's intensity with the sideline reporter, and you know he's gonna do everything to win this game not only for the seniors, but for the program. I'll do my best to get back to everybody's thoughts, but if I'm slow on the posting forgive me.

11:00- Dude, was that Greg flying on the kickoff coverage? FDD?
11:05- Great job again by the? Navy D, especially the line to force a three and out. Time to pull away...
11:12- Back by popular demand...ESTABLISH THE FULLBACK! Eric Kettani goes in for a touchdown after a brilliant Navy drive to put the Mids up 17-7. The offense is starting to feel it, and now the defense really has some energy too. Look for Utah to try to get aggressive on this next series.
11:20- I will never make a dumb joke about Ross Pospisils name again. He is awsome.
11:24- Not a very good job of making his reads on that last drive, but I won't get too picky. Still, if we're gonna win this game we can't do it running standard triple option the rest of the way. I hope Coach Jasper is trying to set something up.
11:35- Yea, so Greg Thrasher was being held on that touchdown run...
11:40- I don't know what's going on, but Reggie continues to have a very, very tough game. You hate to see it because he's carried this team in the past, but if he makes a few plays in this game Navy is in a much more comfortable situation. Now Utah has the momentum and I have a very bad feeling.
11:43- Hernandez has had two fingertop grabs that have gone for big yards.
11:45- I Love BYU.
11:49- Austin Collie is my hero.
11:52- I hate football.
11:55- Why are we blitzing so much? Honestly...
11:59- Did Ketric Buffin not want to hit Johnson, Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. 21 unanswered points. Geez. Nothing more to say.
12:10- I was just joking about hating football. How about Coach N to call the fullback option on the two point conversion, just like PJ did against ND? Alright, real test here. We need a stop.
12:15- We gotta do something about the underneath pass...
12:19- Greg Thrasher just missed a chance at being the biggest hero ever.
12:20- I hate Brian Johnson. He however is a good player.
12:30- Losing a Bowl game like this really bothers me. You want to seniors to win so badly, and you want the program to make a statement. You figure it shouldn't be this way, that Navy should want and need this game more, but unfortunately it just hasn't turned out like that for the second year in a row. I think we saw some promise today, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but I can’t help going to bed tonight with a bit of a sinking feeling for those seniors who have invested so much in this program.
12:39- Zerb Never Quits.
12:43- Mutherfarking turf.
12:45- This team never quits. I think we will be ok next year.

Poinsettia Bowl Live Blog: Half Numero Uno

9:05-Damn Pitt and Duke. Just what you'd expect from two teams which lost to Navy in football. Also, damn technology. I'm recording VHS because I'm still living in 1998 and have no idea how to operate a DVD recorder.
9:10- Frankly, this is why I hate basketball. The last five minutes in a game take a half an hour. Disgusting.
9:14- Overtime? WTF ESPN? There are a million regular season basketball games and only one P-Bowl. Screw the World Wide Leader.
9:20- Navy with a horrible initial series and UTah moving the ball...Oh yea, this basketball game still has 4 mins to go in overtime, which means we'll be lucky to see the Navy game by the start of the second quarter. I'm bagging the live blog until I can actually see it.
9:30- Reggie Campbell is my boy, but he's having a horrible start. Drops a touchdown pass and then fumbles at the three. Looks like we just gave away easy points...
9:35- Damn you Omar Nelson and your compliments on the opponent's play.
9:37- Sounds like Utah is keying in on the toss sweep. Time to go to the fullback trap
9:38- Bout damn time ESPN...What the hell, that wrapup took forever, lets get going will ya!
9:41- Man they are running it down our throughts. Gotta get something going.
9:43- Man a Brian Johnson overthrow just saved us. We brought five guys on a blitz and got stoned, but forced a punt. Still 0-0.
9:45- My ESPN just went dark. No kidding...
9:49- Is there a reason we keep running the sweep?
9:51- Time to see what Coach Jasper is made of. My guess is he's trying to set something up, but he's being very deliberate about it. Also, Bobby Doyle needs to improve his blocking for next year.
9:54- Don't understand the call to go with Bullen from 50. It's fine when your up 21 against Army with no time in the half left, but now?
10:00- I'm seeing some good stuff from our defense, but Utah looks like they're going to score. I'm excited for some of our young players. Vela made a helluva play on a hook and latter try.
10:05- Shitatzu. Utah's offense is operating real well as Mack goes in for a touchdown. 7-0 Utes. It should be 7-7, but we won't hold it against Reggie.
10:06- Alright, we need something to work on offense. The pass looks like it's there, but Utah is doing a good job of slicing through and getting penetration. Look for maybe a reverse or a trap coming up. Let's keep these guys honest Coach Jasper. Defense is holding in there despite giving up the score...
10:13- TOUCHDOWN NAVY! Great job by Ivin Jasper calling the play, although Holtz actually made a good point about rhythm when calling plays from the booth. I think this score will really energize the team though. Navy has had some chances to stop Utah on defense, now we just need to work on getting third down stops. It's important that we get a chance to score before the half as Utah will get the ball first in the second half.
10:22- Ram got away with a facemask on Johnson, but Navy forces a three and out and we're about to get the ball back. Great job by the Navy D! Ross, Ram, Irv, all these guys are flying to the football tonight. When we talk about a more athletic defense this is what we mean, guys that can get lateral in a hurry!
10:30- Fourth and 2. I think going for it is a good idea, we'll have to see what the play is. I'm putting my money on a midline option.
10:39- Good kick by Joey, but we left them too much time. Utah is going to do some trickeration here ya gotta think.

It’s Business Time: Poinsettia Bowl Pre-Game Live Blog

Welcome aboard (DING!)* and thanks for showing up! I'm counting you down to the 9 PM EST start of the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl between Navy and Utah, complete will random thoughts, insignificant anecdotes, and lots of criticism directed at things completely beyond my control. Oh yea, and did I mention I'll be live-blogging the football game as well? Sweet deal if you ask me.

First order of business. College Football Live did a fairly good job today in lead-up to the game, complete with a cut-in to Rece Davis on the USS Midway in San Diego. Rece will be calling the action tonight on ESPN. It's a good thing too, as Rece is one of the most knowledgeable and insightful on-air personalities the world wide leader has on its payroll. Unfortunately he will be paired with two of the least knowledgeable and insightful personalities of ESPN college football in Lou Holtz and Mark May. Alright, so maybe Mark May is a bit insightful, and Coach Holtz must have some knowledge from all those years of coaching, but let's be honest; listening to these two discuss Navy football is like listening to the eight year olds down the street talking about which kids' brother can beat up the others'. After all, can we possible forget Lou Holtz's discussion of, uh, your not going actually make me explain this to you, are you?

Needless to say, the last time these two teamed up to call a Navy game things got a bit off topic. From Mark May;s strangely homosexual fascination with Eric Kettani's dressing habits to Lou Holtz's attempt to explain the "wishbone" with a sandwhich in his mouth, the Navy-Pittsburgh broadcast of October can be summed up in three concise words. What. The. Hell. Dude...

Ok, so that's four, but you get my drift. Well, I'm off to go eat something which will potentially shorten my life by a matter of weeks, but after the break I'll get you caught up on how the pundits are seeing this one play out.

5:55- Just got off the phone with my buddy, and he's informed me of several relevant Vegas odds going into the game.

2:1 Reggie Campbell Scores a Touchdown
4:1 Mark May makes a reference to Eric Kettani's tailor
20:1 Rece Davis slips up on the pronunciation of Coach Niumatalolo's name
50:1 PhatPhelix is sighted on national television wearing a rather large sombrero
8672:1 O.J. Washington lines up wide in a go-cart, later explaining that it was his objective to just "take everyone out."

6:05- I’m watching ESPN in anticipation for this P-Bowl preview I keep hearing about, but all I’m seeing is the Tuna’s manboobs.
6:25- It seems like everyone and their mother is going with Utah to win this game, including our friend Brian at, who picked Utah to win 48-31. At least he may be in the right scoring range, as a number of previews I've seen have this game in the high twenties and low thirties. I'm going with the Mids in this one, in a game which will see both teams break the 30 points mark and the winner approaching 50 or more.
7:15- So I'm watching Sportscenter just to see what I can see and BAM, they come out with this Jason Grimsley unsealed statement story like it's a matter or life and death. Turns out Pete Incaviglia took amphetamines in the 90s. While this may seem like an insignificant nothingness on your sports radar, it basically shatters my childhood perception of the Orioles teams of the 1990s. You see as a kid growing up in the 90s in Maryland I loved the Orioles, and even remember a time when they didn't flat out suck. For some reason, I always remember my father saying stuff about Pete "stinky inky" Incaviglia. Turns out stinky inky was a cheater. You gotta wonder how bad this guy woulda been had he not used the 'amps. Why am I telling you this? Because I'm bored and we all need to kill time.
7:19- DING! Check out this preview for another Navy pun. Did that guy just call him Coach Tim Niumatalolo?

(H/T: MWC Podcast and Blog)

7:35- I'm digging up random previews for your enjoyment, so stay with me. Eric from SOS previews the game and (shocker) likes Utah. What's unique about his preview is the lovely history lesson he includes to begin:

Of course, you're probably aware that a Poinsettia is a Christmas "flower". But how did it get its name? It is named after the first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. The poinsettia is native to the west coast, hence the bowl game being named after a Pacific flower. It also could go by other names such as Mexican flame leaf, Christmas star, or Winter rose.

Which brings up the question on everyone's mind. Is it PoinsettA or PoinsettIA?

*For every hastily made and poorly constructed Naval pun I or the ESPN team of commentators make tonight, $1 will be donated to the "Buy Chris Spielman an actual pair of dress pants and shoes" fund.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why McShay Is Wrong

To be perfectly honest I was going to abstain from posting this week on account of trying to get myself in the Christmas spirit and enjoying the break between semesters, but after a week of attempting to do such I realized I had to break my silence and my boredom by coming up with something at least marginally intelligent to say.

And what better way to do so then by taking a shot at one of these so called "experts" we're always complaining about? I only kid (well, kinda) on the ripping part, although one of the story lines I'd like to address is the questionable job of breaking down this game that I've seen a number of services do. Case in point, the report I saw this morning on by Scouts Inc. director Todd McShay. I dislike Todd McShay for several reasons. For starters he's predictable and unimaginative in his scouting reports, and often falls into the trap of stereotyping different "kinds" of players. God forbid you ever have a white wide receiver, even one who ran a 10.63 in H.S., because McShay will undoubtedly say something to the effect of "lacks ideal speed" or "separation ability." But alas, I digress, and as much as I like Jordy Nelson I've come to talk about McShay's scouting report for the Poinsettia Bowl, and not for the All-American receiver they call the "People's Champ."

As far as the preview goes, I think McShay is first of all the wrong guy to be doing it, and question why ESPN couldn't get one of their exclusively college football guys to break it down. You can just tell McShay sacrifices facts in exchange for something to say, as he points out Navy will make a "yearly" trip to the Poinsettia Bowl for the second time in it's existence. Last I checked Navy didn't play in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2006, and won't play there in 2008. That hardly qualifies as a "yearly" event if you ask me. But I didn't break my silence to quip about Mr. McShay's hyperbole, and instead want to focus on the comments he makes regarding why Utah will win.

I think he invests too much in whatever advantage Utah may gain from the extra time to prepare for Navy. Considering that these are student athletes with exams to take, the actual time these players have to prep for Navy outside of watching film really isn't much longer than your typical bye week going into a game with Navy. How did teams with extra time to prepare do against Navy this year? Well, let's take a look:

Temple: 361 rushing yards allowed, 439 total yards allowed, 30 points allowed.
Pittsburgh: 331 rushing yards allowed, 497 total yards allowed, 38 regulation points allowed.
Delaware: 342 rushing yards allowed, 506 total yards allowed, 52 regulation points allowed.
Notre Dame: 257 rushing yards allowed, 338 total yards allowed, 28 regulation points allowed.
North Texas: 572 rushing yards allowed, 680 total yards allowed, 63 regulation points allowed.
Army: 287 rushing yards allowed, 294 offensive yards allowed, 31 regulation points allowed.

As you can see from the numbers above, the notion that extra time somehow equates to better play against the triple option is bogus. In fact, if you want to draw a conclusion about playing better against the triple option it would almost certainly have to be based on having played it before, as both Notre Dame and Army (which play Navy every year) fared the best defensively of the bunch. These numbers aside, bowl history does not support McShay's notion as well. For instance, Boston College, which played Navy on December 30th last year and thus had more time for prep work outside of the practice field, gave up 322 rushing yards and 403 total yards to Navy. And that BC defense was no slouch either, finishing the regular season amongst the top defensive teams in the country. Once again, if you go back to 2004 and 2005 and take a look at Navy bowl games against similar Mountain West conference teams, we see the Mids come in as an underdog expected to fall short of their average offensive production during the regular season, only in both cases to exceed it. The point, I believe, is rather simple. The bigtime scouts and "experts" have a tendency to fall back on general talking points, and fail to accurately do even simple research that seems to suggest a point contrary to the one they come in with. It's especially dumbfounding to me how he and many other scouts can pick Navy to score 27 points on the basis of the aforementioned premise that Utah's defense will Benoit from extra time. Not only has Navy scored more points in all their games against teams with extra time to prepare this season, but done so against defenses of similar or greater ability.

I'm a firm believer in that you just can't trust statistics, especially in a bowl game and especially when your playing out of conference. If McShay and the other "experts" want to think Navy's offense will struggle against Utah then they ought to just come out and say they think it's because of Johnson's departure. That, at the very least, is a viable argument. If you're like me, you haven't wasted too much time breaking down this matchup, because, to be honest, you don't need to. I'm sure Utah fans will take exception to this statement, but we as Navy fans have seen this story line before both in 2004 and 2005. And while I don't mean to suggest that the 2007 Utah Ute's are the same team as the 2004 Lobo's or the 2005 Rams, one must also admit that this Navy offense is superior to both the Navy offenses which faced off against those teams. This should be a fun game to watch, but unlike what Todd McShay seems to think, I give Navy- on the basis of history- a much better chance in this one.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Forgot to Mention- We're Playing a Bowl Game on Thursday

I will be live blogging this sucker starting a 1800 Thursday evening. Until them watch hockey and be a good American.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Navy Football: (Almost) All In

Congratulations Navy fans, you've just made it through the first week of a new era. And while were still only six days removed from Paul Johnson's resignation of the head coaching position to take up the same job at Georgia Tech, we've already started to come out of the cocoon of shock and befuddlement, instead embracing a new head coach and a very similar, proven coaching philosophy.

Before the season began, we heard a lot about one of those potentially cheesy strength and conditioning motto's that seem to reverberate through pro, college, and high school locker rooms across the country. This year the motto was "All In," both challenging and reflecting upon the commitment of Navy's players and coaches. Well, here we are in December, and despite the loss of the head coach and the pending loss of several top assistants, the Naval Academy football players remain all in, and the program is already on the road to recovery with a series of moves to continue to momentum that Paul Johnson began six years ago.

The situation I'm referring to is obviously with the coaching staff. I've been deliberate in watching this thing play out over the past week, but with the help of Bill Wagner and other's we're starting to get a good view about what the staff will look like for next year. As we've already established, and as we all surely know by know, Ken Niumatalolo was named Navy's 38th head coach on Saturday. On Monday after practice, Coach Niumatalolo confirmed to Wagner that former quarterbacks coach Ivan jasper will be promoted to offensive coordinator, while defensive coordinator Buddy Green will stay on as well. In addition to these two coaches, Navy is also expected to retain the services of a number of other assistants- among them Keith Jones (outside linebackers), Joe Speed (secondary), Danny O'Rourke (linebackers), and Dale Pehrson (defensive line.) Word on the street is that fullbacks Coach Chris Culton will stay on as well. Whatever the case may be, credit has got to be given to AD Chet Gladchuck, who despite losing Johnson has been able to retain his top two offensive assistants.

Basically, the entire defensive staff will stay, which contrary to some of my own words this year is probably a good thing. The last thing Navy's maligned defense needed after this year was to get introduced to a completely new staff, especially considering the lack of continuity we saw on the defensive side of the ball this year. I'm not saying there will be any "quick fix," but to have the same staff come back next season at least speeds up the process of the defense getting to where it needs to be. Not only that, but Buddy and his staff have been very good bringing in players on the recruiting trail over their tenure at navy, particularly coach Jones with regards to getting some terrific linebackers.

As far as the offensive staff is concerned, it's the whole good news/bad news situation. Obviously losing Paul Johnson- one of the few head coaches to call his own plays in major college ball- is a bad thing, while the losses of coach Monken and coach Bohannon deprive Navy of it's two best offensive recruiters and guys who have traditionally done very well in the south, particularly in Georgia. While Navy and Gerogia tech aren't likely to be going after very many of the same players (if any at all) I wouldn't dismiss their services as recruiters, especially considering the inroads coach Calhoun and his Air Force staff made in Georgia and the southeast last year. As we get closer to the offseason, this will be one of the more interesting story lines to watch. Another significant loss for Navy will be the departures of coach Spenser (assistant offensive line) and of coach Brass (strength and conditioning.) The loss of coach Brass is especially significant, as he's done a great job getting the players ready for the season over Paul Johnson's tenure. But like I said, it's not all bad news, particularly if it is true that coach Culton (fullbacks) has decided to stay. The big story here though is keeping coach Jasper, who like coach Niumatalolo has been a veteran assistant under Johnson and a guy who knows how to both coach players in the system and to make play calls and adjustments on the field. Coach Jasper won't replace coach Johnson in terms of his ability to see the game and make adjustments, but he'll do lot better job than any other guy out there.

With the coaching staff falling in line and looking in relatively decent shape, we now turn our attention to the players. Obviously, any time a program loses it's head coach there is concern about players leaving, but at a place like Navy this concern is magnified. Indeed, when I returned home last Friday and finally got a chance to check my email, one of the first messages I received was regarding the potential of a number of sophomores and freshmen to leave. while this was well before the situation was brilliantly stabilized by Chet Gladchuck and Ken Niamatololo, it still remains a concern that isn't likely to go away until the start of next season. One player Navy fans were particularly concerned with was quarterback Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs, while only a plebe, has been one of Navy's most impressive young players, showing incredible promise both on the practice field and on the JV squad. With a cannon of an arm, quick feet, and a knowledge of the system that likely surpasses the current Georgia Tech quarterbacks, Navy fans were more than a little concerned over the possibility of Dobbs following Johnson to Atlanta. When you take into account the fact that Dobbs is originally from Douglasville, Ga, it seemed like a forgone conclusion to some Navy fans that he would at least try to follow Johnson. While he wasn't shy about admitting the thought did enter his mind, Dobbs confirmed to Bill Wagner that he would be staying at Navy.

"At first, I thought if I went to Georgia Tech I would be at home. If Coach Johnson would have asked, I was gone. But the foundation I've established here... that is what made me stay....It started last year at NAPS. I would tell the guys that by the time we graduate here, we're going to make it to the Top 25.I told my classmates we would be the catalysts and that I would be the leader. I feel as though I need to try to fulfill that promise."

This is absolutely huge news, especially considering that Navy's other "quarterback of the future" - Robby Davis- decided to transfer to Woffard early this season. Not only does this show you that Dobbs is committed to the program, but it shows you he's willing to take on a leadership role, which is especially impressive for a freshmen. In fact, after my initial concern for the players, my fears are starting to be relived. It all goes back to something Matt Wimsatt said last week, when he talked about the importance of getting the younger guys to understand that Navy football does not play for Coach Johnson, and instead plays for each other and the Academy. It was after that point that I realized what an opportunity for leadership these young men had. It seems only fitting that at an institution dedicated to the development of leaders that the players, long cast in the shadow of "systems" and "schemes," should have the opportunity to communicate the importance of their program and to lay the foundation for the next generation of Navy football players. I don't know what's going to happen this offseason, and it may very well turn out that several promising players decide not return next season, but it's the statements I've read within the past week that have really put a smile on my face. We can't lose sight that this is a program we're talking about, and that the program went beyond Paul Johnson. Last week I wrote that I had faith in athletic director Chet Gladchuck, the staff, and the players themselves to continue to momentum established in 2003, and after what we've seen this week my faith has only been confirmed. We're exactly a week away from the Poinsettia Bowl against Utah, and despite the fact that the rest of the country has seemed to already lost faith in America's team, my excitement level couldn't be higher.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

Where We Go From Here: The Players

There are a lot of people out there who have been very cynical in regards to what Navy can do without Coach Johnson. This may be true, it may not be true, but I saw a quote from Athletic Dirtector Chet Gladchuck that I want to leave you with for the next week.

You take adversity and you capitalize on it. What a tremendous statement it will make when we take the field in that bowl game, when we show up in force in San Diego as a program that is unified, a program that is focused, a program that is dedicated to winning while properly representing the Naval Academy and the fleet. The coach didn’t beat Pittsburgh, the coach didn’t beat Air Force, the coach didn’t beat Notre Dame, the coach didn’t beat Army. The players in that locker room are the true victors. If they can sustain their mental toughness as they have exhibited on a number of occasions through this period, it will be nothing but full speed ahead.

I refuse to look at this situation as the bitter end of a five year run. Yes, such an outcome is possible, perhaps even likely with the leaving of Paul Johnson, but I still refuse to speculate on the fall of this very much rebuilt program. And as naive and idealistic as that may sound, It's what Coach Johnson would want us to know. It wasn't but a week ago that Coach Johnson affirmed this notion, saying "I didn't carry the ball once" in reference to what he's accomplished in his run at Navy. Chalk it up to coach speak, fine, but I have to admit that I've always had a problem with the fans who attributed everything to Johnson and never give the players their just do. You have to have faith in these guys and faith in the assistants who will stay. You have to have faith that Coach Johnson imparted to them the virtues of success, and that, even if only for a short time, such success can carry on even after his departure. If you can't have faith in that, I don't even know why you would take the trouble to call yourself a fan.


How I Feel

Up to my head in exams. Computer broke last night, only days after the warranty expired. I was pissed this morning. Now I'm just freaking depressed.

Clint Sovie basically sums it up for me...

I should write something inspiring to attest to the legacy of the greatest college in college football, or at the very least a profanity laced post directed at the entire state of Georgia. But right now I just need to go kick some snow outside.

P.S.- You are all great fans.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Paul Johnson

When I was 14 years old I went to the Navy football camp with nothing more then the afterthought that Navy had been very bad for most of my life. I was the smallest kid in the group, and between dropping passes and getting burned in coverage for much of the camp, I wasn't really having that good of a time.

On the second to the last night a guy who I had never heard of addressed the high school players. They said he was Navy's Head Coach, but I have to admit that at the time I didn't even know his name. He spoke in a a typical southern accent, and talked about football, life, and God. When he spoke people listened, even 14 year old kids who could barely make their freshmen high school teams, much less dream of playing Division 1-A football. When he was done, I asked one of the other guys who that was. He looked at me quizzically, and told me it was a man named Paul Johnson.

I left the next day thinking nothing of it, that it must have been just another guy in the line of Navy coaches who fielded bad teams that my Father and I would watch once or twice a year at the stadium. I had no idea that I was only months away from following the team incessantly, and just a few years away from taking that passion and starting a blog.

Five years later I can't help but think back to that moment. I grew up a Navy fan, but I didn't become one until that day in the summer of 2003 when I heard Paul Johnson speak and it clicked, at least as much as it can for a local fan anyway. I will always be a Navy fan, that will not change. Not through coaching changes, not through losing seasons, and not even through being an Army ROTC cadet. But even I can't deny that as we move closer to the inevitable decision, that a very real and tangible experience of my fandom hangs in the balance with it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Paul Johnson Files

EDIT: Since writing this post Bill Wagner (the only journalist I trust at this point) has written an excellent blog post updating us on the situation at hand. Block quoting doesn't do justice to the work Mr. Wagner has put into tracking Johnson's movements, so head over to the Capital to get the full story. The short story is though that nothing is a done deal, and there are many factors standing in the way of Johnson leaving at this point.

Every year when I'm doing Q&A's with various blogs, I typically receive a question somewhere along the lines of "How long will Johnson be at Navy," usually followed by something akin to "When do you think he will leave?"

I've never really known how to answer those questions. After all, I've heard the man speak a grand total of one time (at a football camp in 2003) and only been face to face with him once ("uh, can I get your autograph") so how can I accurately judge a man's career aspirations? Unlike other Navy fans, I don't have a compendium of knowledge on his days at Hawaii or Georgia Southern, and aside from the usual message board chatter, I really no very little about the man outside of what I see on Saturday's.

The point is, I can't tell if we're nearing the end of Paul Johnson era at Navy, and unless you've got some actual, no BS-ing around "sources" I don't know if you can tell either. Yes, it is true that Paul Johnson met with his agent Jack Reale on Monday in Atlanta, and it is true that while down there he likely also met with representatives from Duke, SMU, and presumably Georgia Tech. Heck, it might even be true that Georgia Tech has made an offer to Johnson, although I personally would take anything Dennis Dodd of CBS Sportsline said with a grain of salt. Also within the past 24 hours, we've learned that Duke could be close to offering Johnson, which David A. of writes could be more dangerous for Navy fans then we may think.

So where are we at right now? Well, we're at a junction, obviously, but it's not an unfamiliar one. Coach Johnson entertained offers last year, and for the better part of a week we were being told (quite insistently at times) that our beloved Head Coach would be taking a job somewhere else. After all, with both the UNC and NCST jobs opening up after the 2006 season, it looked as though the born and bred Carolinian in Johnson would have to go fix one of those programs. Fortunately for us however it didn't work out that way, and when it was all said and done we still had our coach. This year, in my mind anyways, seems much to same, and if we've learned anything from last year it's that Paul Johnson's name will be popping up for jobs from now on. We've said it before, but I don't think we've realized it until now; it's part of the territory of having on-the-field success, and it’s something we as fans just need to deal with.

There are people out there (quite a lot actually) who feel it necessary to speculate on the nature of these openings, and to predict where Johnson will go. Aside from not being sure if he will go at all (remember, he *hearts* this job) I feel compelled to point out that just because someone says he's going somewhere doesn't mean he will. If that were the case, Johnson would be in Dallas right now, or at least so says Dennis Dodd. It's a waiting game, but it doesn't need to spent in perpetual anxiety. We'll likely know where the team stands within the next 48 hours, and, with or without Johnson, the team will have to move on and prepare for the Poinsettia Bowl.

I have faith in the program. I have faith in the staff and administration to not sit idle and watch the program sink back to where we were in 2001, and I have faith in the players, who always seem to get overlooked with the discussions of systems and coaches. But most of all, I have faith in Coach Johnson, and faith that he will try to do what’s best for both the program, despite wherever his own career may take him. And that, I think, is enough to keep me back from the edge everyone keeps talking about.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Navy to Play Utah in Bowl Game

The Navy Midshipmen (8-4) will meet the Utah Utes (8-4) in the Sand Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on December 20th in a matchup which will once again feature the Nation's top ranked rushing attack with a member of the Mountain West Conference.

Utah is an interesting team in that they started out the season at 1-3 but rallied to win seven of the last eight games, including games against Louisville, New Mexico, and TCU. The Utes also took a a very good BYU team down to the wire two weeks ago, but let the game slip away on a busted coverage late in the game. The Utes have played decently on offense this year, but it's their defense which has been the real story over the course of the season. The Ute's are 15th in total defense, and 38th in rush defense.

So far, Ute fans seem for the most part confident in their chances, much like the New Mexico fans in 2004 and Colorado State fans in 2005. I don't doubt that Utah is a good team and that this game looks evenly matched on paper, but once again I remind you that we have heard this talk before in respect to Mountain West teams. Utah may be better than the 2004 New Mexico Lobos or the 2005 Rams, but Navy has been traditionally very good given the extra time to practice before bowl games. So what are your thoughts on Utah? Do you like the matchup? Navy's chance? Leave your thoughts below.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Army-Navy Post Game Coverage

Ok, here's the deal. As you know, Navy just won it's sixth consecutive game over the Black Knights of the Hudson yesterday afternoon, as the Midshipmen piled on 38 points and (this is the big part) held Army to an amazing three points in a defensive effort I think we can all agree was the best of the season. Also as you also know (probably far too well by now) a host of rumors swirl around Coach Johnson, specifically in regards to the Head Coaching position at SMU. I've got to level with you in that I have no idea what's going on right now in respect to these rumors, and probably won't until after this week. For this and other (ie. finals) reasons, I'm going to be blogging at the pace of a one-legged turtle for this week, and probably won't get around to any comprehensive coverage of the actual Army-Navy game. For this I apologize, although I swear one of these days (and by that I mean within the next two weeks) I'm going to bust out a post of pure literary merit and write something somewhat meaningful on the rivalry itself. In the meantime, here are all the Amy-Navy articles I've managed to find in the course of the many "snack breaks" I've taken between writing papers today. Blogging will resume (albeit at the aforementioned pace) on Tuesday.

Print Media

Campbell Leads The Way As Navy Routs Army (Bill Wagner, Annapolis Capital)
Army Antics, Chatter Irritate Mids (Bill Wagner, Annapolis Capital)
Campbell Directs Mids To Victory (Bill Wagner, Annapolis Capital)
Big Plays Vault Mids Past Rivals (Bill Wagner, Annapolis Capital)
Navy's D Rises to Occasion (Bob Hough, Annapolis Capital)
Navy Takes The Sixth (Ron Snyder, Baltimore Examiner)
Right In Step (Sandra McKee, Baltimore Sun)
Bullen Gets A Good Bounce (Sandra McKee, Baltimore Sun)
Campbell Commands Centers Stage For Navy (David Steele, Baltimore Sun)
Campbell Conducts Himself Perfectly (Christian Swezey, Washington Post)

Photo Galleries

Washington Post
Baltimore Sun


Reggie was electric. The defense played with purpose and emotion. And at the end of the day, Navy had set a new precedent in the 108th meeting of America's most storied football rivalry.
And yet we brace for the week ahead, left wondering whether or not everything we've been denying to this point could really be true.
Talk to you all on Tuesday.