It was a great night for football in Southern California; overcast with an occasional drizzle, and tempreatures in the 50s. There was definitely a big-game feel in the parking lots around Qualcomm Stadium as nearly 40,000 fans, including over 1,000 mids, tailgated before the game. The outcome wasn’t what we’d hoped it would be, but it was still a ton of fun.
It isn’t a proper San Diego tailgater until you bring in the taco vendor. Carne asada, onions, pico de gallo, and a dallop of guacamole make for some fine tailgate fare. These guys were good, too. They flipped the pico through the air with precision. Twenty dollars at this tailgater, brought to you by some intrepid members of the class of ’92, bought you all you can eat tacos and beer. Now that’s how it’s done.
Bill was a popular guy outside the official Navy tailgater.
Warming up before the game:
Marching through the tunnel:
Two-legged Bill was up to his usual stuff during the march-on.
Solid Brigade representation:
If my seats were up higher I’m sure this would look like a perfectly executed “U.”
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade it was not:
This is probably cool only to me, but usually the Jack Murphy plaque in what used to be right-center field is covered up with a big Chargers lightning bolt tarp. It was nice to see it on display again.
The Mids filed into their sections after the march-on. They were great the entire game.
The team charging onto the field:
Carrying the flags is probably kind of hard as it is, but doing it in a goat suit has to suck.
The defense was great in the first half.
This one was wide, unfortunately. But Joey’s put a lot of leg behind his kicks lately.
Kaipo cuts inside.
Offense on the move:
Bullen nails the extra point.
One of the pilots from the flyby. A really good flyby, I might add.
The D&B kicked off the halftime extravaganza…
…followed by the Priiiiiiiiiiiide of Utah.
The halftime fireworks were pretty impressive.
Always love to see the Navy Lax Hooligans shirts.
Celebrating after Kettani scores his long touchdown:
Two-legged Bill schmoozing with the crowd:
Navy fans as far as the eye can see:
The Eckel Patriots jersey is money:
A favorite of Navy fans is recycling old uniform parts.
Blue & Gold after the game:
Both teams stood by for each others’ alma maters.
Kaipo and Reyn Kaupiko stuck around a little longer than the rest of the team, presumably to talk to some of their fellow Hawaiians that play for Utah.
One last shot of the stadium as I ditch the line at the trolley stop and make my way a couple of blocks to the Mission San Diego station:
It was a good week. Each Navy bowl game is like a little reunion. I know a lot of you probably aren’t that excited for the possible DC bowl game, but I hope it happens for that very reason. Navy would sell 30,000 tickets for that game, and it would be a ton of fun for people like me who only get to Annapolis once or twice a year. Maybe we could even sell out a basketball game for once. Of course, we have to qualify first.
As for this game, Utah did a great job of keeping Navy in it after the Mids made some early mistakes. I don’t know what posessed Kyle Whittingham to come out with such a conservative offensive gameplan, but the Navy defense kept the Utes in check. Then Utah discovered that new-fangled gimmick called “the forward pass,” and it was all downhill from there. Still, it was a defensive performance that would have been good enough in almost any other Navy game this year.
Unfortunately, the offense appeared to be a bit out of sync. Well that, and Utah’s defense was really good. Scoring 32 on the Utes is no small feat. The frustrating thing was that it felt like Navy left some points on the field. Joey Bullen missed a 50-yard field goal attempt, although that might have been a bit of a stretch. Reggie Campbell’s fumble in the first half on the Utah 2 yard line cost the Mids at least 3 points. The biggest killer, though, was the 3 consecutive 3 & outs in the 2nd half. At the time I thought that those series without a first down was a sign of a failure to adjust to the defense on Ivin Jasper’s part, and maybe that is indeed the case. Watching the replay on TV, though, I couldn’t tell what adjustments he could have made– not that I’m some expert or anything. To my untrained eye, it appeared that Utah just played plain old good defense.
Then there is the affair of the Utes simulating Kaipo’s snap count in the first half. This is a big deal in this offense. Navy quarterbacks have a very deliberate snap count that dictates the timing of the play. The snap count is sort of like the “Christmas tree” in drag racing; the pace of the count tells the A-backs when to start tail motion and also allows the offensive line to anticipate the snap. Have you ever noticed how some of our offensive linemen seem to get off the line of scrimmage so quickly that it almost seems like they’re jumping early? That’s why; they can time their jump based on the snap count. Mimicking the snap count is dirty against any offense, but it’s particularly disruptive against an offense like Navy’s. It’s a little unfortunate to see that kind of tactic in a game where both coaches talked beforehand of their respect for each other.
But I don’t want to make too big of a deal out of it. The better team won in the end. I said before the game that a win over this Utah team would have been as big as any in the Paul Johnson era, and it would have. There are no moral victories, but it bodes well for Navy next year in that the Mids, with so many key components returning, were able to hang with one of the most talented teams that the non-BCS conferences have to offer. Perhaps the best news is that at least in this one game, the better team didn’t appear to be the better coached team. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.
One last thing: Nee-you-mah-tah-low-low. Really, it isn’t that hard.