As I mentioned on Friday, I’m not very much fun to watch a Navy game with. I’m a bit of a melodramatist while the game’s in progress. During last year’s UMass game– a 21-20 win, mind you– I remember thinking that the season was lost and there was no chance that Navy would get to Charlotte for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. And despite the irritation I felt at times while watching the Temple game, that probably won’t be the case this year, either.
Something else I remember thinking last year– this time, during the Connecticut game– was that never has such a dominating performance been so frustrating. “Dominating” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you look back at the Temple game, but statistically it was. Navy outgained Temple 439-273, including a 361-74 edge on the ground. Kaipo and Shun White both ran for 100+ yards. Navy only punted once all night, and that was after a 3rd down play that should have been called pass interference. So why didn’t it seem like Navy was dominating as much as the stats reflect?
The obvious answer is that the offense turned the ball over twice. The first fumble was the result of a missed block by Reggie, giving a Temple cornerback a clean shot at Zerb as he caught the pitch from Kaipo. The second fumble was by Adam Ballard, who dropped the ball as he was fighting for extra yards. Both turnovers had a huge impact. Zerb’s fumble was recovered at the Navy 12 and set up a Temple touchdown. Ballard’s fumble was on the first drive of the second half as Navy crossed into Temple territory and led to a field goal for the Owls. Both plays were a huge momentum shift on a rare night where Temple actually had fans at the game.
Joe Bellino said during the radio broadcast that he thought that PJ was holding back the offense. We all know that PJ is very conscious of what he’s putting on film, and with Rutgers coming up this week I’m sure that it’s a possibility. Temple deserves credit, though. They are clearly a better team than they were a year ago. They have more freshmen and sophomores on their two-deep than most schools have on their scout team. Maybe the Mids went into the game thinking that. If that’s the case, Temple played well enough that they won’t make that mistake again.
OK, that’s enough gushing over a defense that gave up 30 points and 361 rushing yards.
Defensively, Navy didn’t exactly impress. Temple running backs had some sizable holes to run through, and their receivers found themselves in wide open spaces way too often. That’s going to happen occasionally with the soft zone that Navy uses to eliminate big plays. If you’re going to sit back in zone coverage, though, you had better tackle well. On Friday, Navy did not. Particularly annoying was making Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele look like the second coming of Fran Tarkenton. Navy was actually able to get some pressure on him once in a while (thanks in part to an excellent push from Nate “Not Deacon Jones” Frazier), but he either covered himself with lard before the game or Navy just did a horrible job of tackling him. When you play with a “bend but don’t break” philosophy, it’s important to make the most of every sack opportunity. The whole idea behind the Navy defense is that if you limit the big play and make the offense take snap after snap on the way down the field, eventually they’ll make a mistake. If the defense can’t capitalize on those mistakes, they won’t stop anyone.
All in all, it was a comfortable win, but with enough mistakes that the coaches can have a lot to work on in practice this week. Not that this staff wouldn’t be doing that anyway.
Some odds & ends:
-In the radio pregame show, Navy Deputy A.D. Eric Ruden said that Navy has topped 20,000 season ticket sales. We’ve come a long way since the days of having to use the “Great Annapolis Tailgate” to get people to come to Navy games.
-The officiating in the game was terrible. Bad calls went both ways, but the biggest outrage was watching Temple’s offensive linemen and tight ends literally tackle Navy linebackers all night. Take a look at the two pictures here and here. Do you notice the blockers engaged with arms around the defender, like a big ol’ bear hug? That, ladies and gentlemen, is called “holding.” If we’re taking the same officiating crew with us to Rutgers next week, then we’ve got problems.
-About the only thing as bad as the officiating was whoever was calling the plays for Al Golden’s offense. Temple offensive coordinator George DeLeone is the senior man on their coaching staff, but if he was calling the plays on Friday night they sure didn’t reflect that. When PJ calls his game, he makes it clear that he’ll keep doing the same thing until the defense proves that they can stop it. If Temple had taken the same approach, the game might have been closer. It seemed at times like Temple could have nickel and dimed their way down the field all night with their short passing game. But as soon as they’d get a little momentum that way, Temple would run some kind of sweep or swing pass or something that Navy would promptly stuff. It isn’t always the players that make mistakes when you limit big plays and force the offense to make long drives down the field. Sometimes it’s the coaches.
Birddog Game Balls
-Paul Johnson: PJ was given an actual game ball for his 100th win. He’s getting a Birddog game ball for outcoaching Al Golden so badly that it’s almost embarassing. It wasn’t just playcalling, it was game management. The best example came in the 2nd quarter. On 4th & 1 from the Navy 37, Johnson left the offense on the field. Golden was caught off guard, and had to call his final timeout of the half to set his defense. Not having a timeout left had a huge impact on Navy’s next drive, when Golden was unable to challenge a very questionable pass from Kaipo to Zerb for a 21-yard gain. That play put the ball on the Temple 30, and the drive ended in a Navy touchdown.
Golden’s staff is one of the youngest in I-A. On Friday, it showed.
-Greg Sudderth: I like giving a game ball to the guy who throws the best block, and this week it’s Greg. If he’s always as angry as he looked when he mauled some poor Temple defender on Kaipo’s 44-yard TD run in the first quarter, then I hope he seeks counseling. After the season.
-Shun White: It isn’t just that he ran for 122 yards; it’s how he did it. Shun averaged 15 yards a carry by combining power and some awesome moves. Shun knew when it was time to run through guys and when it was time to run around them. Defenses are going to key in on Reggie and Adam Ballard this year, and Shun’s going to get the ball because of it. He made the most of it on Friday, and that’s a good sign.
-Matt Harmon: Matt had three field goals, including a 43-yarder and a 23-yarder from a tough angle. His kickoffs were pretty good too, including one touchback.
-Matt Wimsatt: Seven tackles, a sack, and a game-ending interception. That’s a solid night’s work.