Breaking Down the Train Wreck

Well, that sucked. It was tough to watch Friday night as Rutgers took down Navy, 41-24. It’d be one thing if I felt that Navy gave their best effort and just came up short to a better team. But while Rutgers was clearly the better team, Navy’s effort was far from what it is capable of. At least I hope so.

Anyway, I’m having a hard time writing a summary of the whole thing, so I’m just going to do this in conversation form.

OK, so what happened?

I have no idea. I know what my impressions were from my chair, though. I thought the team looked intimidated. Rutgers shot themselves in the foot with penalties on their first drive, and that one punt was the last time they weren’t in control of the game. The offense came out after that and looked completely unsure of itself, something I’ve never seen in a Paul Johnson team before. They settled down eventually, but not until after they’d given Rutgers some great field position a couple of times. The defense had enough of a challenge ahead of it without the offense giving Rutgers a head start.

The offense really looked like they had mentally checked out. Delay of game penalty? Reggie catching a kickoff on the sideline & falling out of bounds? It just didn’t look like a PJ-coached team out there.

So what was wrong with the defense?

The Rutgers offensive line is what was wrong with the defense. They dominated the game, opening up huge holes for Ray Rice. Rice had almost a 3 yard gain on every play before any Navy defender even touched him. Mike Teel could have stopped to tie his shoe in the middle of a play if he wanted to. Buddy Green would send 5, 6, 7 guys in, but it didn’t matter. We couldn’t stop Rutgers when we rushed 2 guys and we couldn’t stop them when we brought 7. Losing Sovie and Deliz sure didn’t help matters.

So can the defense be fixed?

Probably not.

WTF do you mean, “probably not?”

Look, sometimes you just don’t have the horses to hang with top 15 teams. We play against bigger offensive lines all the time, and “big” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” But Rutgers wasn’t just big, they were big and very athletic. They pushed our front seven wherever they wanted them to go.

We still missed a lot of tackles, too. You’d hope that would be one thing that’s correctable, but it hasn’t happened so far. The 2005 team also missed a lot of tackles early on, but seemed to get it together by the end of the season. Here’s hoping that history repeats itself.

So are we doomed to get pushed around the rest of the year?

No. Athletic big men are the most rare commodity in football. Not everyone has them. Over the rest of our schedule, only Pitt, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest really have the same type of linemen as Rutgers, with Rutgers being the best of the bunch. I wasn’t sure about Wake Forest, but after watching their game against Nebraska I’m convinced that we’ll have the same kind of problems with them. They were a lot more physical than I thought they’d be.

What about the secondary?

They missed tackles like everyone else, but if you don’t get any pressure on the quarterback it wouldn’t matter if your defensive backfield consisted of Darrell Green, Ronnie Lott, Mel Renfro, and Night Train Lane. Receivers will get open.

We’re scheduled to play Rutgers for a long time. Is it going to be this way for the next seven years?

No. Look at all the freshmen and sophomores we had playing on defense: Nate Frazier, Andy Lark, Kyle Bookhout, Tony Harberer, Ross Pospisil, Matt Nechak, Jesse Iwuji, Wyatt Middleton… By the end of the game we only had two seniors left on the field. The defense will get better. Maybe Ray Rice will turn pro this year too. That’ll help.

Kaipo didn’t look that great.

He sure didn’t, not that anyone else on the offense did either.

If there was one word to describe Kaipo’s performance, it’d be “tentative.” He seemed unsure of himself, which contradicts the complete confidence he shows in practice. Then again, in practice he isn’t constantly running for his life.

This might sound wishy-washy and vague, but Kaipo seems to be struggling to find his identity. Every Navy QB under PJ had a calling card. Candeto was the guy that knew the offense inside & out. Polanco was the big-play guy, especially with his arm. Lamar Owens was the super-quick guy. Brian Hampton was the quarterback who ran like a fullback. Kaipo is…? He certainly has the most straight-ahead speed of the bunch, but only rarely does he really have a chance to show it. He is physically bigger than last year, putting on 10-15 pounds of muscle, but doesn’t seem to have figured out how to apply that strength and run with any power.

Not to mention the interceptions.  

Yeah, they were bad. I don’t think they were all the result of bad decisions, though. The first one was the result of an ridiculously athletic defensive play; if Josh Meek can make that block, the DE is in no position to react to the ball. That play– the quick hitter to the slot– is all about timing, and Kaipo has no choice there but to count on that block being made. He can’t wait to make sure that the DE was cut down. Any QB probably would’ve thrown an INT there. The second interception looked like Kaipo was trying to throw it away, and the ball slipped. The third interception was the worst. It looked like Reggie was open there for a second, but Kaipo held on to the ball too long which gave the defender time to close and make the play. That one hurt. Holding onto the ball too long was something Kaipo did against Temple a couple of times, too. If PJ passes again all year (which isn’t a given the way he sounded in the postgame press conference), that will be something they work on.

Also, does anyone else think that maybe Kaipo has small hands? Is that why his throwing motion is a little awkward? To compensate for not being able to grip the ball well? Just a thought.

So why don’t we sit Kaipo down to give him time to look for that “identity” and bigger hands?

Let’s not be crazy. It was one loss, and it came to a top 15 team. Kaipo had a bad game, but he won’t be the last quarterback to have a bad game against Rutgers this year. Besides, nobody else on offense played well either. You don’t want to bench the whole team, do you?

The problem with being a quarterback is that everyone else’s mistakes end up making you look bad. Missed blocks? QB gets crunched. Can’t get open? QB can’t complete a pass. It all reflects on the QB, whether it’s his fault or not. Yes, Kaipo made his fair share of mistakes too. But there are 22 guys on the field. It doesn’t all boil down to the quarterback. It’d be no different if Jarod Bryant was in the game. You’d just have a different QB in there running for his life.

If you say so. So were the refs as bad as they were against Temple?

Can a blogger be fined by the ACC? No comment.

So what now?

Well, there’s good news and bad news.

I’m a Navy fan, so I *heart* pain. What’s the bad news? 

The bad news is that opposing coaches have a lot of film to look at to help them figure out how to beat the Navy offense.

Then what’s the good news?

The good news is that none of those opposing coaches coach Rutgers, and if they try what Rutgers did they’ll get crushed. This game was so frustrating to watch because Rutgers played a lot of the game in a straight man-to-man defense. With this offense, you PRAY that the defense lines up in man-to-man. When that happens, you motion the slot one way to get his man to follow, then run the play the opposite way. Pull a guard to take care of the extra man and give you a numbers advantage, and you should have only one guy left to cover both the quarterback and the pitch. PJ did just that, but Rutgers was so fast that most of the time the pulling lineman never got to his man. That, and Rutgers did an excellent job shedding cuts the entire game, allowing them to run to the ball. All the Stanford fans who whined about cut blocks two years ago should have watched this game.

What’s the bottom line?

The bottom line is that Navy has now played the best team on its schedule. They fought back from a bad start to make it a game again, but made mistakes and ultimately lost.

If we’re going to beat a top 25 team, it’s going to have to be a complete game. The offense can’t turn the ball over. The defense needs to force punts once in a while so that the offense doesn’t have to be perfect. While nobody left on the schedule is as good as Rutgers, there are still some good teams left to play. We’ll have some more chances to get it right.

7 thoughts on “Breaking Down the Train Wreck

  1. Navy96

    Even my wife noticed that the team looked different out there Friday night. She said she thought they looked scared. I didn’t want to believe that at first, sonce I haven’t seen anything like that from a Navy team in 5 years. However, once I really started looking for it, it was hard to deny. I think Temple rattled their confidence a bit and memories of last year did them in…

  2. jgish

    Pretty good summary. Navy’s performance was disappointing, but I don’t see any reason why the season will be a washout. We should still beat the teams we think we should beat. And if we can fix some things, we may have a shot at the big boys on the schedule.

  3. jgish

    I really don’t think the Temple game had anything to do with it. I thought going in that Rutgers may have been a bit overhyped. I don’t feel that way now after seeing the game live and on TV. They’re good and I think they’ll give Louisville and WVU a run for the title.

  4. My question is whether or not were going to go back to the more conventional triple option or continue with more of these spread looks we were seeing the other night (if that makes sense?)

  5. Gary

    It would just be nice for a change if we can beat a few of the teams “we should not beat”.
    Wouldnt it be nice to be able to say we beat a Rutgers/Pitt/Wake or Notre Dame along with what we know we should beat.
    We know we are going to the Poinsettia and win the CIC (not so sure now against AFA) but it would put a stamp on the season beating “somebody”. Still searching for that “signature win”.

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