You know you let it creep into your mind, Navy fan. You know that when North Texas scored to take a 21-3 lead, you thought that Navy was just having a “letdown” game after finally beating Notre Dame. You figured that Navy had a hard time getting focused during practice this week, and that coming out flat was a result of that. Fight it back. Don’t let yourself think that. You’ll just be setting yourself up for disappointment the rest of the year.
Records were falling left and right yesterday as Navy outlasted North Texas, 74-62, before 26,000 people at Fouts Field in Denton. Among the records set: the I-A record for most points in a game (136), the Navy school record for rushing yards in a game (572), and the most combined points scored in a half (94) and a quarter (63). Mean Green quarterback Giovanni Vizza’s 8 touchdown passes are a record for the most ever thrown in a single game by a freshman, and the 7 he threw in the first half tied the record for most in a half thrown by anyone.
Coach Johnson was noticeably irritated after the game. This isn’t the first shootout that the Mids have been a part of this year. After those wins, PJ would usually say something like, “It doesn’t matter if we win 6-3 or 46-43 as long as we have more points than they do.” Not this week. Bill Wagner asked Coach what he thought about being a part of such a record-shattering game:
Wagner: So a game like this is historic. Is this the kind of historic game you want to be a part of?
Johnson: Nope. Nope. I don’t want to be a part of it. I’m happy for the kids that they won, and I’m happy that they’re resilient and they came back, but we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to make some changes, do something.
That wasn’t all.
Wagner: How about their freshman quarterback setting like 5 records tonight?
Johnson: Who hasn’t set a record against us?
We’ve heard him talk like that after a loss before, but not really after a win. Usually he’ll point out some mistakes, but follow that up with, “but they found a way to win.” After the North Texas game, Johnson didn’t mention anything along those lines unless he was prompted to. And even then it didn’t last. PJ was pissed.
It’s hard to blame him. Maybe you could dismiss the defense’s performance as a post-Notre Dame hangover if it wasn’t consistent with everything we’ve seen so far this year. Navy gives up 40 points and 469 yards per game. Navy is still last in I-A in pass effeciency defense. Notre Dame came into last week’s game averaging about 30 rushing yards per game, but put up 235 against the Mids. It doesn’t matter how the offense wants to attack; it’s going to work.
I don’t want to rattle off any more about the defense’s futility because you’ve heard it all before. The story here really isn’t that the defense stinks– and whatever momentum they might have had against Notre Dame is toast– it’s PJ’s postgame reaction. He says that changes need to be made, but the nature of those changes are unclear. The defense can’t really be simplified any more than it has been. Todd Dodge was a high school coach last year, and Navy put up a high school defense against him. He did to Navy what he did every week at Southlake Carroll. Fortunately, he was using a high school defense against Paul Johnson, and PJ ripped it to shreds.
It’s really a shame that the defense is so bad, because it overshadows the best Navy offensive performance in generations. The Mids piled up 680 yards of offense. Shun White and Zerbin Singleton both topped 100 rushing yards. Eric Kettani– a fullback, mind you– averaged 12 yards per carry. Adam Ballard had 87 yards and a touchdown in front of friends & family. Kaipo threw for 108 yards and a wide-open touchdown to Tyree Barnes, and he was relieved by Jarod Bryant, who ran for 57 yards and a touchdown of his own in a little less than a half of work. Eight different mids scored a touchdown. Zerb had three. But instead of marveling at the awesomeness of the offense, we’re stuck worrying about the defense. Ten games into the season, we should be used to it by now. But if you’re like me, you aren’t.
I did mention that we won though, right? At 6-4, Navy is now officially Poinsettia Bowl bound. Hopefully the weather is better than what I’m seeing at the Chargers game right at the moment. Charlotte spoiled me last year, since I was able to drive. I forgot how friggin’ expensive airline tickets are around Christmas. Chet said in his pregame show interview that he expects Utah to be the opponent, with an outside shot at BYU or New Mexico. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Play of the game: Navy actually forced a 3 & out late in the 2nd quarter, trailing 49-38. After the punt, Navy got the ball at midfield with 24 seconds left in the half. The offense lined up in an unbalanced formation, and it left Reggie Campbell with one on one coverage on the short side of the field. Kaipo hit Reggie with a 47-yard pass down the sideline, and Zerbin Singleton punched it in on the next play. That cut the lead to 49-45 and allowed Navy to take the lead after they got the ball to start to the second half.
Birddog Game Ball: Greg Veteto. He got all of one punt in the game, but he made it count. Greg kicked a 51-yarder that was downed at the 2 yard line. Pinned back against their own end zone, the Mean Green were forced to call a couple of conservative plays that left them with a 3rd & 6. Vizza went back to pass, and completed it for what appeared to be a first down (shocking). But there was a flag on the field; holding in the end zone. That’s a safety. Reggie Campbell blasted past everyone and returned the ensuing free kick for a touchdown. That’s 9 points that were made possible by Veteto’s punt.