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If you tuned in to CSTV on Saturday hoping to see wide-open, exciting football, you probably came away disappointed.

But if you wanted to see a Navy win, clinching a 5th straight winning season and sending the seniors out on top in their last appearance at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, then you got your money’s worth.

It wasn’t the kind of game that’ll win CSTV any ratings wars, but that’s hardly what matters in Navy’s 35-24 win over Northern Illinois. Navy’s defense was reeling after hitting rock bottom against North Texas, and the offense had to keep pace with starting quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada sidelined with a knee injury. It looked like the perfect formula for disappointment, but the Mids came through. 

Reading most of the postgame accounts and watching Coach Johnson’s press conference, the story of the game seems to be the performance of the defense. Am I the only one who wasn’t all that impressed? I mean, yes, it was better than North Texas. It was impossible not to be better than the North Texas game. But NIU was banged up and starting their backup quarterback. They were a running team anyway, so with their QB out it was pretty obvious what to expect. And when they did throw, we knew it wasn’t going to be downfield. We knew what was coming, yet Justin Anderson still ran for 140 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies were a ridiculous 7-7 on 4th down conversions. Maybe it was an improvement over last week, but I don’t think that the defense was any better than they had been the rest of the year. NIU just wasn’t very good offensively.

OK, maybe that’s a little harsh. There were some good things that stood out. First and foremost are the two sacks. There was better pressure on the quarterback overall even when it didn’t result in a sack. And despite allowing NIU to convert on all 7 of their 4th downs, they were only 7-21 on 3rd down– a HUGE improvement over weeks past. Hell, even having that many 3rd downs felt unusual. Ross Pospisil had 20 tackles, which he should have had the way NIU was running the ball; that means that he wasn’t out of position.

So maybe those praising the defense have a point. I’m not ready to hop on the bandwagon yet, though. NIU was a wounded team with a conservative, predictable gameplan, and still moved the ball pretty easily. If you’re optimistic, I hope it’s cautious optimism. The last time we were optimistic about the defense was after the Notre Dame game, and we know what happened the following week.

Moving right along, the other story of the game was the offensive game plan under Jarod Bryant. To say that it was conservative would be an understatement. We knew that was coming, though. I said on Friday to expect the offense to consist of a lot of midline option and a lot of toss sweeps, and that’s pretty much what we got. Jarod has trouble with triple option reads, so PJ just called plays that gave him the best chance to succeed. It worked.

Let’s take a look at the plays that were called, shall we? I was very intersted in how PJ would call a full game with Bryant at the helm, so I took note on each of Navy’s 11 drives. Here’s what I saw. Keep in mind that there are probably some mistakes in here, since I don’t know what was called in the huddle. Sometimes we’ll run a designed handoff showing an option look, and it’s hard to tell the difference. I took my best guess. Usually you can tell by looking at the quarterback’s eyes on the replay, but they didn’t show one for every play.

1st Drive

  1. Designed handoff to FB
  2. Toss sweep
  3. Triple option, Bryant pitches, gain of 7
  4. Give to Ballard, I think off the triple option
  5. Triple option, Bryant pitches
  6. Toss sweep
  7. QB keeper for a 1st down
  8. Give to FB (looked like it was by design and not an option)
  9. QB keeper, stopped short of goal line
  10. Toss sweep, Zerb TD

3 triple option plays, 7 predetermined runs (2 FB, 3 toss sweeps, 2 QB keepers)

2nd Drive

  1. Toss sweep
  2. Toss sweep (and a little awkward. It looked like Bryant called an audible, but Kettani didn’t hear it and ran to the wrong side. Play still worked, though)
  3. Triple option give. (I think it was a triple option, anyway, although it might have been the midline)
  4. Toss sweep, Zerb TD again.

1 triple option play, 3 predetermined runs (3 toss sweeps)

3rd Drive

  1. Designed handoff to FB
  2. Midline, Bryant keeps
  3. Triple option, trainwreck. Mesh problems. Chop block penalty called, declined. Navy punts.

1 triple option play, 1 predetermined run ( FB), 1 midline option

4th Drive

  1. Double/speed option
  2. Double/speed option
  3. PA pass, huge gain to Zerb
  4. Double/speed option
  5. Give to fullback (I think designed) w/option motion
  6. Shun White on end around/counter play that I’ve never seen before. 3rd & 8, timeout
  7. Midline, Bryant keeps for huge gain
  8. False start penalty; next play, double/speed option, Shun White TD

0 triple option plays, 2 predetermined runs (1 slotback counter, 1 FB give), 1 midline option, 4 speed option, 1 pass

5th drive

  1. Designed give to the FB
  2. Triple option, give to FB
  3. 3rd & 6, pass broken up. Navy punts.

1 triple option play, 1 predetermined run, 1 pass.

6th Drive (last drive of the 1st half)

  1. QB draw
  2. FB screen. FG attempt was short

0 triple option plays, 1 predetermined run (QB draw), 1 pass

7th Drive (opening drive of the 2nd half)

  1. Midline, FB give
  2. Midline, QB keep
  3. Midline, QB keep
  4. Midline, QB keep
  5. Midline, QB keep
  6. Pass, slotback in the flat
  7. Midline, QB keep
  8. Toss sweep
  9. Midline, QB keep
  10. Midline, QB keep
  11. Toss sweep. 4th & 2, drew NIU offside.
  12. Toss sweep
  13. Toss sweep
  14. Designed QB keeper, TD

0 triple option plays, 5 predetermined runs (4 toss sweeps, 1 QB keeper), 8 midline option, 1 pass

8th Drive

  1. Counter option, pitch
  2. Midline, QB keep
  3. Toss sweep (stuffed)
  4. Pass
  5. 4th & 5. Rollout pass, dropped.

0 triple option plays, 1 predetermined run (toss sweep), 1 midline option, 1 counter option, 2 passes.

One quick note: the counter option was good for 15 yards and was set up by all the midline option runs on the previous drive. Running up the middle that much causes the defensive ends to cheat towards the inside, which makes them easier to block on the counter option.

9th Drive

  1. Midline, QB keep
  2. Midline, QB keep
  3. Triple option, pitch (looked like misssed read)
  4. Midline, QB keep
  5. I have no idea what I just saw… looked like designed QB keep
  6. Designed rollout QB keep
  7. Same crazy play I hadn’t seen before, QB keep
  8. Midline, QB keep
  9. Designed rollout QB keep
  10. Counter option, pitch to Zerb, TD

1 triple option play, 4 predetermined runs (QB keepers), 4 midline option, 1 counter option.

This was the most interesting drive of the game for me. I’ve watched a lot of Paul Johnson football going back a long way, and I had never seen the QB keeper he called here. The play looked like it was an option play, only it couldn’t have been because Bryant wasn’t facing the direction he would end up running. On the triple option play, I said it looked like a missed read but I’m not sure that it was truly a triple option. I think that PJ ran those two midline options to start the drive and saw that the DE was taking the fullback. It looked like he called the triple on the next play but told Jarod to not to give to the fullback, expecting the DE to play the dive again. I might be out to lunch on that one. Also, once again the counter option is set up by the midline.

10th Drive

  1. Midline, QB keep (Holding)
  2. Midline QB keep (Personal foul)
  3. FB trap
  4. 3rd & 23… Midline, FB give.

0 triple option plays, 1 predetermined run (FB trap), 3 midline option.

11th Drive

  1. Midline, QB keep
  2. Midline, QB keep
  3. Troy Goss in to take a knee

0 triple option plays, 2 midline

OK, so let’s tally it up. That’s 65 plays, including penalties and not including taking a knee. Only 7 out of our 65 plays were the triple option– roughly 11%. 26 were predetermined runs, or 40%. There were 6 pass plays, or 9%. That leaves 26 plays, another 40%, for a combination of midline option, counter option, and speed option; those are all option plays with only one read, as opposed to triple option plays which have 2 reads. So on our running plays the ratio of non-triple option runs to triple option runs was 8:1. Jarod has trouble with his reads. PJ knows this, and didn’t put him in a position to make a mistake.

Birddog Game Balls

The offensive line: When the offense is as conservative as we saw on Saturday, you had better execute. The line did, and Navy ran for 359 yards.

Jarod Bryant: He had 27 carries for 139 yards, and most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over. The playbook might shrink when he’s in the game, but Jarod did his job.

Ross Pospisil: 20 tackles. Yo.

Corey Johnson: Corey appeared to have found a niche on special teams, covering kicks and using his basketball ability to serve as a jumper on field goal & extra point attempts. The coaches must have seen something last week, because he got even more playing time against Northern Illinois. Coming in at linebacker, Johnson didn’t have the most incredible game statistically (4 tackles), but he made a very athletic play to deflect a pass that Greg Thrasher was able to pick off. He also was able to generate a little bit of pressure on the quarterback. Corey isn’t graduating until next December, so there is a chance that he could be back for another season. With the progress that he’s made so far this season after not having played for years, maybe there’s a potential playmaker in Johnson.

Zerbin Singleton: Duh.

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13 Responses

  1. I was at the game, … and saw the same thing you saw, … + concur w/ your assessments of the Navy Dee & PJ’s playcalling when JB is in @ QB. He does have “quicker feet” and is a better “inside” runner than Kaipo, … but the Navy “O” is definietly hampered when not employing the PJ triple option to it’s fullest.
    Navy defense seemed to play “well” because the NIU offense was fairly predictable, … as was the Notre Dame offense. Put us up against an athletic QB in a spread type offense, … and Navy Dee has been “toast”. I’d be surprised if Army doesn’t try to take advantage of this to mix things up (with lots of sideline audibles) to keep BG “in limbo”. Could turn into an “agonizing” Army-Navy game for we fans.

  2. I don’t know that Army has “an athletic QB” and they definitely don’t run any spread option. I can’t see them trying to put it in over the next week and a half either.

  3. Well, Utah does.

  4. I was answering Dan’s concern about Army.

  5. I know. I was just looking even farther into the future.

  6. Gee and I thought you were the head pastor of the Church of One Game At A Time.

  7. Navy86,
    Teams that run a Spread Offense have been the “worst case scenario” for the Navy Dee —> That being said, … I know that West Point doesn’t run the “SO”, … but they can both throw & run the football, possess a fairly strong return game, … and frankly is very familiar with the Navy triple option “O”. They gave Navy all we could handle last year, … so would be dumb just to dismiss them as a “pushover”.
    Point I was trying to make was that they could “learn” from Navy’s earlier games what gives our defense the most trouble, … and try to incorporate some of those sets into their strategy (aka, … mis-direction screens, quick slants, bench audibles based on Navy defensive line-ups, etc…).
    GO NAVY!!!

  8. I never look past Army – it’s one of “those games” that you can never ever take for granted. Something weird always seems to happen.

    Having said that, my point was just that Army can’t change overnight, especially if they don’t have someone that can fill that athletic QB role. I agree that what you’ve pointed out is what gives our defense fits – I just don’t think that Army can provide it based on what they’ve done this season.

  9. We’ve struggled with spread offenses & athletic quarterbacks, and we’ve struggled with more conventional offenses run by statues. I don’t think it really matters.

  10. So the bottom line is good coaching and good execution. Sounds like a great game from a QB starting his first game. (Yes, I’m discounting the opening trick play at the MCCB.)

    My peeve with BG is not the overall defense. We didn’t seem to adjust for 4th down. At least point out to the players that on 4th and 7, the other team is trying to get 7 yards – not likely 15-20!

  11. Midwatchcowboy, … I hear ya! I was besides myself @ the game on Saturday (plus others this season) when the DB’s continued to give their WR’s a 10-15 yard cushion, … seemingly no matter what the tactical situation was???

    Exasperating!!!

  12. Lets face it Army will put the ball in the air at least 50 times against us so we should be able to come up with some kind of D plan to get some sacks and pressure against those guys!

  13. […] first quarter, the offense reverted to the proverbial phone booth. It looked remarkably similar to last year’s Northern Illinois game, although I’m not going to go back and count each play this time. I don’t need to. When […]

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