The weekend of the spring football game and the Hopkins lacrosse game is usually when I make my annual pilgrimage to Annapolis from my humble Florida home. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the trip this year due to some emergency work issues. Bummer for me. Of course, after talking to a few people that did go, I’m not sure that my mood would be any better had I made the trip. Hopkins crushed the Mids, tacking another year onto their mind-boggling streak. The night before, Navy Blue defeated Navy Gold in a snoozer of a spring game. I suppose I’ll tackle the lacrosse game first.
The football team’s losing streak to Notre Dame was more high-profile, but I always thought that that Navy lacrosse’s losing streak to Johns Hopkins was far more perplexing. Navy and Notre Dame are on different planets when it comes to college football, but the delta between Navy and Hopkins lacrosse is much smaller. Sure, Hopkins still has all the advantages when it comes to recruiting against Navy and should win more than they lose against them, but the Mids are still a solid lacrosse program. Hell, if Navy hadn’t lost to Army, they’d have been ranked higher than Hopkins going into the game. You’d think that the law of averages would throw us a bone once in a while. But no, 33 games has now turned into 34, and Navy finds itself in a rather precarious position when it comes to getting an NCAA tournament bid. I wonder if John Feinstein thinks that Navy should stop playing those bullies from Hopkins. Anyway…
The game itself was a suck tsunami. The usually stout Navy defense seemed to have a great deal of difficulty with the Hopkins ride, leading to several turnovers. It probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference even if they were able to get the ball to the offense, though, since that unit continued to struggle. How many games have we watched this year where a graphic pops up on the screen to say “NAVY: NO GOALS SINCE 5:32 IN THE SECOND QUARTER” or “NAVY SCORING DROUGHT- 15:48” or something similar? Our offense just hasn’t cut it since we’ve entered the meat of the schedule. Navy has averaged a little more than 6 goals per game in regulation since the Bucknell game. You’re putting one hell of a load on your defense & goaltender if you’re asking them to hold some of these high-powered offenses to less than that. Being patient and setting up a quality shot is one thing, but what Navy is doing is a whole different ball of wax. The scoring opportunities aren’t developing, and it’s leading to desperation heaves from bad angles or shots from 20 yards away– both of which are easily saved by the opposing goalie.
All of that is easy for me to observe from my La-Z-Boy. Fixing the problem is a different issue. I have no answers. I just hope that the coaches see that there is a problem and can fix it.
Anyway, moving right along…
The spring game wasn’t exactly a suspense-filled drama. The first-teamers who made up the Blue team were for the most part, as Coach Niumat put it, just punching the clock. In contrast, the Gold team seemed to really be playing hard, but just didn’t have the horses to keep up. I’ll give my impressions of what I saw, but it’s important to keep everything in context. People make a big deal out of the spring game, but it really is just one practice out of 15, and nothing more. Anything we see, good or bad, may not be a reflection of reality. That said, it’s the only practice my Floridian ass gets to see, so here’s a bit of stream of consciousness to relay my observations.
– First off, congratulations are in order for next year’s team captains, Jarod Bryant and Clint Sovie. Craig Schaefer also gets a pat on the back for winning the VADM Mack award as the team’s most improved player of the spring. His swift rise up the linebacker depth chart made this one pretty easy to predict.
– The hit of the night came from Joey Taylor, the Gold team safety who stepped up in run support to bounce Greg Shinego to the ground on the sideline. The Gold team in general was hitting hard. Linebackers Trey Grissom and Tyler Simmons were everywhere in the first half. Especially Grissom, who got behind the line of scrimmage to make 3.5 tackles for a loss, including a sack. On the blue side, I thought Ram Vela played well. Corey Johnson made a couple of plays as well.
– It was tough to get a read on the defensive lines, because neither offensive line looked all that great. The Blue d-line spent a lot of time in the Gold backfield. Matt Nechak registered a sack. Nate Frazier only had one tackle, but he seemed to be wreacking havoc on the inside. Andy Lark struggled at center, especially in pass protection. He’s got a ways to go to be ready to back up Ricky Moore, who actually looked pretty good.
– Jarod Bryant looked terrific. He stepped up on the opening drive and marched the first-team offense down the field for an easy touchdown. His passing was clearly improved, as demonstrated by his 25-yard sideline bullet to Shun White that put the ball on the Gold 1-yard line. His running was great, but we already knew that. Most importantly, he also seemed to have pretty good command of the triple option. It was a great showing by next year’s offensive captain.
– Mixed reviews for the other quarterbacks. Greg Zingler and Joe Taylor both looked decent when they weren’t running for their lives– they usually were. Zingler probably had the play of the game, hitting Greg Jones in perfect stride for a 65-yard TD pass that was called back thanks to an illegal shift penalty. As for Ricky Dobbs, whether you feel good about him or feel a little nervous, you got some fuel to support your opinion. For the most part, Dobbs just didn’t look ready for prime time, fumbling twice and looking very tentative on his option reads. But on one busted play, Dobbs unleashed a barrage of moves that will keep Anne Arundel County’s ankle surgeons in business for at least another month. Ricky was able to reverse his direction and turned a doomed play into a 32-yard scamper down the right sideline that led to 1st and goal from the 4-yard line. It’s clear that the athletic ability is there. Now we just need to wait for the learning process.
– Kevin Campbell was the game’s leading rusher, although in all honesty I was a bit underwhelmed by his performance. He ran hard, but usually he ran hard straight into a pile. The difference between 2002 Kyle Eckel and 2003 Kyle Eckel was that while the former tried to move piles, the latter tried to avoid them. The same metamorphosis would work well for Campbell. He did show some good hands and quickness in turning a fullback screen into a 24-yard gain. I was very impressed with Vince Murray, who seemed to have a knack for finding open space. If there was a knock on him, I’d say that didn’t run with his pads low enough. Hopefully one of you more knowledgable readers can correct me if I’m off-base on that one.
– The A-backs didn’t get the ball into their hands very often, but they usually made it count when they did. Shun White led the way with 23 yards on 4 carries, plus that great catch on the pass from Bryant. Greg Shinego looked very quick on a 3rd quarter 12-yard run, and Andre Byrd, while not seemingly as fast as the other two, had a knack for making tacklers miss to gain some extra yards, plus a TD run. I have no idea if these guys were doing the right things without the ball, but in terms of their playmaking ability with the ball, my optimism is unchanged.
– Kyle Delahooke’s missed field goal was a little discouraging, but everyone seemed to punt the ball pretty well.
All in all, it was a typical spring game. Let’s be honest now… None of them are ever that exciting. Huge, huge props go to NAAA for putting it on All-Access. Pete & Omar, despite the audio difficulties, were very entertaining in calling the game. The next step is to wait for the last depth chart of the spring (if there will be one).