BALL STATE 35, NAVY 23

I’m going to start with a lonely bit of good news, since I’m afraid I’ll forget to mention it after I finish talking about the game. Seriously, after the Chargers lost yesterday, not even Hole In The Wall could save my weekend. Anyway, on the pregame show Friday night, Chet announced that he is wrapping up a ten-year extension to Navy’s TV contract with CBS College Sports. Ten years! Not only is it good news, but the length of the extension is a pretty good indicator that the partnership has been beneficial for CBS, too. Interestingly, Chet mentioned that he was aware of CBS’s intent to acquire CSTV back when he signed the original contract. I’m sure that was a big factor in choosing CSTV over ESPN at the time. He also said that he’s close to signing a 10-year extension with CBS for the Notre Dame game as well. An extension for the Army-Navy contract is also in the works with CBS, but isn’t quite as close to being finalized.

Speaking of TV, ESPN’s broadcast of the game was terrible. How many times did we miss a play because they were showing Kaipo walking around on the sideline, or drag racing corvettes, or some random coach in the coaches’ box, or some animated graphic that took too long to get off the screen? Now I’m going to have to wait for the NAAA 2008 highlight DVD to see the entirety of Eric Kettani’s big run. Come on, ESPN. Nothing you’re showing is more important than the game on the field.

Anyway, enough putting off the misery.

In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described how people deal with loss and bad news by introducing the now-famous “Five Stages of Grief.” Those five stages are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Congratulations, Navy fans. By now, you’ve probably moved from the “denial” stage to the “anger” stage. That’s progress. Unfortunately, it’s more progress than the Navy defense has made since last year (ZING). Anyway, let’s take a look at the things we were all in denial about before the season, or maybe even after the Towson game.

1) Jarod Bryant is ready to run the offense.

No, no he isn’t. I was very much in denial on this one. Hey, he had all spring and most of fall practice as the #1 guy. He looked good in the spring game, which I know isn’t all that important, but it’s something. And in general, Navy quarterbacks make a lot of improvement between their junior and senior years. Yeah, well, so much for generalities. We didn’t see much in the Towson game. I mean, sure, he looked like he missed a couple of option reads, but it’s rare for any quarterback to be perfect. But against Ball State, the offense was basically in shackles. After unsuccessfully trying a few triple option plays in the 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 the quarterback is getting 31 carries, and when one individual A-back is getting 13, then you know you aren’t looking at a genuine option offense. The ball just wouldn’t be distributed that way if you were. Unfortunately, Ball State’s offense is a wee bit better than NIU’s, and the Mids couldn’t match them.

(Side note: in the question of “was Coach Niumat right to kick field goals instead of going for the first down,” the answer is clearly YES. Navy was able to come back and take the lead in the third quarter even after all those field goals, so isn’t like they took the Mids out of the game. Don’t be second-guessing. Be happy that Matt Harmon can hit a 49-yard field goal with leg to spare.)

But if Jarod struggles with the offense, then why was he so effective last year coming in to relieve Kaipo? For a couple reasons. Fresh legs vs. a tired defense, obviously. But more importantly, the plays called to suit Jarod just work better as a mid-game adjustment to throw off a defense rather than something to be used for an entire game. It works a lot better coming out of the blue than it does as something that can be planned for and adjusted to.

There’s no question that Jarod can run. But the offense just isn’t as effective when he’s under center.

2) The offensive line is fine.

But let’s not turn this into a Jarod Bryant dogpile, now. While he didn’t have a great game, he wasn’t alone. The offensive line struggled. There were a lot of position changes on the line in the offseason. They never realy seemed to come together during the fall scrimmages, reaching their nadir in the infamous “no-score” scrimmage. The Towson game didn’t present many problems, but Ball State sure did. The Cardinals were one of the smaller defensive fronts that Navy will face this year, and they got great penetration into the Navy backfield the whole game. This forces the quarterback to take an arc instead of a straight line parallel to the line of scrimmage when running the option, which throws off timing. Smaller defensive lines seem to have more success doing this– Rutgers comes to mind. But Ball State’s defense is not Rutgers.

Maybe this isn’t fair, since I’m comparing this line to last year’s, which was phenomenal and the best I can remember at Navy. Regardless, though, things probably aren’t going to get any easier the rest of the year.

3) The defense is better!

But let’s be real. Even with all their problems, the offense still put up 23 points and 346 yards rushing. That isn’t a bad game statistically. On the other hand, the defense was horrible. i don’t know what to say. We’ve heard that things would be better this season, now that the Mids are free of injury and are a year older and wiser. If that’s the case, we’ve yet to see any evidence of it. The tackling that appeared to be improved in the Towson game was apparently only better BECAUSE it was the Towson game. Against Ball State, tackling was terrible. And everyone wanted to see tighter coverage in the passing game. We did… for about three plays. One pump fake and one touchdown later, it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.

It would be one thing if Ball State just “out-athleted” Navy, but they didn’t. Not that I’m saying that they couldn’t, but they didn’t have to. Receivers were so wide open, they didn’t have to be any good to catch passes. Meanwhile, Ball State averaged 5.6 yards per rush, too. They did come up with a couple of interceptions, but that isn’t enough. You can’t rely on that. There’s no reason why Navy’s defense can’t be as good as Air Force’s or even Army’s. They don’t have to be the Steel Curtain, but maybe they could force a punt once in a while. If there isn’t serious improvement here, it’s going to be a long season. Especially if Kaipo isn’t healthy.

I’m probably not saying anything you haven’t already thought to yourself.

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28 Responses

  1. Didn’t mention it before, … but totally agree that the ESPN coverage (both camera & commentary) was lousy –> Just UNSAT in every area you described.

    I know that you aren’t “taking a poll” … but I agree on your team assessment break-down as well. We need to get better!

    Beat Duke!

  2. 4) The proverbial “Elephant in the Room”….Navy wouldn’t skip a beat with PJ’s departure.

    The coaching was pretty solid – especially the halftime adjustments, but the team was flat. PJ’s teams came in fired-up and confidently expected to win most every game. I’m not sure that Navy expected to win the game on Friday. It pains me to say that and I hope that I’m wrong.

    Duke is playing better this year, but it’s still Duke. We should win this game. It’s early in the year and the team continues to find itself. I’m hoping that Kaipo will be back and Jarod will be another weapon at Slot!

  3. Paul Johnson wouldn’t have made a bit of difference on Friday night. I’m not sure that I’d say the team was flat. They looked pretty fired up to me.

  4. I have to agree that the defense is definitely awful. I talked to alot of Navy fans during the preseason and many were excited about all the experienced defenders returning and how we should be much better on defense. The point I try to make to people though is; get excited when you have most of the players returning from a defense that say ranked in the top 15 in defense the year before. Navy has most of the defenders returning from a defense that gave up more points then any in school history. That’s nothing to get excited about.

  5. The D was disappointing. There are some good athlete’s on that squad.Buddy needs to get more creative with his game plan. How about we pressure the qb at the beginning of the game for a change?

  6. Agree on the ESPN commentary. It was dull and boring. It had me wishing that “Mayday” and Coach “Wishbone” Holtz were doing the game…..Well, maybe not.

  7. We picked off Davis twice. The “D” may not be very good, but it did what it had to do in order to give the offense the chance to win. A few plays go the other way and we win this game. Now let’s see how the team responds.

    Also, Chris Spielman is the single worst color analyst I have ever heard in my life. If I wanted sterotypical and bland analysis I would of hit my college weightroom.

    -Adam

  8. That’s lunacy, Adam. Two interceptions don’t outweigh 35 points.

  9. I don’t think it is that crazy of a notion. 2 interceptions and stop out of 9 possessions gives the offense a chance especially if we can squeeze in one more possession due to time management in the second half. Who wasn’t expecting both teams to score into the 40’s? We complete the opening pass and punch it in on fourth and goal and the score is 35-34…..

    The way I describe the game is that we were clearly outplayed, but still could have won.

  10. Adam, … Gotta look @ the “context” of the two INT’s –> Only one really gave the Navy “O” an opportunity to make an impact “counter drive” … the 2nd one seconds before the half maybe served as a morale booster??? (but in hind sight, apparently Not!).
    It was “deja vu` all over again” from last season wrt how the defense performed just the mere fundamentals. Like I read somewhere else, … it appeared BSU could have put up 50 on Navy if they had to. Gotta “turn on the switch” (if there is one) vs Duke for sure.

  11. You’re leaving the realm of normal football and retreating to the altered psycho-logic of Navy football 2007. Ball State averaged 8.6 yards PER PLAY. If you kick a field goal on the first drive and you’re already wondering if that ended your chance of winning, then you have problems on defense.

  12. Best Navy Sports blog on the net.

  13. If we don’t have altered psycho-logic then we don’t have much. There is no talent leveler like the TO for the defense. Am I the only one who thinks our defense is built around keeping a ground gains under 5 yards and praying for an incomplete pass or two?

    Maybe we should view some of our better defensive teams as outliers.

  14. They aren’t outliers, especially in the context of Army and Air Force’s defenses.

  15. So you think the problem is structural?

  16. TBD is right, I am still looking at the game through last year’s glasses, but can you blame me? All I know is that we were in this game and halftime and took the lead in the second quarter because we essentially stopped two Ball State scoring drives with first half interceptions. Does that make the defense good? No, good God no. But that doesn’t change the fact that we at least had chances, and just didn’t take advantage of them. If very little has changed defensively, why shouldn’t we look at games the same we did last season?

  17. Adam –> No argument here that because of that 1st INT, the resultant FG, … and then the initial 2nd half drive getting a TD, … Navy was in a position to gain a “W” if we kept on scoring touchdowns (even if our Dee never stopped them the rest of the game), … plus had the ball last. Can’t really say we stopped a BSU scoring drive w/ the Vela INT just before halftime –> we are talking mere seconds w/ lots of yards to go (unlikely they score albeit not impossible).

  18. Look at the games however you want, but just realize what you’re saying. The defense is not doing its job. It’s unfair to expect the offense to be perfect in every game.

  19. I concur tbd.

  20. That TD pass in the first qtr ruined our D the rest of the game. After that, we were tentative about everything.

  21. I’ve been looking for a fair analysis of the defense for some time, now. I haven’t really seen anything that would help explain why the defense, with so much returning experience, hasn’t improved.

    My conclusion is that the DC isn’t doing his job. I’m not saying he doesn’t know his profession. I’m sure with bigger and faster guys, what he preaches would work out.

    What I look for in a DC is someone who can take his talent and make it work. This was supposed to be the year that the defense finally clicked. If it doesn’t work this year, then the scheme won’t work, ever, at Navy. Green needs to research switching things up–coming up with new blitz packages, tighter zones, and perhaps think about shaking up everything that he currently considers “the obvious”… think outside the box.

    I want to make it clear that I know far less than any of the Navy coaches, and I don’t pretend to know the team better than they do. But one thing is clear, what they are doing isn’t working. Make some drastic changes. It can’t get any worse… can it?

    A friend of mine coaches HS football out west, and he preaches that the 3-5-3 will be the end to the spread. It utilizes smaller sized lineman and LB’s. They stunt on every down causing the OL to have no clue who to block before the snap. Blitzes from the quick LBs tend to hit home pretty consistently because the OL is trying to figure out who to block on the DL.

    Just throwing that out there.

  22. @Rob T – wow, whoever your friend is might be on to something with the 3-5-3. I actually think Navy could go to a 3-3-5 and be better. Teams just don’t run as much anymore or if they do it’s out of the spread formation so they have 3 or 4 WRs in the game anyways.

  23. Defense is really all about gap control. What we need for our D to be successful is our D-line forcing double teams to free LB’s to cover gaps. If our D-line can’t command double teams, and, can’t beat o-linemen 1 vs 1, then, as a D, we’re in trouble.

  24. 3 things.
    1. tackling
    2. using their hands.
    3. when dropping into zones and a receiver enters your zone, cover them…you CANT cover space and expect to be successful.

    the defense is not doing well at any of these. they dont get off of blocks well at all. they look set on just fighting with the blocker instead of gaining separation from the blocker and getting off the block. you dont have to be strong to do this. they have no technique.oh, and the 3-5-3(3-3-5) isnt going to end the spread. it can be blocked just like every other defense. it’s all in how it’s executed. right now, the defense isnt executing. then again, we could just be jumping the gun here. it’s way too early to know what will happen.

  25. I think we can all agree tackling isn’t that good, here. You’d like to think it would get better, but tackling is more attitude than technique.

    What do you want them to do with their hands?

    It is a zone coverage… you play your zone. The other team has coaches, too. Those coaches know how to defeat zone packages. They will design routes to clear zones; cross routes, double ins, or having the WR’s stop in the creases. What do you think will happen if you vacate your zone because someone crossed through your area?

    The lack of technique you speak of is actually THE technique. A three man front is key on gap control… gap control = little penetration unless you are sending a blitz. At times the rush is on, but the majority of snaps, coaches would rather their position be played than to create open running lanes for the QB, espcially in the day of the dual-threat.

    I really like your evidence on the 3-5-3 (which, is essentially the same as the 3-3-5, but the two rovers play almost interchangably with the LBs rather than more similar to corners. And at times, the 3-3-5 has two deep safeties as opposed to the one that the 3-5-3 has), and why it won’t work. Solid research, Rob.

  26. ok, after i posted that i wondered if everyone would understand about their hands. i’m a coach, or have been a football coach. one of the first things i tell dlinemen is that their hands are as important as anything else. they use their hands when attacking their key. they should get attack the key’s shoulder(which shoulder depends on their assignment). they punch, just like olinemen. they can grab the olinemen, just as long as they dont hold them(tackle). once they read the play they can pull the linemen or use a rip to get off of the block. they also use their hands to stop the olinemen from getting to their block. when i mentioned that the coverage, what i meant was this. when a player is in your zone, you cover them until they leave your zone. you can knock them off ttheir routes. passing is about timing. you want to ruin the timing of the play. you are right though, zones can be defeated. i also have a problem with the lack of pass rush moves of the dlinemen and the blitzers. their pad level is also rough. when blitzing, they’re supposed to make themselves as small as possible to avoid a block and stay low. 2 things that they dont do well. now, it’s obvious that there is less talent since navy cant recruit the big time major athletes, but that doesnt mean they cant be successful. thats what i meant. they need to play more physical on defense. i think they could blitz more often and/or run more twists and stunts upfront. but there’s obviously a reason they dont, and only the coaches know that.

  27. let me just say that i’m by no means an expert on anything. i usually dont watch the game as anything more than just a fan. from my coaching experience, i know that i used to get a little irritated at all of the coaches in the stands.so, i’m by no means trying to act like i know anything about anything. just giving my opinion i guess.

  28. THE DUKE GAME PROVED THAT THE OFFENSE HAS A REAL PROBLEM MOVING THE BALL. THE DEFFENSE IS ON THE FEILD FAR TOO LONG>

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