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:
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.