NAVY 16, AIR FORCE 13

In the 2006 season opener against East Carolina, quarterback Brian Hampton carried the ball 34 times for 149 yards as the Mids defeated the Pirates, 28-23. ECU made an effort to take away the slotbacks in the triple option, stepping into pitching lanes and even batting down a couple. The defense forced the quarterback and fullback to carry the load for the offense, with the two positions accounting for 52 of the team’s 70 carries. After spending all afternoon running between the tackles, Paul Johnson likened the offense’s day to “playing in a phone booth.”

If that was playing in a phone booth, then Saturday’s 16-13 victory over Air Force might be described as playing like the offense was trapped at the bottom of a well. Ricky Dobbs and fullbacks Vince Murray and Alex Teich combined for 52 of Navy’s 56 carries as the Mids were held to 209 yards of total offense. After Dobbs’ touchdown run on the Mids’ first drive, Navy failed to get a first down on seven of its next ten possessions. There came a point in the second half where I started getting worried that watching the game any longer might turn me into a pillar of salt. WHATEVER COACH JASPER DID TO OFFEND YOU, KARMA, SURELY THAT DEBT IS NOW PAID.

We’ll get to that, but first let’s take a look at what I said after last year’s Air Force game:

Those of us who have been Navy fans all our lives might see things a little bit differently. There was a time when the idea of beating Air Force with half our offense tied behind our back was completely unfathomable. Air Force used to be so talented relative to Navy that only a flawless effort in every phase of the game would give the Mids a chance. Now, the tables have turned. Not only did Navy win with a watered-down offense, but they scored 33 points! For me, Navy’s victory on Saturday was nothing short of brilliant.

Other than the whole 33 points thing, my feelings towards the 2009 game are nearly identical. Yes, the offense was lousy, but you can’t lose sight of the big picture here. Navy beat Air Force for the seventh straight year. If you’re new to the program, or only started caring when the team became good, or if you only go to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to drink wine at a tailgater and complain about the length of TV timeouts… Well, maybe that’s not enough for you. The rest of us are thrilled. In the 21 years prior to the current Navy winning streak, the Mids beat Air Force twice. Do you think in those years anyone would be turning up their noses at an ugly, 16-13 win? Hell no. Yes, Navy is a better team now, and expectations are higher. That doesn’t mean that anyone needs to start worrying about style points when it comes to service academy victories. I understand that every game is played in the context of a larger season, and that we all want to see various problems addressed. But if your first instinct after such a dramatic win over a service academy rival is to complain about the offense, then you have completely forgotten what it means to be a Navy fan. If I ever reach the point where I take wins over Army and Air Force for granted, feel free to kick me in the face.

The shame in all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the offense is that it’s distracting from what should be the focus, which is a dominating performance by the defense. At the beginning of the season, we knew the young, largely unproven offense was going to sputter once in a while. If the Navy team was going to reach its goals in 2009, the defense was going to have to win some games for them. There were encouraging signs through the first four games that they’d be able to do so, but until it happens, you’re never really sure. Well, now you can be sure. The Mids were suffocating on defense, holding Air Force to 249 yards of total offense while forcing two turnovers and keeping the Falcons out of the end zone. Their 3 & out on Air Force’s first posession might have been the difference in the game, giving the Navy offense excellent field position on their first drive to set up the game’s only offensive touchdown. Ross Pospisil was his usual dependable self, leading the way with 12 tackles. If Joe Buckley hadn’t been Mr. Automatic, a strong case could be made for Wyatt Middleton as the game’s MVP. Middleton was all over the field, making 9 tackles in run support while breaking up two passes in coverage. The line also had a banner day, with Matt Nechak and Jabaree Tuani combining for 14 tackles. You can point out a good play by just about any Navy defender that got into the game.

The corollary to the complaints about the Navy offense has been to heap praise upon the Air Force defense. They played well too, but they shouldn’t be overshadowing the defense that actually, you know, won. Contrary to what some would have you believe, there’s nothing wrong with winning games with defense. Hell, two years after fielding what seemed like the worst defense in history, it’s downright refreshing. It turns out that games won with defense count just as much toward bowl eligibility as shootouts. Who knew? Younger fans might have an excuse, but anyone old enough to remember the George Welsh years should recall that Navy won games primarily through superb defense and a ball-control offense. I can only imagine the comments we’d have seen if we had the internet back then. OMG WHY DO WE KEEP HANDING OFF TO GATTUSO?? LESZCZYNSKI NEEDS TO PASS MORE!

Still, you have to give credit to Air Force for their defensive game plan. I didn’t think the game had to be so close, but when Navy was unable to make use of its two biggest advantages– slotback speed and Ricky’s arm– it’s no surprise that the score was tight. Not that Coach Jasper didn’t try to get the ball to his weapons. Navy’s first play of the game was a toss sweep that, as a harbinger of things to come, was blown up by the Air Force cornerback. Our intrepid offensive coordinator continued to call pass plays throughout the game as well, but most of them devolved into scrambles almost immediately. Coincidentally, those scrambles were Navy’s most successful running plays on the afternoon.

Navy’s offense started the day picking up where they left off in last year’s game, handing the ball off to the fullback. The first drive consisted primarily of designed handoffs to Alex Teich. Actually, other than the shorter field it was very similar to the first drive against Ohio State; the fullback carried the load until the last play, when the defense’s overpursuit of the fullback left a running lane open for Ricky to scoot to the end zone. The Mids didn’t run an actual option play until its third possession, at the very end of the first quarter. The first play of the drive was another called handoff to the fullback. The cornerback crept closer to the ball before the snap. On the next play, Coach Jasper called the triple option. The cornerback cheated toward the ball again. This puts him in the count; he’s #3, and the playside slotback should pick him up. He doesn’t, though, opting instead to head upfield and block a linebacker. Even though Ricky is given a read to pitch, he can’t; the unblocked cornerback would blow up the play. Ricky is forced to hold onto the ball for a minimal gain.

After that, Air Force settled into their option game plan. Their goal was to take away Navy’s big-play ability outside, forcing Navy to run into the strength of the defense. They did this in two steps. First, the pitch key almost always played the pitch. He didn’t wait for the quarterback to get outside, either; he ran straight into the backfield to show his intent. Second, the give key used the mesh charge to confuse the quarterback. The mesh charge is a very difficult read, as the defender basically fakes taking the fullback dive and steps upfield to take the quarterback at the last second. The combination of the two puts the quarterback in extremis almost immediately.

Ricky was able to adjust to the mesh charge and make the correct read more often than not. Since he was clearly being forced to run up the middle, Coach Jasper tried calling the midline to give Air Force a different look:

It might have worked more often than it did if nose guard Ben Garland didn’t absolutely own the middle of the field.

Garland wasn’t alone. The option isn’t the only way to get the ball to the slotbacks on the perimeter. But no matter how you try, you have to block the cornerbacks. Navy could not. The Mids’ inability to block Air Force’s corners was reminiscent of the futility of trying to block Scott McKillop against Pitt in 2008. Whenever someone tried to block him, McKillop just sidestepped him and kept moving. The Air Force cornerbacks were doing that all afternoon.

Obviously, it wasn’t exactly a banner day for the Navy offense. You might ask, “where were the adjustments?” Well, no matter what you adjust to, at some point someone’s got to start blocking. Navy had a hard time with that concept on Saturday. Air Force had a lot to do with that.

Still, after five games, Navy is sitting pretty: 3-2 after a brutal stretch of opponents, with half of the Commander in Chief’s Trophy competition in the bag. But what will become of Air Force? The knock on Fisher DeBerry at the end of his tenure in Colorado Springs was that after his team lost to Navy, their season would fall apart. That might have been true in 2003, but after that it’s complete revisionist history. From 2004-2006, Air Force wasn’t all that great going into the Navy game to begin with; their combined pre-Navy record in those years was only 6-6. The season was already in trouble by the time they got to the Navy game, and in each of those years they actually followed up the loss to the Mids with a conference win. Sometimes revisionist history rules the day, though, and to Troy Calhoun’s benefit. One thing that Calhoun has been given a lot of credit for is holding Air Force’s season together after losing to Navy, well enough to earn bids to two straight Armed Forces Bowls. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen this year. Like Navy, Air Force is also 3-2. But their next 4 games include #10 TCU, plus road games at Utah and a much-improved Colorado State team. Even Wyoming is 3-2 right now. It’s entirely possible for Air Force to be 4-5 after that stretch and needing a win at BYU to secure a winning record. 6-6 is a real possibility for this team.

So what’s different? Why is Air Force staring .500 in the face after going 17-9 in Calhoun’s first two seasons? Shouldn’t the team be getting better in year three? Well, they are on one side of the ball. Defensively, Air Force has been excellent, and that doesn’t look to change much next year with 7 starters returning. The offense is a different story. One would think that this would be the year that they’d break out, with seniors starting at all five offensive line positions plus tight end. Who wouldn’t want to run behind that? Despite that experience, the unit has been held without a touchdown for two consecutive games, and only has four against I-A competition all year. The culprit, according to some, is conservative playcalling. Was it? Air Force was the one throwing 14 passes on Saturday. Air Force was the one taking shots downfield in the first half– one being intercepted by Emmett Merchant, and the other almost meeting the same fate courtesy of Wyatt Middleton. Air Force was the one calling end-arounds, attacking the perimeter, and using double-reverse play-action. Maybe they played things close to the vest in overtime, but not during regulation. It only appeared “conservative” because frankly, they didn’t have enough speed to make those plays work. Receivers running downfield were matched step-for-step by Navy defensive backs. When Tim Jefferson completed passes underneath, his receivers couldn’t generate any yards after the catch. When Jonathan Warzeka tried to get to the corner, he couldn’t outrun Navy’s inside-out pursuit. Despite the bellyaching, Air Force’s most successful plays on Saturday were the “conservative” ones, when Savier Stephens would run up the middle behind that veteran offensive line.

If it wasn’t razzle-dazzle that Air Force was missing on Saturday, perhaps it was something else. While Calhoun used zone reads and other option plays, the triple option was very sparingly employed. That might be because he has two sophomore quarterbacks sitting on top of his depth chart. Air Force has had a bit of a continuity problem at quarterback. A mass exodus from their prep school left them with few options, and now Jefferson is set to become the school’s second straight four-year starter at the position. It sounds like a good thing, but it really isn’t. It’s one thing to start a freshman or a sophomore because that player is just that damn good. It’s another to start a freshman or sophomore because you have no other choice. Air Force is experiencing the latter. That’s not a slight to Jefferson; it’s just reality. He is going to become more comfortable in the offense, and Calhoun’s playcalling options will expand. Unfortunately for Jefferson, though, by the time that happens, he won’t have that super-experienced line blocking for him. Obviously there’s a lot of football left to be played this year, and a team can improve over the course of the season. But Air Force hasn’t exactly faced the Monsters of the Midway so far this year; it’s going to be a lot harder to get better against the likes of TCU and Utah.

But that’s their problem. Right now, Navy has two road games of their own to deal with in the next two weeks, heading to Texas to take on Rice and SMU. While the team has to move on, at least they do so knowing that they can still achieve all their goals. Well, except maybe the rushing title.

EXTRA POINTS

— It’s time for Air Force players to stop saying they want the trophy “back.” Yes, they want the trophy, just like Army and Navy’s players do. But no current Air Force player has ever won the CIC Trophy. When these seniors were freshmen, none of their seniors had won it either. These players are two generations removed from having it. There is no “back.” The idea that service academy games are nothing more than an Air Force victory lap is now officially out of style, like Hypercolor t-shirts and Tommy Toughnuts phrases like “it’s on like friggin’ Donkey Kong.” Players, fans, and media alike are encouraged to embrace this reality.

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82 Responses

  1. hypercolor t-shirts are never out of style. neither are jams, parachute pants, or classic popular sayings referencing an obvious fallacy and then following it up with a “NOT!”

  2. Well done, Mike. You are absolutely spot on. Navy played inspired, passionate football.

    Some Navy fans have lost perspective. The objective is to WIN. Forget the style points.We never won two games in the same MONTH or had CONSECUTIVE wins over the course of my four years by the bay. So, I choose to enjoy our current lease in Heaven.

    Call me a silly kid, but I found myself home early on Monday pm only to discover that CBS CS was re-broadcasting the game. The intensity and the heart of the Mids was just as inspiring the second time as it was on Saturday.

  3. Good anaylsis Mike but I still think we could have opened up Air Force with a little more passing. We are the better team but we let a good team hang around….and yes I lived through Navy football’s “Dark Ages”. As you put it before the game “It didn’t have to be that close”.

  4. They tried to pass, a bunch of times. Ricky didn’t have the time to throw.

  5. Excellent post Mike.
    Do you think that all/or most of our remaining opponents will try to copy AF’s defensive plan? If so, why won’t it work for them as well as it did for AF?

  6. Great analysis, Mike. I was at the game and it was obvious from the high seats that AF was stacked on the outside from the first play on. The middle appeared to be open all game but, as you mentioned, Garland gave Bass fits all day (actually he dominated him). Until you explained the “mesh charge,” I thought Dobbs was making bad reads. Didn’t this open up the pass and don’t you think IJ lost confidence in Dobbs after he made a bad read and Wright jumped that short out? It sure looked like some short slants would have worked.

  7. This post was good, but it lacked the razzle dazzle of previous posts. OMG YOU NEED TO POST MORE!

  8. Great post as always. I agree that we can’t take winning for granted. I went to the Houston Bowl in 2003 because I thought it might be another decade before we went to one again. Further along the same lines, I am shocked at our AF brethren (and beat writers) and their sense of entitlement in these games. Isn’t seven years enough to give us respect? God forbid they give our team credit for winning the game. They still operate under the outdated assumption that we only win when they let us do so. Even if they pass on third and nine or they make the final kick, I think we would have found a way to win.

  9. Outstanding, Mike!

    A grammatical correction from the AF style manual:
    phrases like “IT’S ON LIKE FRIGGIN’ DONKEY KONG” must be typed in CAPS, BROTHER.

  10. One other point Mike, Check AF inside linebackers and watch their reads. With Garland dominating inside the ILB’s were keying through the guards to the FB. Old style defense.

  11. To follow up Dave’69’s question–PJ and now KN say that “we take what the defense gives us.” In this game, they apparently gave us nothing. Has the key to stopping the TO been discovered? Or was the lack of blocking on Navy’s part the key to the offense’s failure?

  12. Good write-up Mike. Another question though. With the corners crashing hard (like in the last video) why wouldn’t a play action pass play work. Disguise the start of the play to look like an option then do the wheel & post pass routes?

  13. Pass protection wasn’t any better than the run blocking.

  14. I think the AF defense gave us the fullback, but since Garland was so good eating up the middle and our blocking was poor, then it didn’t matter/

  15. Mike do we need a bigger b back? Not knocking teich & co., just seems like we had more success against the middle of the af defense when eckel and ballard were running dudes over (still love the pic of eckel making that little af db do a backwards headstand). I know adrian petersen & jonathan dwyer aren’t huge, but i don’t think our guys are in their league talent-wise. We’ve been having trouble all year getting the b back going, not just against af. Your thoughts?

  16. It isn’t an issue of size. It’s an issue of experience. The quarterback isn’t the only player that needs to read the defense. The fullbacks have keys they use to pick their holes. Do you remember Kyle Eckel his sophomore year? Probably not. There’s a reason for that. Until he learned to run where he was supposed to go, he was a non-entity in the offense.

    Counting on a 240-lb fullback to run through people is not a good offensive plan. Eckel, Ballard, and Kettani were their best when they ran around people.

  17. Great stuff. I was also impressed that you managed to get the comment about the long TO’s in paragraph 3.

    I recall Marcus missing that block, and he surely was not the only ones.

    As far as AF is concerned, good call on the speed issues. I thought the same thing watching their O as a whole.

    One more thing about Teich – he has been banged up quite a lot. I do not want to attribute it to a size issue, because more than twice it has been his ankles. He does a lot of twisting to get more yards, and he has just had bum luck.

  18. Great Breakdown. I never saw Navy beat AF (in person) until this streak began. This was the first home game during the streak i missed. I will NEVER take this W for granted.

    It’s also amazing to see how much one good (great) athlete can disrupt the entire offense. I know a lot of guys were missing blocks, but with Garland chewing up the inside all game, it seemed like AF was able to compensate outside by never having to commit extra bodies inside.

  19. While at the game, I pondered all the previous mentioned questions: was Ricky making the wrong read, why don’t we pass, has AF figured out how to defend the TO, is Teich too small? After watching the replay on TV, it was clear to me: the answer to all of the questions is Garland. Dude was a beast.

    By no means to I want to criticize Coach or Ivin for being too conservative, but once we forced them to go 3 and out and scored to go up 7, there was no reason to take any risks. After Ricky’s TD, I thought Mike’s prediction (it doesn’t have to be close) would come true, but after further thought, there was no reason to be aggressive with the playcalling. AF had been struggling to score, Jefferson had shown that he is a below average passer, and despite the offensive struggles, Navy was still gaining modest positive yardage with each carry (unlike Pitt where it seemed like we were moving backwards).

  20. Would well-timed screen passes help if Navy encounters this situation in future games? Or would that be hard to do b/c screens don’t flow from our base offense?

    I recall only one screen during the game this weekend (but I was inebriated) .

  21. BTW…Is it just me, or does Dailymotion do a poor job of streaming these clips?

    Do we need to pitch in some cash to pay for bandwidth?

  22. Mike: You have great analysis but the question I have is…Garland was blowing up the middle but we kept trying to go inside. In one of your examples for the outside, the slot blocks the wrong man and in the other Curry misses his block as the DB flashes by. Both of those are correctable mistakes or adjustments and if corrected on either of those plays, a good 5 – 7 yard gain was possible. Navy keeps pounding the middle to little success but gives up the outside quickly when both of those plays should have worked if run properly? Also if the DB is flashing into the backfield past Curry making the block tough, why not hit Curry with a quick wheel route? The other DB has already been run deep by the split end and there is a good 10 yard cushion for Curry to catch a quick pass. Also Garland seemed to be double teamed earlier in the first drive with Navy having good success inside. After that drive our center was left to block him solo with not much success. Why not go back to the double team. I think those are the type of adjustments we are curious to see. Please be kind ………..

  23. STOP WITH THE PASSING QUESTIONS, PLEASE. If you people aren’t going to read, I’m not going to write. Ricky dropped back to pass several times and had to run for his life. And there is no such thing as a “quick wheel route.”

    You say “both of those plays are correctable mistakes.” How? How do you correct a guy getting physically beaten in the middle of a game? I showed you the read that Air Force was giving. They took the pitch on almost every play. The one where Finnerty plays the wrong assignment is just a singular example.

  24. Yes, but there is such thing a s a quick slant. Especially when the TO isn’t working and the pass blocking is so bad. Also, good point on the poor blocking by the wide receivers.

  25. great, they can throw 50 “quick slants” then.

  26. Superb analysis. You have opened my eyes to a whole new level of understanding Navy Football. Watching “Highlights of USNA 1954 Season” shown on CSTV this week I was struck by the similarity of George Welsh, Gattuso, Craig et all under Eddie Erdelatz running what looked like a version of the TO. Maybe there isn’t much new under the sun – just better execution.
    In any event, Thanks for your insight and commentary.

  27. Ok, maybe you don’t call it a shorter wheel, we use to call it a swing route and Ricky was getting no time on drop back patterns. Swinging to Curry would have been 1-2 step drops. Besides Ricky was having most of his bigger gains scrambling on busted pass plays. So where was the harm.

    Correctable errors- players make mistakes all the times. You run the plays again to the outside and the position coach makes sure the slot blocks the right guy and Curry or another slot hit the DB. Your blocks don’t have to work all of the time just some of the time. If you can’t make game corrections than why keep running the ball up the middle. The center was missing blocks the whole game.

    Beside Navy better get better against this type of D because I am sure Jim Grobe (X AF) will run the exact same thing with better athletes in 3 weeks.

  28. Well, you’ve got it all fixed.

  29. Your analysis of better defense reminds me of my material science Prof. It was Uzelac’s first year and he installed the wishbone. We would at least move the ball downfield for some excitement, instead of “up the middle, up the middle, up the middle, punt”. But, we were still losing games. He commented ” too bad coach hasn’t installed the wishbone defense yet”. I kinda got it then, but it was really brought home with the last two years, with this team.

  30. Hey Mike, I have a question how come some people just don’t understand that if you get a give read you have to give it. Do they think you can just forget the read and pitch to the a- back and hope someone blocks the guys who no one is suppose to block. I swear some people didn’t even read your post.

  31. Oh, we are supposed to read before we post?

  32. Ya know, I’m just about done even caring whether or not the AF understands that they don’t own the CIC. Their heads are so far out of synch with what has happened in front of them for the past seven years that they don’t deserve serious consideration – except for preparing carefully to beat them again next year. And nothing about their chippy and unsportsmanlike on-field behavior deserves any respect. The snotty comment that “Navy approaches the AF game as if it were the Super Bowl” is pitiful – and very telling. Navy needs to approach every game that way, and usually does. It’s called “want to.” And it delivers wins.

  33. I would have liked to have seen a little more Quarterback draw plays where Ricky would drop back in a passing look, then run up the middle. I think that would have been very effective and could have been combined a little more with actual play-action as well. Need to have a more robust strategy for dealing with these types of defensive game plans as we will see much more of this given Air Force’s effective use of shutting down the outside by the defense.

  34. Here’s the thing– I really, really hate hypotheticals when it comes to playcalling. There’s no possible explanation I can give that will convince people that the plays they’ve drawn in their heads won’t work, and I don’t have the video to show things that haven’t happened.

  35. but without hypothetical plays we wouldn’t have THE QUADRUPLE OPTION (ie Navy’s answer to AF’s recruiting software)

  36. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing which is winning games however we can. Bottom line is the O was bad because of missed assignments, inexperience and physical mismatches, plus a well coached AF defense. The time to correct those deficiencies is at practice this week. It should not be a big surprise we are struggling on O due to our inexperience….and our D and special teams stepped up to seal the W.

  37. Great job, Mike. Right on as always.

    Now I understand why we didn’t give it to the slots more! :)

  38. Mike, In video 1 I do not believe the A-back blocked the wrong person. I think it must have been a designed play where the A-back blocks the inside line backer. The offensive tackle went inside to block the B gap, which means the A-back must have been responsible for the C gap. It looked like a missed read by the QB. In video 2, while I agree that the mesh stunt looks really hard to read, I believe it is the QB’s job to make that read. Therefore both of those plays were missed reads by the QB. In video 3, as you explained RD was able to get the read right. The result is a long run by the FB. The 2nd play was a good read but he did not do a good job getting into the hole and I would credit the AF LB for clogging up the hole. The first play in video 4 looked like a midline option. While I agree that Garland gave us fits up the middle, it looked more like the backside DT and LB made the play.

    All in all, AF D did a good job beating blocks and confusing the QB. If RD got those missed reads correct I believe the game could have looked drastically different.

  39. That’s a lot to chew on…

    – If the play in the first video is designed for the A-Back to block the C gap, I don’t understand the read that the QB missed. No, I take that back. I can see the DE stepping upfield, but it wouldn’t have mattered since Garland was able to tackle the B-back anyway.

    – As for video 2, I know they were missed reads. I just used those plays as examples to show what Air Force was doing, and especially why the A-backs never got the ball. Yes, it’s the quarterback’s job to make those reads, but I think most of us expected Ricky to have a few games like this coming into the season.

    – In video 3, I agree that the LB did a good job clogging the hole and that Ricky was slow in getting there, but I wasn’t trying to break down the play as much I was just trying to show general playcalling trends throughout the game. That’s mostly what goes on around here.

    – In video 4, Garland made the first hit and held on to the FB’s legs. He wasn’t alone, but clearly that sealed the fate of that play.

  40. Mike – love your posts. Highlight of my week.
    You break down the plays based on what happened. We smart alecks get to play the counter-factual what-if game and convince ourselves we are smarter that IJ. I like to go one step deeper and convince myself that if we’d had one of our stud FB, they would have broken more of the tackles on the inside, gotten more first downs, and some of the naysayers would be saying that IJ and KN got it right.

    All that being said, I don’t remember us beating AF when I lived by the bay so I’ll take it!

  41. I went on movement order to AFA in 1994 as a youngster when we got THUMPED by AF 43-21 (wasn’t that close).

    I LOVE BEATING THE ZOOMIES ALMOST MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD!!!!!! Great job to the team. Team win. When one aspect of the game is struggling, the boys found a way to win it with D and special teams! Amazing!

    NEVER take a W for granted!!!!!

  42. I think people need to understand that the QB of the TO is like a pitcher in baseball. The scouting report is there and you see where the batter stands in relation to the plate and you try to see if he’s cheating. Sometimes you throw a fastball a couple inches off the corner, and the guy hits it the other way for a double. That’s sports, tip your cap.

    All I care about is winning. I would rather Navy look bad and win than play well and lose. Remember that game against Delaware and Flacco a couple of years ago? We gained over 500 yards and lost.

  43. to Navyfb86, I can honestly say either the A-back or the Tackle messed up on that first video. There is no play we have where we have the A-back and Tackle go inside on an option play. We also don’t have gap assignments on option plays.
    To all the people talking about the play calling, it really doesn’t matter what you call when your OL is not as good as the DL they are playing.

  44. I saw opportunities with quick pass over the middle for 8-10 yards that was necessary to soften-up AF defence

  45. I saw Posposil and Merchant after the game, walking toward the AF sidelines to (happily) sing their alma first. Both of them looked as if they could barely move. If I never understood what we put into a win over another service academy, that sure showed me. I cannot imagine a better effort, and I was here in the Brigade when Roger played!

  46. Reading these posts are the highlight of my week too! Thank you for your hard work, patience and diligence.

  47. I think that:
    1) We have to remain ecstatic that Navy has done so well, especially against service academy rivals (I chock up most of the criticism to folks nervous, like I, of what might happen ‘one day’)
    2) The triple option, by its nature, can overcome poor offensive line play… to a point. Our O-line has struggled of late. I think that until they develop some level of dominance (this year or next), we’ll remain a more “balanced” team in how we get (hopefully) to a winning record and beyond.

  48. Be careful jackgaffigan48. You may be accused of wanting to throw 50 quick slants which, ironically, would have yielded more yards than 50 fullback dives.

  49. “Be careful jackgaffigan48. You may be accused of wanting to throw 50 quick slants which, ironically, would have yielded more yards than 50 fullback dives.”

    Did either of you watch the game? Or any games this year? 1) quick slants aren’t part of our normal game – is IJ supposed to invent a new play mid-game? 2) you imply that 50 fullback dives were called. Out side of the first couple of series (as TBD points out) – those were option reads. And generally the correct ones.

    You don’t scrap the system that’s given you 7 incredible seasons, seven wins over AF, seven straight CICs and a bunch of bowl games mid-game b/c you think you see an opportunity for a quick slant. KN and IJ know what they’re doing. If you don’t like how they coach or call plays, i’m sure GoMids has plenty of space for you to complain about our win.

    Plus – I’m not sure how that softens the defense. With Garland clogging the middle and the corner taking out the pitch option, it’s not like the linebackers had to adjust outside their normal assignments. To me a quick slant just as easily could have equalled an INT as it did a 7 yd gain.

  50. Some people will not be happy until we beat AF by 4 touchdowns, have 100 passing yards, 400 rushing yards, force 3turnovers, and the slot backs get the ball 20+ times.

  51. I’m only happy when we give it to the slots

  52. Great job Mike. You should be on WNAV as one of the broadcast crew. Keep up the insightful posts…it is a highlight of the week.

  53. Now, it’s not like there’s nothing to wonder about after a game like that once you’re done reveling in the win. But there’s no cure-all. This is the second game that anon has called for “quick slants.” It’s getting like “get the ball to the slots more.” As tight as the safeties were playing, I don’t know why people think anything was open underneath anyway.

  54. I know it is blasphemy to question the play calling but if everyone thinks that Garland is such a stud, why would you run 50 plays at the opponents strength?

    Sure that is the read but if the opponent has figured out your tendencies and they are using that to their advantage the strategy is not wise. An offense has the ability to break tendencies any time they choose.

    Ok, I will prepare for my abuse but before everyone is quick to type. Look at all of the above video clips and ask yourself who was responsible for backside contain for AF? No one. The safety followed the SB motion and the tackle pinched to the motion because they KNEW we were running inside.

    Same thing took place in Ga Tech game on Saturday. Go to the ESPN scoreboard site and watch the video highlight. Same type of defense, safety or LB chases the slot motion and GT scores quick 24 yard touchdown on the reverse. That is the same play we ran one time last year at Duke, fumbled and now put the play on the shelf.

    The key is not to always “read the defense” and take what they give you, but to score points.

  55. I am having a GoMids moment.

  56. Air Force didn’t have a safety chasing anything. They were in a cover 2, and the playside safety would come up in run support on every play. The linebacker followed the slot on some plays, and Coach Jasper called the counter option to take advantage. But guess what? That was stuffed to. You still have to block, and Navy didn’t. Garland wasn’t the only player Navy couldn’t block.

    Let’s recap… Run outside! But Navy couldn’t block the corners. Run inside! But Navy couldn’t block the nose guard. Pass! But Navy couldn’t protect the quarterback. Pass short! Intercepted and returned for a touchdown. There isn’t an adjustment you can make that doesn’t require blocking, which is basically what the coaches were left with the way Navy was playing.

    “The key is not to always “read the defense” and take what they give you, but to score points.”

    JUST SCORE POINTS, COACH JASPER! THAT’S WHAT I’D DO!

  57. Newt91 wrote :”i’m sure GoMids has plenty of space for you to complain about our win.”

    No, it really doesn’t. It’s all filled up with stoopid people already posting that crap, so Phat deserves some too.

  58. Bill Wagner’s column in today’s Annapolis Capital suggests to me that he has been reading your blog – in addition to questioning the coaching staff. He (and the coaches) say the same thing you are trying to tell us. The TO takes what the opponent gives us. Also factored in is how well we execute and how well they execute. Did anyone notice that our defense took away almost everything that AF was trying to do? I’d like to beat them by 20 or 30 but from some of the comments, you would think that we lost the game. Without doing reseach, I couldn’t tell you the scores of any of the Army or AF games over the last seven years but I can tell you that WE HAVE WON 14 IN A ROW! On to Rice, SMU, Wake, Temple …..

  59. I think we can all agree, bottom line, our inside game including the hole reads, the blocking, and the running were not effective enough, as that was what AF was giving.

    I go back to the Wake Forest comment. I think every follow-on rival we face who sees film from this game would be foolish to not employ the same type of defensive strategy. That could really mean trouble with the physical teams like ND and WF. We had better devise an inside game strategy designed to counter this given the level of experience and physical toughness of our players. Also, better really focus on the inside game in practice.

    One other point….with Teich out, I think it would be good to see more of Eddington. I don’t think the performance differential between him and Murray is that significant, and why not give Eddington more game experience to refine his reads and cuts. We could use his physical size and both could be more effective in an alternating capacity keeping their legs fresh.

  60. Good job Mike on the analysis. D and ST’s win this one. They call it a team sport for a reason.

  61. As frustrating as the criticism is, it’s amazing how far we have come. Ten years ago, all Navy fans wanted were moral victories and a real one against Army. Now we complain about not beating Ohio State and needing OT to beat Air Force. If we don’t beat Rice by 30, beware of the message board.

  62. Mike, you are better at game analysis than 95% of the sports writers in the country – and you write better, too. I can’t believe you don’t make a living doing this.

  63. newt91: If I’m not mistaken, “THE QUADRUPLE OPTION” is what Stan Brock was calling Army’s offense during some portion of his short-but-painful tenure at West Point.

  64. I’m glad most of the people commenting are not coaching the Navy team. We would be winless. Mike, you’re doing a great job of analyzing the games. Unfortunately, not everyone understands what you’re describing.

  65. Yes, it’s much too complicated for you simple folk.

  66. Great Stuff. I was there in the Welsh days, watching GATTUSO and LESZCZYNSKI. Even in those winning years, the cheers were often, “up the middle, up the middle, up the middle, punt!”… along with “Give ’em hell, George…. Hell, give ’em George”… if we only knew the dry spell coming.

  67. For everyone who is worried about other teams trying this, Honestly I hope they do because I can guarantee you they will not be as good at it as Air force is. They see the option all the time at practice and can practice against it at full speed. FYI the year we beat ND they played the 3-4 Defense and have not done it since then. It is very hard to change everything in your D in one week and then have to players execute the way AF did. Either way if we block better the FB and QB have over 100 yards rushing just like they did in 2006 at AF when they tried the same thing. (people seem to forget that, this is not a new defensive scheme like some think it is.)

  68. I wonder what this week’s comments would have be like if the final score was 46 to 43 (Navy win or course)with both sides racking up 500+ yards. Or for that matter, if AF had not made a touchdown with the INT and the final was 13 – 6, would the tone be somewhat different? Like all of us, I was doing a lot of nail biting as the game wore on – afraid we would find a way to lose. Instead, each week, each year, it appears we have the type of team(s) that find a way to win. It has taken a while, but I’m beginning to get used to it – and I like it!

  69. Thank you for a well reasoned, insightful, and indeed, educational write up. As it turns out, I rowed at Navy in the 60’s and still remark to friends that it rowing is a simple sport… the goal is to be ahead at then end. Navy did that Saturday.

    I well remember Army’s wins in the 90’s. Always close, but they were ahead at the end. There was not much whining abut how many points in how many games….they won. Any win against a service academy team is a huge win, as it was last week. Hat’s off to a great team and their spectacular effort . Style poinfts? Phooey.

    BZ

  70. Check out the Navy Sports Chat on hometownannapolis.com. Bill Wagner reports that Teich’s ankle injury was result of AF player twisting his ankle in the pile. Amazing.

    Wagner seems to be a straight shooter to me. Can’t imagine a beat reporter putting something like that out without his having at least tacit approval of the coaching staff.

    Another potential entry for Birddog’s “Great Moments in AF Football”.

  71. Three questions – when you are sitting at home watching on TV, how much of this do you see? I mean really, the cameras zoom into and focus on such a small area of the field that it boggles my feeble mind that folks can see enough to make play calls which encompass so much of the field.

    Second, I think you spent a game in the box. From that perspective, what did you think of the in game adjustments made by IJ and the staff up there? When you break down the film, how do they grade out?

    It sounds like the adjustments are being made for the most part, but if the TO is not hitting on all cylinders (and I do not mean being able to get the ball to the slots) in terms of assignments on a given play, we are in trouble. Add in a good D that knows our offense to the point that KN likened it to an intrasquad scrimmage, and does a good job on its assignments, double trouble.

  72. mike you have given us a great analysis on what happened and why the offense was lousy on saturday…….and we all will agree that any win over AF is a great one. I think people get ‘in trouble’ here when they suggest the coaches call this or call that because certainly we know better….. Other than blocking better, do you have any thoughts on how the O can improve?

  73. 85r –
    might be true, but i was only referring to the gushy posts following the OSU game.

  74. First time reader…amazed at your analysis and insights. Really impressive stuff. I am in complete agreement with your comments about Navy fans and their complaints. it wasn’t all that long ago I was standing in the rain in the upper deck wacthing a new D-I Connecticut team slaughter us 38-0 while the tumbleweeds rolled across the empy stands. I thought I was on a lost episode of Gunsmoke. Last week people started invoking the old “What is this George Welsh…up the middle, up the middle up the middle punt?” Well let’s remember what happened when boring old George Welsh left and we had 2 winning seasons the next 21 years…Enough of the past. Hurray for the defense! A remarkable turn around for a Navy defense that plays with more passion than any I have seen in years. What I have seen in the first 5 games on offense this year simply reminds me that guys like Campbell and Singleton and Tomlinson and Barnes were not only great runners and receivers, they were great blockers. Until we get execution and consistency on the perimeter we will be foreced to play in a phone booth…

  75. Pipes–
    I don’t see squat on TV, partly because I’m not really looking for it then. I just want to enjoy the game like anyone else. I watch again on Sunday to look at the details after cooling off from the elation/depression of seeing the game live.

    I did get to sit in the press box for Louisiana Tech, and it was a great way to see the game. It was pretty easy to see what the defense was doing, but it’s harder for me to see how Coach Jasper adjusted. I don’t have a trained eye for the stuff. I have to watch each play 4-5 times in slow motion to really figure out what’s going on. I know I try to boil everything down to a few representative plays and points here, but the finer points are a lot more complicated. I’m not qualified to grade anything.

  76. Rugger– Better blocking is the key to everything. I’m not smart enough to know what else could be done better.

  77. KN summed the game up best in the post game interview. He said playing AF is like playing the spring game. With the talent fairly even it comes down to mistakes and turnovers.

    Forget the margin of victory or how it was won, this win is huge in many ways. This was a pivotal game for both teams at this point in the season. We can put this behind us and look forward for the rest of the season, AF will be haunted by this until next year.

  78. The coaches said the way AF was lined up (to take away the outside), that the middle should have been open, but we didn’t block well in the midddle. I saw several pitches on the option that should have gone for yardage, but we didn’t get the safeties blocked. This says we didn’t block well anywhere! We have to get ’em blocked.

  79. I enjoy your analysis every week but the snarkiness of some of the entries is totally unnecessary. All of us are Navy Football fans. We should also be gentlemen. Don’t take me for a softy, after 20 years as an infantry officer. Its just that I expect more of USNA fans, even on a blog.

  80. My blog, my rules.

  81. Mike, thanks for the column. Great job, as usual. But I disagree that fans shouldn’t complain about the offense. I (and I’d dare say most fans) certainly don’t take a win against Air Force for granted – I celebrated as if we had won 55-0. But from a football perspective, the offense looked terrible, and fans shouldn’t be happy (i’m not suggesting boycotts or firings or anything like that). Back in the “dark ages”, we would have been happy to just beat Air Force (heck we were happy to beat Lafayette 7-6 my sophmore year ) – by any margin – because there were no expectations for the football team. I played on those teams and it sucked! (except for ’96!) These days (and rightfully so) just beating Air Force isn’t good enough, especially when we have the better team and better players (for the most part) but aren’t playing up to our capabilities. I hope we NEVER revert back to the days when we’re just happy to win a game.

    I agree, though, that the blocking SUCKED. But, knowing this, Ivan needs to do SOMETHING to counter that….other than run the same doggon play over and over and then complain that the plays didn’t work b/c there was no blocking. And to all of you who suggest that we took (the triple option) what they gave us based on the read – well he called the same play knowing the results – that’s like calling the same play over and over. He admitted that he was playing it safe…luckily he was able to do so b/c the defense was so stout. But in my opinion, his play calling has been suspect anyway. He needs to be more imaginative and use the weapons that we have and use them smarter.

  82. Beating Air Force isn’t enough? Are you kidding me?

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