Once again I find myself apologizing for a lack of posting. Not only did I not even bother to post a game preview for Hawaii, but only now, in the middle of Army week, am I getting the Hawaii recap out. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be doing this blog. I’m just not able to post as regularly as I want to. Of course, now that I say that, Army will bring back the Alternative Service Option and I’ll start spittin’ hellfire and brimstone again. Short of a train wreck of that magnitude, though, The Birddog’s days might be numbered. We’ll see.


Despite my staggering blogger cashflow, I’m way too cheap to spring for the NFL Sunday Ticket. My brother isn’t, though, so when the Chargers have a big game, I’ll sometimes make my way over to his house to watch. It can be an interesting experience. My brother has the ability to tell if the Chargers will lose after watching only one or two drives. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he gets up, says something along the lines of “I can’t stand to watch the Chargers fail,” and leaves. Meanwhile, I’ll sit on his couch and watch the horror unfold for the next three hours. He just has a way of telling when a team’s collective head simply isn’t in the game.

It didn’t take my brother’s sixth sense to see that the Mids were going to lose to Hawaii. For me it took one play on their second drive. We’ll get to that later, but first I want to talk about the other side of the ball.

Hawaii isn’t the first run & shoot team that the Mids have faced this year. June Jones took the offense with him from the Islands to SMU, where he gave the Mids all they could handle back in October. Despite the similar defensive approach that Buddy Green took in both games, the two keepers of the run & shoot faith differed in their ability to throw the ball against the Mids. SMU quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was held to a meager 19 of 41 passing for only 200 yards. On the other hand, Bryant Moniz led the Warriors with 366 yards and three touchdowns on 32-44 passing. Moniz could simply make throws that Mitchell couldn’t.

Take a look at Hawaii’s first touchdown. Navy is playing cover 2, maximizing coverage of underneath routes. When you play cover 2, there’s a soft area in the zone behind the cornerback, between the safety and the sideline. That isn’t a problem when playing against some quarterbacks, since they would need to get some air under the ball to throw that deep. That would give the safety time to get under the ball and make a play. Moniz, on the other hand, has the arm strength to deliver the deep ball with a flatter trajectory, getting the ball to his receiver before the safety is able to reach him. On this play, the slot receiver runs an out, preventing Kevin Edwards from dropping too deep into coverage. Kealoha Pilares, split wide, runs a simple fly pattern. Moniz throws him a frozen rope:

Emmett Merchant had no chance. Pilares and Greg Salas would combine for 18 catches for 249 yards.

Ricky Dobbs had a fine day of his own statistically, running for 127 yards and a touchdown. Stats only tell you so much, though. In reality, nobody on the Navy offense played very well. For all the talk of how important the bye week would be, it may have done the team more harm than good. At least when Navy was playing every weekend, players remained focused. There was nothing resembling focus on the field for the Navy offense that night.

In an uncharacteristic move, Navy won the toss and elected to receive the kickoff. Right away, Hawaii’s coaches showed a better understanding of the Navy offense than most of the Mids’ opponents. Over the course of the game, they frequently changed alignments in an attempt to confuse Navy’s blockers. On the first drive, though, their methods were a bit more shady. Knowing that the playside tackle would leave them unblocked to get to a linebacker, Hawaii’s defensive ends actually held them by hooking their right arm over the tackle’s shoulder. It keeps the tackle off the linebackers, and it gives the quarterback a read to keep the ball when the DE’s shoulders square up to the inside. It also happens to be illegal.

Ricky gets a read to keep, but since the DE isn’t actually playing the fullback, he just steps into the backfield. On the first play, Ricky pitched off of him. But the DE isn’t the pitch key; the linebacker is. Since the pitch key was playing the slotback, the play is blown up. On the second play, Ricky doesn’t pitch, but nearly has his head taken off anyway.

On Navy’s second drive, Coach Jasper called a toss sweep. The inside linebackers did a good job recognizing the play and carrying out their inside-out pursuit. What that should do is open up a nice cutback lane for the fullback the next time the offense showed toss sweep motion. But when Coach Jasper called Vince Murray’s number, it didn’t materialize. Instead, we got a play where all five offensive linemen missed their block.

Yeah, that’s a good sign that it’s probably not going to be your day. I wasn’t sure something like that was even possible.

After that, the Mids started running the midline. Coach Jasper added an extra tackle, which forced the Hawaii defensive line to shift to account for the strong side of the formation. That shift gave the tackle a better angle in blocking the DE. The extra tackle passed inside and blocked a linebacker. The first midline Navy ran was Ricky’s long touchdown. The safeties overplayed the tail motion and were blocked by the slot, giving Ricky a path to the end zone. The midline was Navy’s most consistently successful play all night.

Unfortunately, the offense cannot live on the midline alone, and when the Mids tried anything else, they were a mess. Navy was shut out in the second half. Their best scoring chance came in the third quarter after a pair of midline runs brought them inside the Hawaii 35 yard line. But the drive stalled when Ricky made the wrong read on three straight plays.

The mistakes don’t end there. For example, we have:

1. The slotback missing his assignment. The playside safety came down in run support and should have been blocked. Instead, the A-back blocks the safety running over from the other side of the field.

2. A fumble. It probably wouldn’t have mattered even if Marcus held onto the ball, since the playside slot whiffed on his block.

3. Another missed assignment. This time, the cornerback entered the count as #3, but instead of blocking him, the slot blocked the safety he should’ve taken on the first play.

4. This last one is all kinds of messed up. It’s a double option; the fullback is supposed to block the defensive end, while the slot takes the corner. Neither could connect.

Those last three came on the game’s final drive. The plays were there, but the Mids couldn’t execute.

There were plenty of other mistakes. This was just a representative sample. The bottom line was that this game meant a lot more to Hawaii than it did to Navy, and both teams played like it. It’s no wonder that Coach Niumatalolo didn’t even bother to show the game film to the team.

52 thoughts on “HAWAII 24, NAVY 17

  1. Section 130

    With all that, hard to understand why the score wasn’t worse. Let us hope the incentive of Army adds focus to the team that went missing in Hawaii.

    Thanks, Mike – and one can easily see how the rest of life can make it tough to publish the blog, especially this time of year. Appreciate your insight and the dedication of time necessary to provide these postings.

  2. blue and gold '00


    Once again, great post. I’d hate to see you go though, not too many other Navy bloggers out there with your level of enthusiasm and expertise. Keep charging!

  3. Frank

    Take it from an old coach. As soon as the season is over you will get the itch again. Just enjoy the last two games. It is also harder to break down losses particularly when the execution and effort are not there. Do as Ken did, forget the review for the players(blog junkies) and look towards next week. Thanks for making this season more fun with your prescient analysis.

  4. Dave

    I’m not even a Navy fan and this is the first football blog I check in my Reader. I’ve learned a lot here. If there were a Paypal donate button I’d chip in a little bit.

    Well, I *am* kind of a Navy fan. I think most cfb fans have a healthy respect and admiration for the service academies. I sure do, and my 7-year old boy is being raised the same way I guarantee it. And this blog has only deepened that appreciation.

    I do hope you cover the Army game in some detail. I spent some time during the summer watching and re-watching the Wisconsin-CalPoly game on the B10 Network. Ellerson runs the flexbone a bit differently, or did at ColPoly. I think I have an understanding of it and want to see how much I get right. Though Ellerson really doesn’t have the talent yet that he wants running his scheme. Except for the Villanueva kid. He is CFB’s answer to Herman Munster.

    That reference should date me a little.

  5. Joe92


    Thanks for another great post. Selfishly, I hope you continue this blog… it’s by far the best football site for a Navy fan.

    Hopefully the team put this one in the past a week and a half ago. Army game will not be easy.

    Thanks, again.

  6. ucbears

    Best college football blog there is, I am a high school coach and your break downs are dead on and awesome. I’d hate to see you stop, but I would understand its a lot of work for not much reward. Great job, keep up the good work.

  7. EKWJR

    Thanks for the write up, Mike. Hope you can keep them coming.

    I guess I am like your brother a bit. I was not far into this game before I was screaming at the screen, as you know from my exchange with you over at GoMids.com. But I cannot get up and walk away from a Navy game, even when a team hangs 70 on us like Ga Tech did in 2001…I think most of the guys who comment here are the same way or we wouldn’t be here…

    Lesson learned for me from this one:
    Next time I hear/read the phrase “business trip” spewing from the Navy football team, which was what I read in at least one player quote before this game, I am going to alert like a Bird Dog…Navy got the business, for sure…

  8. newt91

    great breakdown of the breakdown(s).
    here’s looking ahead to army, even if ARMY’S NOW RECRUITING GIANTS.

    Salty – are you a big Tito Puenta fan?

  9. Bill Wagner


    Send an e-mail to my home address when you get a chance. I want to e-mail you from that address so that it logs onto my address book permanently. I will be in Houston from Monday, Dec. 28 through Jan. 1. Hope you can make it out.

    Bill Wagner

  10. Tim

    You stop this blog, and I’ll hunt you down and pound on you until you fade into bolivian

    (PS – someday, newt, Tito Puente will be dead; and you’ll say, “Oh, I’ve been listening to Tito Puente for years, and I think he’s awesome”)

  11. Biff Condor


    I join the others pleading for you to keep the blog going. Where else am I going to find film breakdowns clear and concise enough for a Marine to understand?


  12. ThePaws

    Great postgame analysis as usual Mike. And as always, much appreciated. The time and effort you put into these analyses have taught me far more about Navy’s offense than any other source during the past couple of years, and I sure hope you find the wherewithal to keep it up.

    I’m sure that the weekly previews don’t take as much of your time as the postgame writeups, but I’d certainly rather see those go before the latter.

    Regardless of what you decide, my thanks for all you have done.

  13. NavyJVFan


    I was hoping that we would see more on your blog about the JV games, but with your schedule, I certainly understand. I really have enjoyed your pre-game insight and post-game analysis all season. You have been my #1 resource on how the triple option is supposed to run. Keep it up, were counting on you!

  14. Dave'69

    Mike – Thanks once again for your efforts. At least you know you are appreciated. This post makes the point that for the system to work, it has to be executed properly – on both sides of the ball. Was it Yogi Berra who said something like, “A good offense will beat a good defense every time, and vice versa.”

  15. Stork

    MIke, please do not stop your very informative insites..it makes watching the games more interesting, especially when I tape them and review what you post. You are a great instructor of the ins and outs of what is happening so quickly on the field. Thanks for all your efforts.

    And by the way, Tito Puente died a couple of years ago; I was a huge fan.

  16. tphuey


    Thanks again. Everything I know about option football I learned from you. And as you can tell from my posts on the message boards, I don’t know very much! If I am ever going to learn about the option, I need to keep reading your blog, and if you leave, I will be forever stupid. Then I’ll go all Globogym on you.

    We don’t want that to happen, do we? :)

  17. Jimbear NJ

    Come on Mike. This isn’t about you having a life. You’re going to force me to have one,! Without this blog I’ll have to give more attention to my wife and play with the baby instead of reading your blog. Not Fair.

    By the way wasn’t Hawaii’s technique of having the ends grab the OT the similar to what Army’s DC Mumford did in 2007?

  18. Zach Havenor

    I am sorry to hear you might end the blog. I have enjoyed reading your articles and football analysis. Thak you very much.

  19. Nice memory, jimbear. Mumford had his DE’s pinch the tackles, which is legal. There were plays, though, when a tackle would fight off the pinch, and the DE would reach out and grab him.

  20. Tom Rychlik '79

    From the very first time I read your blog I was addicted. As I have said before I also had/have serious concerns that the analysis you provide aids the enemy, so I am conflicted. Your ability to break down an offense or defense ought to be worth something to some of these networks who’s broadcasters do not know half of what you know. Have you considered broad casting or coaching? Between you and Wags, Navy fans have a lot to be thankful for.

    Scott Strasemeier is doing his typical great job of finding news articles that quote Army players saying things that Navy players never, ever, say before, or even after, a game. Cadet Justin Schaef is the latest example. He called Navy soft and said that Army was tougher. I got a kick out of that especially after comparing the Mid’s Service Assignments to the Woop’s Branch assignments. Somehow Air Defense Artillery (and several others) just doesn’t seem to engender a great deal of toughness when compared to 50 percent USMC and a Navy Seal.

  21. Schaef’s comments are laughable, Tom, but I’m not going to get into a pissing match abut the relative toughness of various service branches. Except bobsledding.

    It is kind of weird that Army football players select the same branch at such an overwhelming rate.

  22. tman

    I believe Chet and maybe even USNA Foundation could be convinced/arm twisted to understand that this blog is a vital “service” that improves Navy athletics/alumni relations and therefore leads to future contributions. We did it for the Navy Lacrosse Hall of Fame project.

    This or the TV network lesson plan option makes sense. I believe we could get the GT crowd to contribute too.

    Of course this only solves the $$$ issue, the time issue is your call. Maybe if we get the $$$, hire an assistant…just thinking.

    Seriously, you have improved your shipmate’s enjoyment of Navy football and for that you should be proud. Come back!

    PS: Why is it only embarrassing(ND) to loose to Navy? What about the other losses to lesser teams?

  23. Craig

    It sounds as if everyone here has learned as much as I have, and would be unhappy to lose such a reliable source of entertainment. Mike, since you are short on time and need to load-shed, why don’t some of your loyal fans guest-contribute? We could divvy out the game previews and wrap-ups, and I’m sure even a few others could figure out how to embed the clips. If it is manpower that is needed, then I’m volunteering. I don’t know anything about football, but I’m sure some other readers out there do and can help.

  24. Tom Rychlik '79

    I volunteer to do what I can to help out and to keep the blog going. I’ll be glad to cut you a check to periodically help defray some of your costs. My email address is above and if you send me an address I’ll send you that check. I am sure the bigger problem is time and there may be nothing any of us can do about that. If you have young children at home there never is enough of that. Heck, if you stay with this long enough I will have retired from my second career and can move to Annapolis. My ultimate goal is to relieve that elder gentleman that died a few years ago and attend all Navy Football practices. I can then be your on-the-spot reporter!

  25. newt91

    plus – if you go to a subscription model, you could post one entry threads, with a single link to another thread, that links back to here.
    throw in some headlines meant to stir the pot, and you’d be…

    oh wait, never mind.

  26. Nicole


    It would seriously suck if you stopped posting altogether, but considering the amount of time you must put into all this it’s totally understandable. As long as the board and Saturday game chats continue to go strong I think I’ll be able to survive. :)

  27. I’m learning a lot about this offense from this blog. I check for posts several times a week and even go back to some older posts to learn more about this offense. It certainly helps when I watch Ga. Tech play.

    Thanks for the information. I hope you will continue but I understand if you need to work on other things.

  28. Bear Shark

    Mike, I hope the comments of a few haven’t left you feeling the blog is not worth writing. Lot of jibber-jabber going on since and right before the ND game – hopefully that has not been the impetus that caused you to consider shutting down. Between you and Wags, there are no authentic sources for objective coverage – so know there are many out there that value your work. Go goats – enjoy the game.

  29. Mike, you are a treasure for Navy fans. I hope you can continue to bring your outstanding football knowledge and common sense approach to what can be a highly emotional (and oft times irrational) arena.

    One commnet – Notre Dame just got a whole lot tougher with the Kelly announcement! But they will still be beatable…

  30. lol
    Don’t worry, Bear Shark, my skin is thicker than that. I appreciate all the kind words from everyone, but I’m not fishing for compliments, I swear. It isn’t money I need, it’s more time! Lots going on at home and with the paying job that have made time a premium. I haven’t decided anything yet.

  31. Will Pearce

    Loved the yellow spot / red spot enhancements on the first video!

    Don’t quit now–since “discovering” you last season, I’ve been bragging about your blog to every member of our local alumni chapter who will listen, and have heard nothing but raves from those who have checked it out. You’re on our chapter web site’s blogroll, for heaven’s sake! What would I get to replace that link? (I’m the chapter secretary.)

    Seriously, I’d rather see you cut out the preview blogs (to cut your workload) than to quit entirely–I’ve learned so much about the offense from you that I never got from just watching games in the PJ/KN era. I really enjoy knowing what I’m seeing now–it just makes the games even more fun (or allows me to bitch intelligently, when things aren’t going so well).

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