Today was a lot more low-key than the last two. I took it easy this morning, basically sitting on the couch, watching Law & Order reruns, and writing about yesterday. Today was the team’s walkthrough at Reliant Stadium, which usually isn’t the most intriguing event in the world. I didn’t go, but fortunately for you all, Bill Wagner doesn’t share my lazy streak. He wrote about it, and his lunch with Chet Gladchuk, on his blog.
Just because I was a worthless blob today doesn’t mean there wasn’t any news. There was some big news, actually, as it was announced that the Texas Bowl was bought by ESPN Regional Television. It will still be run by Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, which is an arm of the Houston Texans whose job it is to put revenue-generating events into Reliant Stadium. That’s good news, because these guys know how to put on one great event. It’s clear that the bowl’s organizers have every intention of moving this game up the bowl ladder, and it’s already happening; next year, the game will be higher in the Big 12 pecking order (up to #5) and will begin an association with the Big Ten. I hope that doesn’t rule out a return trip for Navy down the road. Everything about this bowl has been first class, including tonight’s media reception, held at the Downtown Aquarium complex. I was eating beef wellington while I watched the 4th quarter of the Humanitarian Bowl. That’s living.
Tomorrow is game day. I get antsy if I don’t get to the stadium really early, so I’ll be heading out of here by 9:30 or 10:00 for the 2:30 kickoff. I have admission to the big Navy tailgate tent, but I’ll be making my rounds elsewhere too. It’s going to be a tough game for the good guys. Brady DeMell has to step in at center and deliver against a pair of Mizzou defensive tackles that are 6-1, 305 and 6-5, 290, respectively. Defensive end Aldon Smith is a freshman All-American with 11 sacks, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is a Butkus Award finalist. It’s no surprise that this defense is 12th in the nation against the run. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to stop the option, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt. Against a defense like this, Navy is going to need big plays. Extended drives are going to be difficult, and the Mids are going to find themselves in a lot of 3rd and 6, 3rd and 7 situations. Whether these big plays come from long runs or Ricky’s arm, it doesn’t matter. But the Mids will need to find a way to score on 6-play drives, because 12-play drives are going to be tough to come by. Defensively, it’s all about stopping the run after the catch. Missouri isn’t the first great passing team Navy has faced this year, and Danario Alexander isn’t the first elite wide receiver. The Mids haven’t really stopped any of those teams. They have, however, been able to manage them, and they’ve done so with good tackling. Catches for 5 yards haven’t turned into runs of 40 yards, something Missouri does very well. They’re going to get their yards. They’re probably going to get a lot of yards. As long as those drives end in field goals instead of touchdowns, Navy will have a chance.
Not that you didn’t already know that Missouri was going to be a tough matchup. But the Mids have had their fair share of tough games this season, and they have played well. There’s no reason to believe that tomorrow will be any different.