Take a look at the scoreboard from week one around college football. You’ll find plenty of close calls and near upsets (Eastern Washington’s 30-27 loss to Washington comes to mind) and you’ll also find plenty of games with misleading final scores. You’ll see blowouts and nail biters, traditional powerhouses running roughshod and FCS punching bags getting, well, punched. Somewhere in there, you’ll see Navy’s 40-17 win over Delaware.
It wasn’t the first time Navy beat an FCS team, and it was far from the most impressive from a production standpoint (anyone remember Shun White?). But with so many questions entering the year, and so many defensive players breaking into the fold for the first time, Navy’s win over the 5th-ranked Blue Hens is something to feel good about after an offseason of turbulence.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to play cheerleader, and I’m not here to start making predictions or begin starting chants to see the proverbial “gravy” everyone always talks about. But at the same time I’m not coach Niumatalolo, and I’m not going to nitpick when Navy’s win was in fact a very solid performance for week one, especially given what some other college teams were dealing with against lesser foes this past weekend. As Bruce Feldman reminded everyone during the halftime break, KC Keeler’s Blue Hens aren’t exactly the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Delaware’s number five ranking was well deserved. Considering Oregon State – a BCS team – fell to 24th-ranked Sacramento State, and that Duke – another BCS team – lost to 16th-ranked Richmond, Navy’s win looks like the kind the kind of business-as-usual game you’d expect a perennial bowl team to have over an FCS team.
And you know what, it was. The final stats– including Navy’s 437 yards to Delaware’s 363 – may not seem blowout-worthy, but the Mids did almost everything right. From Kriss Proctor’s running of the option, to the defense stepping up in key moments and holding the Hens off the board, Navy kept the perennial FCS title contender at arm’s length for the entire game. Once more, Navy did it virtually mistake-free. I mean, how many week-one games do you see without a team committing a penalty or just turning the ball over a scant one time? How about having a kicker nail a 54-yard field goal, or a special teams unit – with a number of freshmen, mind you – giving up no big returns? Now that‘s something last year’s team didn’t manage to do in the opener, nor was it something Navy managed to do in its rout of Towson in the 2008 opener.
There’s a lot of season left to play, and a lot of games on the schedule that are going to challenge this team more than Delaware. For all we know, the Blue Hens might end up being the FCS’s biggest disappointment. But something tells me they won’t be, and something tells me that Navy’s business-as-usual win could be a welcome prelude to a season filled with many more.