The Triple: Fordham

Three quick observations from the Fordham game:

The Obvious

There’s only one thing on everyone’s mind right now, and that’s the status of Tago Smith’s right knee. The senior quarterback was having a tremendous outing– he finished with 97 yards on 10 carries– before he was injured on what appeared to be an awkward cut.

Ken Niumatalolo was clearly shaken when talking about Smith in the post-game press conference.

“He’s just a great kid. He really symbolizes who we are,” Niumatalolo said. “Hasn’t said crap for three years, kept his mouth quiet. He came to work every day, didn’t complain, didn’t get bitter.”

Niumatalolo seemed to take the situation personally.

“You know, I was the guy keeping him off the field,” he continued. “There were other coaches that wanted to take him at other positions and play him, but I held him back. For three years he didn’t say anything. He just worked his butt off.

You just feel bad for a kid that’s waited his turn. He’s worked so hard. You just feel for the kid.”

These non-contact knee injuries are usually bad news, although we likely won’t know just how bad until Smith undergoes an MRI scan. It’s hard not to assume the worst after listening to Niumatalolo’s comments. If that is indeed the case, and Smith is lost for the season, then the keys to the offense will be turned over to Will Worth. In that, Navy at least has a silver lining.

There aren’t many #2 quarterbacks more prepared than Worth to assume a starting role. He’s a senior. This is his fourth year under Ivin Jasper’s tutelage. He won the Admiral Mack Award for being the most improved player in spring practice before last season. He spent that same spring camp as the #2 quarterback, since Smith was out with an injured thumb. With Navy’s two-huddle practices, that means he got as many reps as the first team. 

Ivin Jasper has stated on more than one occasion that he is confident in Worth’s ability to run the offense. Niumatalolo reaffirmed that confidence after the game.

“Will knows our offense,” he said. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid. I thought he played really well when he went in there.”

Worth did play well, although he clearly doesn’t have Smith’s speed. Nevertheless, if you have a quarterback that can get the offense in the right plays and make the right reads, you can win. Will Worth can do that.

The Defense

The game was a bit of a mixed bag for the Navy defense. Statistically, it’s not exactly reassuring to give up 464 yards of offense– 302 passing– to Fordham. I don’t think those numbers don’t tell the full story, though.

The Mids were fairly dominant on first and second down. Of Fordham’s 18 third downs, 11 were third and long. However, the Rams were able to convert a few more of those than you’d like to see. Fordham was able to pick up first downs with scrambles and passes underneath the coverage; Navy’s linebackers were dropping back so deep that there was often nobody in the middle of the field. While Coach Niumatalolo mentioned after the game that the Mids used a few different coverages and zone blitzes, they didn’t rush more than four very often. Coach Pehrson might have been keeping things simple, not wanting to tip his hand on what kind of blitzes he has cooked up for AAC opponents.

Even so, Navy still managed to tally three sacks. They also made Chase Edmonds a non-factor in the game, holding him to only 70 rushing yards. Edmonds has been a touchdown machine for Fordham, and the Mids’ ability to contain him was a big reason why the Rams could only manage to get into the end zone once. No matter how many yards Fordham had, 52-16 is still 52-16.

Chris High has arrived

There has been a lot of turnover up and down the Navy roster, but fullback was one position that seemed more or less settled coming into the season. Shawn White didn’t have too many carries in 2015, but when he did get the ball, the 255-lb. bruiser was impressive. That made him the heir apparent to Chris Swain at the start of fall camp. It came as some surprise, then, when Chris High emerged as the starter. Today, the junior showed us why.

High took full advantage of his first career start, carrying the ball 10 times for 176 yards and two TDs. Fordham might not have been the most intimidating matchup, but they did stack the box to make it difficult for Navy to run up the middle. It made no difference to High, who ran through arm tackles, made good reads to find running lanes, and turned on enough speed to do damage in the open field.

While there’s only so much you can learn against an FCS school, a fullback averaging 17 yards per carry is noteworthy. I still expect all three fullbacks on the depth chart to share the load this season, but High showed that he is ready to get the lion’s share of carries if called upon to do so.

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29 Responses

  1. I can think of few other schools where losing the starting QB is less consequential. I would say Worth is less of a “silver lining” than a shining example of Navy’s leadership training and preparation for taking over after your best friend gets his head blown off (G-d forbid).

    Definitely, I agree that they were trying to provide a minimum of useful film to AAC teams. Fordham may have racked up 464 yards, but only 16 pts. I will leave it to someone who actually remembered to record the game *eep*, but it seemed like they were dialing the defense up and down depending on how close the Rams were to the end zone…

    High indeed rocks hard.

    • I completely disagree about the quarterback. The position is probably more important in this offense than any other. The link between Navy preparation and football preparation is not really what people believe it to be. I just think that Worth has enough of the former to be effective.

    • The latter, perhaps, or are you agreeing with me after all … ?

    • I agree with you that Worth is ready. I disagree on why. But the important thing is that he’s ready either way.

    • UConn delenda est!

  2. Great observations. ‘Really captured the essential takeaways from Saturday’s matchup. Worth led a good offensive effort, although we’ll all be checking the wires today for news on Tago Smith,

  3. First things First. God bless Tago Smith. I know in the full scheme of things that Navy Football is just a game. However, one would have to have a granite heart not to sense the extreme disappointment that young man feels today. He appears to be an exceptional young man who has been dealt an ugly hand.

    Astute observation regarding “non-contact knee injury”. I was thinking the opposite. After watching Coach Niumat’s emotional post-game press conference, I concluded that the staff already knows the worst.

    Agree your observations on our defense. We have to see what happens as the season unfolds.

    I was disappointed in the number of times Fordham sacked our QBs. Know that drop-back pass blocking is always dicey for us, but expected that we would do better against Fordham in that department.

    Mike, what adjustments, if any, might Ivin Jasper make to his play-calling selection now that Will Worth is QB.

    • In terms of command of the offense, I think Coach Jasper is as confident in Will Worth as he is with Tago. Only adjustment might be on plays designed to take advantage of the quarterback’s quickness, like the outside zone. But that’s a guess. I think we’ll see the full playbook at first, then adapt to Will’s strengths as the season progresses.

    • Thanks, Mike. Accidentally made my comment above anonymous.

  4. In the post game radio show, Omar Nelson was talking up Malcolm Perry and that he should start the next game, assuming that Tago will be out…. which by now is a given. He cited Perry’s quickness in executing the mesh as opposed to Worth’s and it was obvious watching them both that Perry has the quicks. Perry sure didn’t look like a JV player to me, and he very well might be the if one of the FB’s falters.future starter…. but not sure that he has all the tools yet to be the instant starter.

    Quite a story though. The New York Post in their synopsis of the game talked about nothing but Perry being called down form the stands to suit up…… Perry may or may not not start the next game, but I’ll bet Zach Aby feels a little like Wally Pip today…. whatever the infraction, he’s kicking himself right now.

    Somehow word got out that Perry is a plebe.

    I liked the fact that one of the young Jersey guys got some PT… Youngster Anthony Gargiulo got 4 carries for about 20+ yds and made at least one nice block that I saw. I guess he’s next up if one of the FB’s falters.

    • Perry, as gifted as he is athletically, was very clearly not ready to run the offense.

  5. Edited some of my fat fingered errors from my post above:

    In the post game radio show, Omar Nelson was talking up Malcolm Perry and that he should start the next game, assuming that Tago will be out…. which by now is a given. He cited Perry’s quickness in executing the mesh as opposed to Worth’s and it was obvious watching them both that Perry has the quicks. Perry sure didn’t look like a JV player to me, and he very well might be a.future starter…. but not sure that he has all the tools yet to be the instant starter.
    Quite a story though. The New York Post in their synopsis of the game talked about nothing but Perry being called down form the stands to suit up…… Perry may or may not not start the next game, but I’ll bet Zach Aby feels a little like Wally Pip today…. whatever the infraction, he’s kicking himself right now.

    Somehow word got out that Perry is a plebe.

    I liked the fact that one of the young Jersey guys got some PT… Youngster Anthony Gargiulo got 4 carries for about 20+ yds and made at least one nice block that I saw. I guess he’s next up if one of the FB’s falters.

  6. Mike–why did we not pitch to slots more often yesterday? Because we did not need to do so???

    • The movement of the football in the triple option is based on what the defense does. If the defense end concentrates on the QB, the QB gives the ball to the FB. FB Chris High burned Fordham for 176 yards on ten carries. Navy perhaps could have run more jet sweeps (designed pitch to slot back), but success with what they did run (427 yards rushing) removes any of my desire to second guess Ivin Jasper’s playcalling.

    • I know how it works Mike, but found it unusual that Coach Jasper did call the pitch in the entire first half.

    • That wasn’t me. I’m not sure why it’s unusual though. If your fullback is averaging 17 yards per carry, why do anything else?

    • Just to give the B’s some action. :-)

  7. I was actually thinking of Ben Fay and Chris McCCoy yesterday …. watching watching Worth and Perry……

  8. A relevant question is where was Zach Abey? He is listed as #3 on the QB depth chart.

    • Suspended by the coaches this week. He will be available against UConn

  9. Is it bad that while watching the game I kept thinking “what will Birddog say about that play?” Good analysis, Mike. I agree on the pitch calls, if they sell out to cover there take what they give you, and they did in a major way. Great day to be at NMCMS!

  10. Maybe its the number 15 but in watching Worth play i always wondered how a big physical Tim Tebow like QB who could throw the ball would run the Navy offense. The closest thing to a pure physical running QB type starters Navy had in triple option era were probably Brian Madden and Brian Hampton. Neither could throw the ball. Hampton ran a lot bigger than he actually was looking back. Not saying Worth is anything like Tebow! He’s obviously not that talented and not as big (Tebow was 6-3, 236 in college) but with Smith missing time it will be interesting to see how it works. It a change from the last 10 years from a style standpoint at QB.

  11. Mike, Please tell me I am wrong that when Tago Smith was hurt that Will Worth was the only QB in uniform. The New York Post ran the story that Malcolm Perry was called from the Brigade and dressed in a football uniform. Strasmeir is absolutely silent on any write up of the game other than the Stat Summary!

    • He tweeted it out and e-mailed a bunch of stories on it. Abey was dressed but was suspended, so they grabbed Perry

    • James Wright, you may want to check twitter or read the Capital or Post. The Washington Post, not the New York Post. Couldn’t have been made more clear.

  12. Any news on Tago?

    • Watch Coach N’s post game interview

      His emotion says it all.

  13. Tago has a torn ACL and is out for the season. Worth is the guy.

    http://www.capitalgazette.com/sports/navy_sports/ph-ac-cs-tago-smith-update-0906-20160905-story.html

  14. Unfortunately, this reminds me of Brian Hampton going down early in the year…and, losing him for the season. (A decade ago….) Major bummer. The silver lining then? We got to see Kaipo early….
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/17/AR2006101701612.html

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