In order to understand why Navy's 13-7 win over Georgia Southern – the same program ex-Navy coach Paul Johnson maintained as a national power – should not serve as cause for alarm, you need to start with the words uttered after two of Saturday's college football games.
Here is the first set of quotes:
"I don't know what's going on, I really don't."
"Mistakes… mistakes are killing us."
"We need to block better and we need to tackle better. Execute. We need to execute."
"Right now, I'm in shock. I don't know what happened. None of the guys took it lightly. We had a great week of practice, a great week of preparation. Everybody was ready. After that loss last week, we wanted to rip these guys' heads off."
"I'm disappointed, frustrated… We're a better football team than (our) record. . . . We've got some guys who are hurting right now, but I expect us to come back and be a better football team."
Now, look at this second stack of quotes:
"They did some things on the perimeter and we didn't do a very good job of blocking it. We did a bad job of getting in the edge. Some of it was execution, some of it was blocking."
"We definitely have to cut down on the penalties. We had some penalties that put us in long yardage situations and that's not good for us."
"I thought today was going to be like this. I was hoping it wouldn't be. It's not just that we didn't do this or that, it was them."
"They had a real good scheme. It wasn't so much things we did, they play good football… It won't be long before our offense gets going."
The two sets of quotes – made by players and coaches of two different FBS programs – look very similar, don't they? Lots of lamentations, deficiencies, fretting and failure run through those statements. Football-speak is a language that's easy to identify, and that unique tongue is apparent to any student of college pigskin.
You're waiting for the other shoe to drop, so here it is: The first set of quotes came from Virginia Tech players and head coach Frank Beamer. The second set of quotes came from Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs and head coach Ken Niumatalolo.
Both teams – the Hokies and the Mids – suffered emotionally wrenching season-opening losses in the state of Maryland. Both of them witnessed big dreams die in three and a half hours after eight months of offseason speculation and, to a certain extent, hype. Both of them scheduled FCS opponents in week two precisely because there would be a hangover effect at work, and also because the Hokies and Mids returned to the gridiron just five days after their openers. Four days of rest isn't sufficient for the punishing sport of football, so the promise of a tomato can was supposed to ensure victory… just not a peak performance.
The punch line is coming, but before it gets delivered, there's still another interesting (not-so-happy) parallel between Virginia Tech and Navy. Both teams scored 13 first-half points on Saturday – seven points in one of the first two quarters, six in the other – and then withered in the second half, failing to dent the end zone even once. Tech totaled just three points after halftime on September 11, while Navy got bageled in the latter 30 minutes of action at Memorial Stadium.
Navy? 13 points? Navy? Shut out in the second half? At home? Navy? Held to just 109 yards rushing?
Yes. Navy. Against an FCS team. In Annapolis.
Upset? Disturbed? Unsettled?
No – that's Virginia Tech's outlook this week. The punch line, at long last, is that while the Hokies couldn't put away James Madison, the Men of Ken did post the "W" against the eager and energetic Eagles, who didn't have a meager four-day rest break in advance of this contest. When you realize how spectacularly Virginia Tech failed on its home turf, the mere reality of a win – no matter how ugly or inelegant it was – says a lot about the Midshipmen. The setback against Maryland was a supreme stomach punch, but while Virginia Tech couldn't rebound from its Boise State-induced nightmare in Landover, Maryland, Navy did respond to its Baltimore stink-bomb with a win.
Now… now… we can move on with the regular season. Four-day breaks between games can also be left behind, too.
Don't be worried… at least, as long as you don't have a Virginia Tech fan in your extended family.
The outlook for Navy just took a turn for the better.
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