Bend But Don't Break in Short Yardage?

With Navy ahead 35-31 late in the fourth quarter, East Carolina faced two third and short situations deep in the Mids' territory. If Navy's maligned defense could just muster up a stop, the Pirates would have been forced into a make-or-break fourth down. However it seems that the Mids were in their bend-but-don't-break defensive alignment. Time for bright-side, dark-side…

On the Bright Side…

- I like the play calling at the end of the game...especially the 3rd and inches pass play that should have been completed to Brandon Turner for a touchdown. Navy was playing for the win against East Carolina more so than last week against Rutgers in a similar situation when they ran the ball up the middle prior to trying a field goal.

- Navy back-up quarterback Trey Miller seemed very poised in the pocket. He is definitely not as quick as Kriss Proctor, but it looks like he has a very lively arm.

- Navy's defense in the second-half showed some life.

- Marcus Thomas' 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was pretty easily Navy's best special teams play of the year. It may be the best single play of the season so far.

- Although it might not show up in the stat sheet, I think Jabaree Tuani played his best game of the season. Unfortunately he didn't get much help from the linebackers in critical situations.

- Gee Gee Greene continues to show that he is a play maker. Every time he touches the ball, good things seem to happen.

On the Dark Side…

- CBS analyst Randy Cross getting my hopes up that the referees would reverse the incomplete pass call on Navy WR Matt Aiken. "That's a touchdown," said Cross. "He's right," I agreed. Unfortunately, the referees saw it a different way.

- Speaking of that critical play, the ACC replay officials took less than two minutes to rule that Aiken didn't catch the ball. You'd think that a play like that, in that situation, they'd look at it for a bit longer.

- I am a huge fan of Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green, and I understand his bend-but-don't-break strategy…for the most part. However, I do not understand only putting three or four defenders within four yards of the line of scrimmage when East Carolina has 3rd and inches with 4:54 left in game. The result was an easy first down after a four-yard carry. Furthermore, ECU's slot receiver had a seven- yard cushion on Navy's OLB and Navy's safeties were easily 11 yards off the line of scrimmage.

- In a very similar situation just over a minute later, with 3:20 left to play, ECU faced a third and one at the Navy 12-yard line. The Mids' alignment consisted of only one middle linebacker actually in between the tackles. And he was still five yards off the line of scrimmage. That's a pretty easy call for the Pirates' offensive coordinator. Just run the ball up the middle…which is what they did for another easy first down. Why exactly was Navy's defense in a bend-but-don't-break formation in these situations? If they make a stop, they force a make-or-break fourth down.

- I'm not sure if it was a misread by Navy QB Kriss Proctor, but running up the middle on fourth down on the Mids first possession was not a great decision. I have yet to see a defense stop Gee Gee Greene on a toss sweep in such a situation. On third and one, on the next drive, Greene scored a 12-yard touchdown. Furthermore, that fourth down play was the third hand-off in a row to Navy fullback Alexander Teich.

- Navy will now have to pull off a pretty significant upset to get to a bowl game – and to keep their bowl streak, and winning-season streak intact. In their way will be two teams (Notre Dame and SMU) with revenge on their minds from last season.

- It's time to try somebody else at linebacker. Can I put an all-points-bulletin out for senior linebacker Eric Stein? I'm not sure I have seen so many plays in one game when Navy linebackers over pursued in critical situations. Take those aforementioned third and short downs on ECU's final drive. Maybe the linebackers were just not in the right position to make a play…or maybe they are just not capable of making plays. One of those two scenarios must be accurate because ECU is not a good running team.

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