Navy Report Card: Indiana

Navy defeated Indiana 41-35 on Saturday. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler grades Navy's performance in several key team areas.

The Navy Midshipmen stunned the Indiana Hoosiers 41-35 in Bloomington, Indiana last Saturday night. The Midshipmen (1-0) dominated time of possession and rushed for 444 yards. The Mids jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held off the Hoosiers wide open passing attack that produced 363 passing yards. It was Navy's first road win over a Big Ten opponent since 1979 at Illinois.

PASSING OFFENSE: B+
Keenan Reynolds completed 2 of 4 passes for 71 yards. Navy's running game was so effective that he didn't have to pass till midway through the second quarter. Reynolds first pass was worth the wait. It was a picture perfect 47-yard bomb that hit wide receiver Casey Bolena in stride and set up a touchdown. Reynolds hooked up with slotback Geoffrey Whiteside for a 24-yard pass completion with two minutes left in the second quarter. It was a great throw between defenders and a better catch by Whiteside who absorbed a huge hit but still held on to the ball. Keenan took a shot in the end zone just before the end of the first half when he tried to hit Bolena. Indiana's cornerback Tim Bennett made a nice play to break up the pass.

Reynolds threw an on target third down pass to Brendan Dudeck and pass interference was called against Indiana cornerback Michael Hunter. The defensive penalty gave the Mids a key first down and allowed them to extend the drive and later score to expand their lead to 38-21. Reynolds was called for intentional grounding to avoid a sack on the same drive but the Mids still ran it in. In the fourth quarter Keenan threw his last pass as he was forced to scramble and overthrew an open Shawn Lynch in the end zone. It wasn't a bad throw since only Lynch had a chance to make a play on the ball. If Reynolds had been able to put a little air under the ball it would have been a touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A+
Navy ran an amazing 70 times for 444 rushing yards, a 6.3 average and scored five touchdowns. Keenan Reynolds was masterful running the Navy triple option offense. He ran 32 times for 127 yards and three touchdowns. The midline option was there all night. Reynolds made a lot of great runs but probably none more important than on fourth-and-one with three minutes left in the game. He converted after being hit in the backfield but with a hand down, he kept his knees off the ground and lunged forward for the first down.

New slotbacks Geoffrey Whiteside (9 atts., 97 yards) and Darius Staten (8 atts., for 106 yards) had nice debuts as starters. Whiteside ripped off 31-yard gain on Navy's first offensive play. He ran back into the pursuit on a few long carries. Staten showed his bowling ball style and quick moves as he broke tackles all night.

Sophomore slotback DeBrandon Sanders had an impressive debut as he ran five times for 68 yards.

The Hoosiers defense focused their energy on stopping the fullback but they still scored twice. They limited starter Chris Swain to 29 yards on ten carries. Swain did power his way into the end zone for a score. Noah Copeland carried two times for seven yards and scored a touchdown on a three yard run. The offensive line did a terrific job of getting to the second level and cutting off Indiana's pursuit all game long. The blocking on the perimeter by the wide receivers and the slotbacks was terrific.

PASSING DEFENSE: C
Navy's bend but don't break defense was put to the test by Indiana's wide open passing attack once sophomore Nate Sudfeld replaced Tre Robertson at quarterback. For the game Indiana completed 31-of-43 passes for 363 passing yards and four touchdowns. On Sudfeld's first series, Navy ended a promising drive when fast striker linebacker Chris Johnson picked off a pass near the goal line and returned it 27 yards. Freshman Brandon Clements, making the start in place of the injured Kwazel Bertrand, was tested often. Clements (5 tackles, 2 pass defensed) was beat for Indiana's first touchdown on a 45-yard pass to Kofi Hughes. Clemons was beat deep but Wave Ryder sat on a crossing route by the tight end and failed to provide deep help that was his responsibility on the play. Clements defended two passes and was lucky when Hughes dropped two other potential touchdown throws. Brandon was flagged with a late hit penalty and was a lot more aggressive in run support than I remember him being at NAPS last season. Parrish Gaines led the Mids with ten tackles and allowed no touchdown catches. Wave Ryder (5 tackles) had good coverage on Ted Bolser but the 6-6" tight end just out leaped him for a second half touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. Linebacker Cody Peterson failed to cover the tight end Bolser when he ran an out route in the end zone for a six yard touchdown catch. Navy's front line produced no sacks. Defensive end Paul Quessenberry made a costly roughing-the-passer penalty to help a Hoosier touchdown drive when he tackled Sudfeld long after he released the ball.

RUSHING DEFENSE: B+
The Mids allowed just 118 rushing yards and the Hoosiers averaged 4.5 yards a carry and scored a touchdown. I felt the interior of the Navy defense helped secure the win when they force Indiana on two consecutive three-and-out series to open the game.

Nose guard Bernie Sarra (2 tackles) dominated up front at times freeing up inside linebackers Cody Peterson (7 tackles) and DJ Sargenti (eight tackles) to make tackles. Nose guard Bernie Sarra is a rock against the run. Sarra and linebacker Chris Johnson stuffed Tevin Coleman for no gain when Indiana went for it on fourth-and-one from their own 34 during Indiana's second offensive series. The Navy offense turned the defensive stand into a 14-0 lead.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Nick Sloan hit two of three field goals in a high pressure game. Kickoff coverage was outstanding as the Mids limited Indiana's dangerous kick returner Tevin Coleman to less than twenty yards a return (19.4). New kickoff specialist Austin Grebe had a nice debut with three touchbacks on eight kickoffs. Brandon Dudeck made a great play on the on Indiana's first on sides kick when he aggressively went after the ball and was hammered but held on to the ball. The Mids were lucky the second onsides kick was recovered out of bounds by Indiana. The rest of the specials teams had most of the day off. Punter Pablo Beltran didn't have to punt. The Mids had no kickoff returns as all of Indiana's kickoffs by Mitch Ewald were touchbacks. Punt returner Shawn Lynch made a mistake by failing to fair catch a rather short punt and allowed ball to roll for a 56 yard net punt as it went inside the 20.

COACHING: A+
I believe this was a game won by the coaching staff as much as the players. Ivin Jasper's offense clicked all day and the Hoosiers had no answers. He was helped by the fact that Indiana's defensive staff had all off season to prepare for the triple option and the best they could do was a vanilla, assignment based scheme that caused the Hoosier defense to be on the field for 74 plays. Buddy Green's defense did a good job despite being challenged by the Hoosiers wide open passing attack. A key moment in the game was on Indiana's second drive when Kevin Wilson showed Navy's defense no respect and went for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 34. Nose guard Bernie Sarra and linebacker Chris Johnson stuffed Tevin Coleman for no gain. The Mids drove the short field 34 yards for a touchdown to make the game 14-0 and despite being tested, they never looked back.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo had his team ready to play and his game management, not always a strength, was superb. His decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 just past midfield with three minutes left, while probably the only one to make, was still a gutsy call. Niumatalolo's mother passed away a few days before the game and the bond between him and his team is obvious and was a huge motivational factor for the Mids. On behalf of our readers the GoMids.com staff offers our condolences to the Niumatalolo family.

OVERALL GRADE: A
This was simply a tremendous road win against a Big Ten opponent with an explosive wide open offense. I thought Indiana would benefit from the fact that they played the Mids last season. Their defensive preparation was generic and you could almost see them focusing on "assignment" football as the Mids chewed them up on the ground.

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