Navy Football 2013 In Review: "Beltraned"
SWUNG ON AND BELTRANED
The power of Pablo Beltran's leg helped Navy get into the swing of things last season, aiding the defense on the days when the offense wasn't always in sync. The Midshipmen certainly enjoyed a number of afternoons when the offense rang up point totals in the 40s, but when success didn't come quite so naturally for Keenan Reynolds and company, Beltran was there to flip the field and prevent opposing punt returners from getting a good look at a runback.
When you look at the website cfbstats.com and pore over Navy's 2013 statistics, you'll easily gravitate to Beltran's 41.43-yard punting average and be rightly impressed by it. Yet, the more valuable punting-related stat to emerge from the past season is that Navy's opponents averaged only 4.73 return yards per punt, a total of 52 return yards over the course of the whole season. Only 11 of Beltran's 40 punts were returned to begin with. Directional kicking and sufficient hang time both coexisted alongside the strong 41-yard average. Beltran gave Navy a complete performance at the punting position, and that's why he's become such a marked asset to the program.
When one looks at hidden yards, the desire to accumulate more of them is most instinctively identified on one's own side of the ledger – how can we return more kicks? How can we get more yards after pass catches? However, winning this "game within the game" can just as readily be achieved by limiting whatever the opponent does. Navy wasn't special in terms of returning punts last year – 7.4 yards per return and only 74 yards overall – but with opponents falling nearly three yards behind the Midshipmen, this aspect of competition didn't hurt Ken Niumatalolo's team at all. What could have become a weakness turned into a wash at worst and, quite reasonably, into a modest advantage.
Navy has so many components of a quality team. The fact that the kicking game features a star performer is just one reason among many why the 2014 squad can rightly expect to do big things.
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