It is amazing. Four games into the season and already
speculation has started among some members of the media and fans as to where
Navy will be going to a bowl game. Huh?
While many Navy fans have been subjected to several years of drug testing (due to their service to our country), headline writers in some of the local papers obviously are seeking to increase the anxiety for Navy Head Coach Paul Johnson.
When asked after game four about a potential bowl game, he politely answered, "I'm only concerned with the next game." Rightly so.
Now don't get me wrong, we all know the goals of the team are winning the Commander-in Chief's Trophy, have a winning season and go to a bowl game. All goals are still very much alive thanks to a terrific second half performance in a 27-24 win over Air Force on Saturday.
Reasons for the victory were many.
Most notable though were the KICKING GAME. The ability to punt the ball and kick field goals is now once again a regular part of the game plan at Navy. Eric Shuey has been under appreciated this year, because he has been solid as can be. Joey Bullen – one only needs to see recaps and box scores from the Air Force game. You may have heard about his heroics in rainy weather and without the aid of a timeout to stop a running clock that had less than ONE second on it when his game winning 46-yard field goal went through the uprights.
Secondly, DEFENSE. Much maligned through three games, the defense was outstanding on Air Force's last four possessions. Defensive end John Chan continues his progress and was outstanding on Saturday, garnering defensive player of the game honors from defensive coordinator Buddy Green and his staff.
"John has been working hard and it is showing now. He was outstanding and really did a lot of the little things right, such as angles, playing at a good pad level and it's something we have seen coming along," Green said.
Also notable Saturday was nose tackle Larry Cylc. Cylc was in on seven stops, and easily played his best half of football of the season.
"That was only Larry's fourth game and the fact it was against Air Force, who forces you to look out for so many things from blocking to plays they run, Larry really played well on Saturday," Green added.
PASSING GAME. Lamar Owens made some tremendous throws in key spots and now Navy has the weapons to do damage in the air game with so many options. Jason Tomlinson and Reggie Campbell had key grabs, but don't forget Marco Nelson, Tyree Barnes, and Karlos Whittaker. These are guys that can get the YAC - yards after catch, for those who need an interpreter.
Whew -- all that just to get to 2-2. Are the next couple of games winnable? Of course. Are they losable? Yes.
Why? Kent State chucks the pill - kind of a poor man's Tulane, a team that has been a nightmare match-up for Navy in the past. However, the more Navy executes on offense, the more Kent State stays off the field and has fewer possessions. Navy's secondary has had to grow up fast. Injuries have forced Buddy Green to dig deep into the secondary well, which produced two first time players last week, on a defense which is by far the youngest Green has ever had to coach.
However, if I hear Kent State coach Doug Martin call it a "wishbone offense" one more time, I think I'm going to go crazy. Not to mention, does he think Navy's players are so regimented in class that the coaches don't get any meeting time with them?
Take this quote for
instance from his press conference on Monday:
"I think the wishbone fits the academy well, but the problem they have is they don't have the time to meet with their players and practice. Like we have the time to meet with our players during the day - they don't have that. They have duties they have to be at, they may have thirty minutes to meet with their players. The thing is the wishbone does not take a lot of meeting time. They run the same plays every week- it's an execution offense- it's not a scheme offense. I think time-wise the wishbone really fits the academies well", Martin said.
A quick gander back through his own media guide would show that Navy once hung 62 on Kent, and in the other two wins, Navy posted 38 and 48. Do they think Navy just shows up off the bus, runs out and puts 62 on you and heads back to Bancroft Hall to study and sing the Blue and Gold?
Last time I checked, last year Navy was 10-2, went to a Division I Bowl Game and won it.
Johnson often smiles when people call his offense the wishbone, the broken bone, the ham bone. Many are wishing they had played against the wishbone when the game is over. After all, three guys starting in the same place are easier to defend then three guys who are spread out through the formation.
Certainly Johnson was pleased for his players in beating Air Force for the third time in four years, but he is also a realist and tells it like it is. PJ is perhaps the best coach in the country at keeping team focused on the next task at hand.
"I thought we played well in the second half on Saturday, but we haven't done it for a whole game. That's what I'm looking for. They've shown glimpses of what they're capable of. We have to be more consistent and put it all together in every facet.'' Johnson said.
Johnson added that playing one-win Kent State is just as big a challenge. "We can't look past anybody. We're not that kind of football team. We have to get ready to play against everybody or we will get our tail beat.''
This week's fact and opinion:
Fact: Penn State is back in the top-ten, along with Alabama. Welcome back to two of college football's storied programs.
Opinion: Joe Paterno is no longer the coach under the microscope at Penn State. Women's basketball coach Rene Portland has her hands full for allegedly discriminating against lesbians. A player, allegedly not gay, was supposedly questioned by Portland about dating a teammate. That player is now at James Madison.
Fact: USC is still unbeaten and ranked #1. Pundits across the land say this is the week it all comes to an end.
Opinion: Nope. Notre Dame can't cover USC's wideouts. SC in a one touchdown win.
Fact: Bobby Wallace will step down at the end of the season for Temple.
Opinion: Names on the list will be Andy Talley of Villanova and K.C. Keeler of Delaware. Keeler could get enough transfers to win at least one game there. Both however, will stay put.
Fact: Clemson, Oklahoma, Purdue all
have something in common - they are all 2-3
Opinion: Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk should tell his secretary not to accept any calls from the 864 area code.
Fact: Baylor won a conference road game for the first time since they were in the old Southwest Conference.
Opinion: Maybe Guy Morris made the right move after all getting out of Kentucky. Baylor is now 4-1. Bowl game possible. Lets not get ahead of ourselves yet. Vandy was talking Bowl game until it lost to Middle Tennessee State. It's still a good story given the turmoil of the Bears athletics program over the past couple of years and perhaps feeding off the karma of my girl Kim Mulkey-Robertson and her women's hoops national title.