Preview: Navy vs. Massachusetts

Well, it's time to get nervous. Massachusetts is a Division I-AA program but they come from a conference, the Atlantic-10, where they do a lot of damage to Division I teams. Richmond defeated Duke, 13-0, last weekend. In 2004, Maine defeated Mississippi State and New Hampshire beat Rutgers. Delaware beat Navy in 2003.

The Atlantic-10 also is where Northeastern plays. The Huskies gave Navy fits in their 2004 meeting. Navy rushed for 300 yards, though 101 came in the first four and a half minutes. Once the Huskies calmed down, it got much harder for Navy. Northeastern took away the fullback—Eckel had 53 yards rushing, and his longest run was 9 yards. Navy won, 28-24, and it wasn't pretty.

This also will be the first game in the 124-year history of Massachusetts football to be played in Maryland. It will be a special game for their starting weak side linebacker, No. 2, Brad Anderson. He is from Urbana High and he dedicates every game to his best friend, Billy Gaines, who died in an accident in a church in June 2003. Gaines was a scholarship wide receiver at Pitt at the time. In front of so many family and friends, I expect Anderson will play lights-out.

The UMass quarterback, Liam Coen, is legit. He was recruited by UConn and initially wavered on his commitment to Massachusetts after the former coach, Mark Whipple, left to become the quarterbacks coach for the Steelers. Coen signed with UMass after being assured that it would continue to pass the ball as much as it did when Whipple was coaching.

In high school, Coen threw for more than 5,800 yards and 66 touchdowns in three years as a starter. He is considered the best quarterback at UMass since Greg Landry in the 1960s. Landry later spent 11 years in the NFL, mostly with the Lions.

I expect Massachusetts will take away Navy's inside running and try and make Hampton beat them with his passing. Hampton is a much better passer than he showed last week, remember, he had a nice touchdown pass against Notre Dame last year, and he was inserted to throw the Hail Mary pass against Maryland.

Against ECU, the receivers were open. Really, Hampton only made one mental mistake throwing the ball (as far as I could tell). It came when he threw to Campbell on the sideline rather than the open receiver a few yards away, near the middle of the field (I think it was either Barnes or Tomlinson.) Otherwise, his problems were all mechanical. I think that's what Paul Johnson meant when he said Navy made many mistakes against East Carolina , but they were correctible mistakes.

Navy has to figure it will get Massachusetts's best shot. I was hoping Navy would be able to save some of its playbook—and trick plays—for Stanford, but they may need them against UMass. Like Pinkney, Coen is accurate, and they will probably look for underneath stuff and hope Navy can't make the tackles.

The one good thing to come from the ECU game is that Navy's offensive line looks really, really good. ECU knew what was coming and still couldn't stop it.


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