Swezey: How Navy Won

It appears Navy has at least seven or eight offensive linemen who can play regularly without the offense missing a beat. Reserves Gaskins (a sophomore) and Gabbard (a junior) played much of the drive where Navy wound up with a field goal for a 20-3 lead. Gaskins, Person, Cole Smith and Gabbard were in on the drive that led to the touchdown that made the score 27-3.

Both drives came against Stanford's starters.

It was the same in the East Carolina game. Starters Harper and Rossi left with minor injuries late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Navy inserted two reserves and marched down the field on that 93-yard drive for the clinching touchdown (all 93 yards were rushing yards).

That depth will help in the future; no need to get too alarmed that Navy is starting three seniors on the o-line, though there does not appear to be a natural successor for Rossi at center.

Stanford looked as if it had never seen the option before and that the Navy cut blockers were radioactive. The Cardinal used that 3-4 defense where a noseguard lines up over the center and the ends line up about a half-yard behind where the noseguard is lined up.

ECU used this defense a little bit too, but where I saw it most was against Colorado State in the bowl game, and we all remember how that one ended.

Navy could have attacked the defense Stanford used in at least three ways. I think it chose to stay pretty vanilla this time since it was moving the ball. The quick half-rollout sideline passes were open all game, not least because Hampton wasn't going to get much pressure since the d-lineman on the play-side was lined up a half-yard farther away than normal.

Ballard also was doing well against that defense because of his excellent vision and because Rossi was able, more than a few times, to turn the noseguard one way or the other and clear some room.

Hampton helped with near-perfect timing on most of his pitches, i.e. he pitched the ball just as the defenders were closing in on him.

If that stuff hadn't worked, however, I still think Navy would have scored a ton of points on Saturday. Against Colorado State, Navy used play-action passes, because Owens got an extra half-second (at least) to throw and the receivers got extra time to get downfield since the d-linemen were lined up a step or two further away than usual.

Owens's five completions went for 144 yards in that game.

Navy also could have used the option where the fullback runs between the guard and tackle rather than the center and guard. It looked like Navy used that option for Ballard on one play in the third quarter and he got a nice gain out of it. I think it's called the midline option, and Johnson generally doesn't use it a ton until midseason.

Again, no reason to show all of this stuff in one game.

Basically, if you're a Navy fan and you see another team lining up its defensive ends a half-yard behind where they normally are, start licking your chops.

The defense and special teams didn't give up any big plays and forced some turnovers. About the only problem on special teams is that it appears reserve kicker Matt Harmon's away jersey has him playing for "NAYV", I looked at it at least three times and I swear that's what was on the front of it. (Once a copy editor, always a copy editor, though I may have gotten the farther/further rule wrong a few grafs earlier.)

Anyway, there will be more on the Tulsa game later this week, but a quick word for now: This is one of those games that is unique to being an independent. Fly across country, play a chardonnay-drinking Pac-10 team and then come back home for a knock-down, drag-out.

Tulsa is legit on defense, especially its linebackers. They are experienced, tough and will be looking for a fight (Stanford provided none of those things).

If you like old-school football my guess is this game will be for you. Other than Air Force and Army, I think this will be Navy's most physical game.


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