Navy UConn Recap

During the U-Conn. radio pregame show, Paul Johnson was asked during a taped interview about his team's lack of passing. He answered by saying that he calls the plays that are working and that will win the game. Saturday, however, was one of those rare occassions, like the Poinsettia Bowl, where it looked like Johnson opened the playbook.

Unofficially, I counted at least five different options--twirl, counter, lead, regular and mid-line.

Hampton said after the game that Navy hadn't used anything new or anything it hadn't shown, though it used the midline option more. I couldn't remember Navy running the play where the slot goes in motion, Hampton fakes a toss to the slot and then gives it underneath to the fullback.

Some of the plays were the same as ever--the play where Hampton fakes to the fullback, then follows him into the hole, always reminds me of Ben Fay and the 1996 Aloha Bowl and Fay doing the hula dance after the winning touchdown.

Saturday's game accomplished two things. One, it gave Hampton and the offense a ton of confidence. Two, it showed Air Force that Navy does have everything at its disposal and that Johnson is comfortable using everything with yet another first-year starting quarterback.

Calling the bomb off the fake toss was incredible. On the tosses, the play-side slotback, in this case Campbell, runs straight to the second level and tries to cutblock a linebacker. Running the bomb off the fake toss--and using a 'dummy audible' to further confuse U-Conn.--worked like a charm, since Campbell ran right at the linebacker, shifted his shoulder for an instant like he was going to block, then ran right past. Campbell kept running; the linebacker was standing still.

That is what the offense should look like. The big passing plays open up everything.

Have confidence heading into Saturday. With Johnson as coach or calling the plays, Navy has won out there in 1996 and 2004. I was at the 2002 game, and Navy had a chance early on. The Mids outgained Air Force 221-59 by early in the second quarter but were hurt by two fumbles and a bad pitch on a fake field goal.

It was 17-7 when, on 3rd and 12 from the Navy 21, Johnson had the team line up in 'heavy'--the formation where a wide receiver lines up at tackle on one side and the other side of the line features a tackle, tackle and guard.

Amir Jenkins (lined up at tackle) broke right through the defense and was wide open by at least 15 yards near midfield. Candeto didn't see him, was under pressure and threw to Roberts on the sideline (Roberts was double-covered). The pass was overthrown and incomplete. Johnson was livid on the sidelines.

Not to say that would have made the difference in a 48-7 loss, but it would have given Navy confidence and kept them close.

There were some surprising quotes from Air Force afterward. One of their linebackers was quoted in the papers as saying he told his teammates during the slow start, "We can't stoop to their level." Their QB said the next year, "I know Navy wants to beat us really badly, but I can't see that ever happening." DeBerry said something about wanting to dominate Navy, and being pleased it had happened.

I remember leaving the press box that day. Chance Harridge, then a junior, was doing a TV interview about being a Heisman Trophy contender. I remember wondering if Navy would ever beat Air Force.

Three games since, Navy hasn't lost.
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