With the 30-19 win over Temple, Coach Johnson notched his 100th career victory. Doing so in his first 135 games is 26th fastest all time.
But a new challenge emerges as the Midshipmen head north to New Jersey. Defensive Coordinator Buddy Green will need to work some magic to try and keep the Scarlet Knights offense in check.
All in all, Navy did not play that well against Temple, so the coaching staff will need to do a lot of teaching this week to improve the execution on the field.
Rutgers is ranked 15th by the Associated Press and 16th in USA Today/Coaches poll. They also are currently riding an eight game home winning streak, with is tied for sixth longest in the nation. The Scarlet Knights are probably the most talented team the Midshipmen will face this season.
After finishing 2006 11-2 and wining the program's first bowl game in its 137-year history, Coach Greg Schiano has elevated himself into the class of Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen as New Jersey royalty. Surely, seven years ago his friends and family must have made fun of him for leaving the University of Miami for Piscataway, but now who's laughing.
One of the keys to unlocking the sleeping giant that is the state university of New Jersey has been recruiting. Finally in Schiano, Rutgers has a coach that can tap into the talent rich region. Of the Scarlet Knights 22 starters, 19 are from either New York or New Jersey.
Navy Offense vs Rutgers Defense
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada opened the Temple game with two passes in the first three plays. The first one fell incomplete, but the second was a perfect strike to Shun White. Kaipo only attempted 5 more passes the rest of the game, but he did something to impress the Rutgers coaching staff. In his weekly press conference, Coach Schiano heaped praise on the junior signal caller. He had the following to say about Kaipo, "Now this guy is putting balls on the money. He's throwing 18-yard comebacks on the dime." Kaipo finished 3 of 7 passing for 78 yards. He also looked good running the football with 102 yards on 15 carries, including a near perfect 44 yard touchdown run. What weren't perfect were Kaipo's option pitches. Several were either high, behind, or slow getting to the slot back.
Slot backs Reggie Campbell and Shun White made several big plays last week. Reggie finished with 7 carries for 46 yards and one reception for 20 yards. Shun had the biggest night of all the Midshipmen. He finished with 122 yards on 8 carries and one reception for 37 yards. But things were not perfect for Shun as he missed several blocks and blew a few assignments. Coach Johnson commented that Shun needed to improve without the ball in his hands. Fullback Adam Ballard was solid, but not spectacular. Part of that can be attributed to Temple's defense trying to shut down the middle. He finished with 78 yards on 21 carries and 2 touchdowns, but also lost a fumble on the first drive of the second half.
The other part of Ballard's trouble could be attributed to average offensive line play. Center Antron Harper had a run of the mill game. He needs to improve or Ballard may struggle to put up big numbers. The rest of the offense was OK, but not great. The other linemen and wide receives did not make any egregious mistakes, but also did not do anything spectacular.
Pete Tverdov may still be out with a leg injury, but that didn't seem to deter the front four of the Rutgers defense verses Buffalo. Tackles Eric Foster and Vantrise Studivant combined for 7 tackles and sophomore end George Johnson recorded two sacks. Foster is a returning first-team All-American. If Tverdov does return against Navy, that only deepens a unit that helped hold Buffalo to 70 yards rushing.
Kevin Malast made his first career start count as he lead the team with 10 tackles from his outside linebacker position. Sophomore Damaso Munoz will make his second consecutive start in the middle replacing the injured Ryan D'Imperio. D'Imperio broke his leg during spring practice and should not be available until the end of the month. Senior outside linebacker Brandon Renkart had a solid game against Buffalo, finishing with 7 tackles including 1 tackle for loss.
Brothers Jason and Devin McCourty start at the corner spots for the Scarlet Knights. Jason, a junior, started last season while Devin made his first career start against Buffalo. Experience abounds at the safety position as free safety Courtney Greene is entering his third season as the starter, while at strong safety Ron Girault is entering his fourth. Both were Second team All-BIG EAST selections in 2006.
Rutgers Offense vs Navy Defense
Mike Teel continues to improve as a big time college quarterback. As teams load the box to try and stop the Scarlet Knights vaunted rushing attack, Teel continues to make them pay. Against Buffalo, he finished 16 of 23 for 328 yards and 2 touchdowns.
But what makes Rutgers dangerous is Ray Rice. A true Heisman candidate, Rice devastated Buffalo to the tune of 184 yards on 25 carries with 3 touchdowns. He is currently just 16 yards behind Terrell Willis on Rutgers all time rushing list. Rice is also amount the top 5 active career rushing leaders in the Bowl Subdivision for yards, yards per game, rushing attempts, rushing attempts per game, and rushing touchdowns.
No disrespect to Carrie, but Tiquan Underwood may be the real American Idol. Last week the junior wide receiver broke the school record for receiving yards in a game with an eye popping 10 reception, 248 yard performance against Buffalo. Both of his touchdown receptions were highlight reel. One showcasing his moves as he cutback against the grain to juke and jive past several defenders and the other showing off his hands reeling in a poorly thrown pass. But don't discount Rutgers other receivers. Kenny Britt has great size (6' 4'', 205 lb) and Tim Brown is actually faster then Underwood. Brown did not play in the opener due to a broken left hand. He is expected to return to the lineup against the Midshipmen.
None of the above playmakers could do much with out a productive offensive line, and the Scarlet Knights have much more then that. Last season, Ray Rice finished as the nations second leading rusher with 1,794 yards. Currently, the Rutgers offensive line is on a 4 game sack-less streak. The unit returns three starters from a group that only allowed eight sacks in all of 2006. The only concern this week is starting LT Pedro Sosa, who was injured in the Buffalo game. Coach Schiano said he may "have a chance" to play.
The Navy defense gets the unenviable task of trying to slow down Ray Rice and the Scarlet Knights offense. The first key will be to control the line of scrimmage. Nate Frazier did a solid job against Temple. He finished with 4 tackles including 1 tackle for loss. In their first starts Chris Kuhar-Pitters and Michael Walsh performed well. Kuhar-Pitters finished with 5 tackles while Walsh was named defensive MVP for his 5 tackle, 1.5 tackle for loss performance.
At linebacker, Clint Sovie and Irv Spencer played well in spots. Sovie finished with a team high 10 tackles. Spencer had 6 tackles, though both contributed to the team's disrespectful 28 missed tackles. The three Matt's (Humiston, Wimsatt and Nechak) all played with a ton of passion and enthusiasm, but that fire tended to have them playing out of control. Humiston missed several opportunities for sacks and finished with only 2 tackles. On one play Nechak lined up three yards off the ball when he was rushing the quarterback. While on the other hand Wimsatt recorded 7 tackles and had a sack and an interception.
The secondary played OK, but must improve as the level of competition increases. The addition of some sort of pass rush would help. Ketric Buffin had a career-high six tackles and an interception against Temple. Fellow cornerback Rashawn King recorded 5 tackles. The safeties need the most improvement as Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele completed whatever he wanted to across the middle. Jeff Deliz finished second on the team with 9 tackles, but it was his missed assignment that lead to the Owls last touchdown. Jesse Iwuji recorded 2 tackles but he needs to step up against the likes of Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt. Some help is on the way as cornerback Greg Thrasher has been reactivated after serving a one game suspension for violating team rules.
Navy Special Teams vs Rutgers Special Teams
Other then Ketric Buffin's ridiculous block in the back during Navy's first punt return, the Mids special teams played very well. Matt Harmon connected on all three of his field goal attempts, including a career long 43 yarder that sealed the victory. Harmon also found the end zone several times on kickoffs, including one for a touchback. Though he only punted once, Greg Veteto made it count. He recorded the tackle on his 37-yard boot. Reggie Campbell returned 4 kickoffs for 67 yards and one punt for seven.
If the opening kickoff of the Buffalo game is any indication of the Rutgers special teams the opponents are in for a long season. Sophomore Kordell Young broke off a 56-yard return.
The kicking game should be solid as Jeremy Ito enters his fourth year as a starter. Ito will be adding the punting duties this season, once he has to. Rutgers did not punt against Buffalo. Ito has connected on 57 of his 82 career field goal attempts (69.5%) and 114 of 116 extra points (98.3%). His career long field goal is 53 yards.