September 22, 2007
As Navy fans we are so lucky to have Coach Paul Johnson. Even through the sting of this two game losing streak, Coach Johnson may be the only head coach in America to speak his mind. When asked by a beat writer regarding a fan opinion that the coaching staff takes credit for wins and blames players for losses, his response was, "Whatever he thinks. I don't go down to McDonald's and start second-guessing his job so he ought to leave me alone." Upon follow up from the writer Coach Johnson said, "If you could ever find one time that I said we won the game because of brilliant strategy I will kiss your butt at city dock and give you two days to draw a crowd. Find it and bring it to me. Tell that guy that if he wants to talk to me I live at (address given but deleted for the transcript) I will be right there. Come ring my doorbell and I will be glad to talk to him."
That is the kind of candor that is missing from modern sports. But even candor cannot dismiss the lack of execution. Between the turnovers, penalties and missed defensive assignments, the coaching staff will have plenty of work to do this week.
Duke enters on a decidedly higher note, after defeating Northwestern 20-14. This was the first win for the Blue Devils since 2005 ending a 22-game losing streak. Coach Roof enters this week 6-36 as Duke's Head Coach. At no point during his tenure have the Blue Devils won more the two games in a season. His best stretch was when he initially took over for Carl Franks at the end of the 2003 season. In five games as interim head coach, Roof went 2-3 with wins over Georgia Tech and rival North Carolina. Since then the state of the program has fallen into disarray. Three seasons with only three wins led to the university convening a football summit where alumni along with former players and the administration met to discuss the future of Duke football. A win this week over the Midshipmen would bring the Blue Devils to .500 and certainly point them in the right direction with regards to this rebuilding process.
Navy Offense vs. Duke Defense
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada sprained both of his ankles on the last play of the first half against Ball State and did not return. Kaipo did have an impressive first half highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown run. Jarod Bryant played the entire second half and overtime and did well, except for the fumble on the first play of overtime. Kaipo has returned to practice and should start this Saturday.
The fullbacks stole the day against Ball State. Eric Kettani and Adam Ballard combined for 201 yards. The Navy offense actually finished with 521 yards rushing. The slot backs did not play badly either. Reggie Campbell's block on Kaipo's long touchdown was very impressive, but Shun White's fumble on a perfect Jarod Brant pitch ended an almost certain scoring drive.
The 521-yard performance put the Midshipmen at the top of the country in rushing offense. The yards are impressive, but the team needs to eliminate the mistakes that continue to haunt them. Finishing drives without penalties or turnovers will be the difference between a successful season and a disappointing one.
Recruiting has improved tremendously over the last few years at Duke and nowhere is that more apparent then on the defensive line. Sophomore Vince Oghobaase chose Duke over Oklahoma. Oghobaase, along with fellow sophomore Ayanga Okpokowuruk team to form a huge tandem in the middle of the Blue Devil defensive line. They are flanked by Wesley Oglesby and Patrick Bailey who combined have 3 1/2 sacks on the season. Bailey leads the team with 2 1/2 sacks.
Versatile linebacker Vincent Rey leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss and passes defended. Ray was named ACC Player of the Week for his 11-tackle performance against Northwestern. He also recorded a career-high 17 tackles in the season-opener verses Connecticut. Michael Tauiliili forced a fumble against Virginia and intercepted a pass against Northwestern. He also has 7 double-digit tackle performances in his 25 career games.
Chris Davis and Adrian Aye-Darko hold down the safety spots while Glenn Williams and Leon Wright man the corners. All four are solid tacklers with 80 tackles between them. Leon Wright has the lone interception of the group, while the other three have combined for 5 pass breakups. Jabari Marshall is an impressive athlete who operates as the nickel back.
Duke Offense vs. Navy Defense
Sophomore quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is starting to come into his own. Against Northwestern he finished 19 of 23 for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also added 8 rushes for 10 yards. Lewis has completed 58% of his passes thus far on the season. The lone positive omen for the Navy defense is the lack of a trend. Lewis' 246 yards nearly doubled his season total to that point. Also, Lewis did not throw an interception verses Northwestern, after throwing four in the first two games of the season.
The Blue Devils are looking for a consistent rushing threat. The Duke offense currently ranks 114th in the nation in rushing averaging 54 yards per game. Duke is lead by Justin Boyle who has 66 yards on 24 carries this season. Boyle has had an accomplished career to this point. He has lead the team in scoring each of the past two seasons and his 16 touchdowns and 1,123 rushing yards rank him 5th and 10th respectively among active ACC players. Due to lack of production this season, the team is beginning to turn some of the workload over to junior Re'quan Boyette and senior fullback Tielor Robinson. Robinson played the 2003 and 2004 seasons at Army before transferring to Duke. Due to lack of production this season, the team is beginning to turn some of the workload over to junior Re'quan Boyette and senior Ronnie Drummer.
Duke's passing offense is improving because of a trio of talented receivers. Jomar Wright, Eron Riley and Raphael Chesnut are all averaging over 34 yards receiving per game. All have at least two receptions in each of the team's three games this season. Wright is coming off a 7 catch, 63 yard performance against Northwestern. Fullback Brandon King only has two receptions, but both have been for touchdowns.
Duke returns all 5 starting offensive linemen from last season, but that has yet to produce the results you might expect. The Blue Devils rank 98th in sacks allowed, conceding 9 sacks thus far this season.
I would like to say that once the opposing quarterback breaks contain that they are very effective, but that would imply that there is any sort of containment. Navy has a non-existent pass rush. There have been countless occasions when quarterbacks have had all day to throw the ball. If there is any rush, the quarterback will simply spin away from the Navy defender and run for a first down or more. Creating containment and generating pressure must be a priority for the Navy linemen. With the amount of young players forced into duty in the linebacker corps, the linemen need to step up.
There is good news regarding the linebackers. Irv Spencer should return from a sprained ankle that sidelined him during the second half against Ball State. More good news was the play of sophomore Ross Pospisil. In his first start, Pospisil finished with 8 tackles, which tied for team high. Fellow sophomore Tony Haberer played well in Spencer's absence, finishing with 7 tackles. The outside linebackers continue to disappoint. Players need to make the correct reads and follow the right assignments.
I was right about Ketric Buffin moving to safety, but I was wrong about who would replace him at corner. Sophomore Darius Terry played very well in his first start, but not as well as Buffin did in his return to safety. Ketric collected his third interception of the season and made the defensive play of the night, breaking up a pass near the end of the third quarter. Freshman Wyatt Middleton stepped up in place of the injured Jeff Deliz. Middleton finished with 7 tackles.
Navy Special Teams vs. Duke Special Teams
Special teams were a total disaster against Ball State. Matt Harmon had two field goals blocked, including what would have been the game winner at the end of regulation. Apparently the first field goal was blocked due to the time it took to get the kick off. The second kick was blocked due to improper technique by Harmon as his plan foot was in front of the ball. That led to a low line drive kick.
If one phase of the Duke football team has been steady under Coach Roof, it has been the special teams. Jabari Marshall returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown against Connecticut. He currently is averaging 28.5 yards per kickoff return, which leads the ACC. The Blue Devils also lead the nation in kickoff coverage giving up an average of only 14.36 yards per return. During Coach Roof's tenure Duke has blocked 16 kicks, including 3 this season. Jomar Wright blocked a punt and Vincent Rey a field goal at Virginia and Vince Oghobaase blocked a PAT against Connecticut.
Kicker Joe Surgan has struggled this season, as he is only 1 of 4 on field goals and 4 of 5 on PAT's. Surgan connected on a 21-yard field goal at Virginia but missed kicks of 45,26 and 40 yards. Kevin Jones is punting well with an average of 40.8 yards on his 12 punts. Four punts have been downed inside the opponent's 20 yard line. Senior long snapper Casey Hales is the most experienced player on the Duke team. Hales has started 37 consecutive games.