Navy Coaching vs. Delaware Coaching
For the initial 27:41 of the Wake Forest game it appeared we were headed for a carbon copy of the Pitt game. But when Alphonso Smith sacked Jarod Bryant and Matt Robinson returned the resulting fumble for a touchdown, the entire complexion of the game shifted. Add in the other two turnovers and the 44 points given up by the defense and the Navy coaching staff has plenty to correct heading into this weeks match-up with Delaware.
For the 4th (and not last) time this season the Midshipmen will face a team coached by a graduate of that institution. Head Coach K.C. Keeler (Delaware ‘81) is in his 6th season at his alma mater. During that time he has won two A-10 Conference championships and a FCS National Championship. At 6-1 on the season, Keeler has the Blue Hens poised for another post-season tournament run.
Saturday marks the first of two consecutive weeks that Navy will be playing a team coming off a bye week. Delaware is 4-1 after a bye since 2000.
Navy Offense vs. Delaware Defense
Both Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant moved the ball against Wake Forest, but Bryant's miscues stalled the offense and helped lead to the rout. Before Kaipo left due to a neck injury, he had 12 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown. He did not complete a pass. His overthrow on a fullback screen during Navy's first offensive play was particularly dreadful. Other then the fumbles and a few lapses in execution Bryant did okay. But the result was only one offensive touchdown and three turnovers that led to 17 points for the opposition. Kaipo is expected to start against Delaware.
Eric Kettani and Shun White were the most productive Navy players on Saturday. Kettani finished with 75 yards on 14 carries but had a costly fumble in the third quarter. White had 2 touchdowns on only 7 carries. He finished with 63 yards on the day. Reggie Campbell and Zerbin Singleton had satisfactory days as they finished with 7 carries for 40 yards and 8 carries for 36 yards respectively. Adam Ballard had the lowest non-injury output of his career since his sophomore campaign. He finished with 3 carries for 11 yards.
Of the four completed passes, three went to wide receivers. That was the good news. The flip side is that the blocking needs to improve for both the receivers and the line. On back-to-back plays that defined the game Kaipo was hurt and Jarod Bryant was forced to fumble by players who were completely unblocked. Navy quarterbacks were sacked four times.
The Delaware defense has two distinct advantages going into this week's game. First they are coming off of a bye week giving them extra time to prepare. Secondly, they played Rhode Island on September 15th. Most teams on Navy's schedule have little or no experience facing this kind of offense. Rhode Island runs a very similar version of the triple option. The Blue Hens held Rhode Island to 187 yards rushing. That is 156 yards below Navy's average.
Defensive end Matt Marcorelle leads the Blue Hen with 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He was named Colonial Athletic Association defensive player of the week for his effort against Towson. Defensive end Ronald Talley leads the defensive line in tackles with 32. He has been named Blue Hen Touchdown Club defensive player of the week twice this season. Talley transferred from Notre Dame. Defensive tackles Jeremy Kametz and Manny Marshall have 22 and 21 tackles respectively.
Middle linebacker Erik Johnson is second on the team with 40 tackles. He has 3 tackles for loss and an interception. Outside linebacker Walter Blair is third on team with 36 tackles. He also has an interception. Both Johnson and Blair are former walk-ons. Senior linebacker Tim Prindle has 16 tackles. He attended the Naval Academy before transferring to Fullerton Junior College. Reserve redshirt freshman linebackers Benard Makumbi and Brian Void have contributed 20 and 17 tackles respectively.
Sophomore strong safety Anthony Bratton leads the Blue Hens with 52 tackles. Cornerback Anthony Walters has 32 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. The other corner Fred Andrew leads the team with 2 interceptions and 5 pass breakups. Aaron Hicks has 26 tackles at free safety while Charles Graves has 12 tackles and an interception filling in at both safety spots.
Delaware Offense vs. Navy Defense
Delaware has a high-powered offense. They are currently ranked 5th in the FCS in total offense (469.1 yards per game), 11th in scoring offense (36.71 points per game), 12th in passing offense (287.3 yards per game), and 37th in rushing offense (181.8 yards per game). The triggerman is Pitt transfer Joe Flacco. Flacco is completing 72.8% of his passes. He has 9 touchdowns compared to just 3 interceptions on the year.
Omar Cuff started his career at Delaware as a defensive back. Midway through his freshman season he was switched to running back. He finished that season with a team high 154 times for 673 yards and eight touchdowns. Now a senior, Cuff has truly exploded. He scored 7 touchdowns (6 rushing one receiving) the opening week against William& Mary. He followed that up with four the next week against West Chester. He is the FCS leader in scoring with an average of 20.6 points per game. Cuff has 24 touchdowns through 7 games.
Junior Aaron Love leads the Blue Hens with 32 receptions for 442 yards. Not far behind is sophomore Mark Duncan with 29 catches for 414 yards. Neither is tall (Love 5' 9'' and Duncan 5' 11'') but both can fly. The size threat is tight end Robbie Agnone at 6' 6''. Agnone has caught 17 passes for 145 yards on the season. He is a Pitt transfer.
Defensive improvement can be hard to measure when facing a high-octane offense like Wake Forest. There were fewer of the egregious missed tackles that plagued the Pitt game. But the Navy defense needs to get opponents off the field. Wake Forest went 10 of 14 on third down. They only punted once. They scored on 5 of the 6 red zone opportunities and the one time they didn't, they took a knee to run out the clock. Delaware has one of the highest power offenses in the FCS and measurable improvement will be needed in order to come away with a victory.
The defensive line generates zero pass rush. Along with zero pass rush they make few plays against the run. The leading tackler among the linemen against Wake was Chris Kuhar-Pitters with four. Eight players made more tackles including all four starting linebackers and the entire starting defensive backfield. I understand the size disparity when facing an ACC offensive line, but it doesn't matter who Navy plays, they will always have a smaller defensive line. They still need to make plays in order to come away with the upset.
Irv Spencer had double-digit tackles for the second consecutive game. He is developing into a tackling machine. He also finished with 3 tackles for loss. With both of his brothers in attendance, after the one finished the fly by, Matt Wimsatt had a solid game with 7 tackles. But with the line continuing to disappoint, Wimsatt needs to start making plays in the opponent's backfield. Ram Vela and Tony Haberer both recorded five tackles. Both played well, but the team needs a little more.
Cornerback Rashawn King tied a career high with 9 tackles. Wyatt Middleton continues to impress, especially in Ketric Buffin's absence. He recorded 7 tackles, which brings his season total to 43. The freshman is currently third on the team in tackles and tackles for loss. Kevin Snyder first career start he recorded 5 tackles. Blake Carter is proving to be a steady sophomore. He finished with 7 tackles and a tackle for loss. Any kind of pass rush and these defensive backs could be dangerous.
Navy Special Teams vs. Delaware Special Teams
Kickoff coverage was shockingly bad against Wake Forest. Kevin Marion returned Matt Harmon's opening kickoff 80 yards to the Midshipmen's 17-yard line. Matt Harmon's second kick was returned to the Navy 47. Joey Bullen took over the kickoff duties after that and sent his first kick through the end zone. With that kick being wind aided the coaching staff decided to pooch kick when kicking into the wind the remainder of the game.
Return wise Navy did well, with Zerbin Singleton racing off a 31 yard kick return and Reggie Campbell having a 37 yard punt return along with a 28 yard kick return of his own.
Bullen made his only field goal attempt of the day, connecting from 26 yards. He is now 6 of 10 on the season.
Sophomore kicker Jon Striefsky is perfect on the season, connecting on all 9 field goal attempts and all 32 point after touchdowns. His longest field goal is 37 yards. Junior punter Stuart Kenworthy is a former walk-on. He is currently averaging 37.5 yards per punt. He has had 9 of his 19 punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Aaron Love is the primary punt returner. He has 7 returns for 61 yards on the season. Kervin Michaud and junior Marvin McKinnie share kick return duties. Michaud leads the team with 9 returns for an average of 20.8 yards per. McKinnie, a reserve defensive back, has 6 returns for an average of 19.5 per.