KAIPO, RAM – WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
I've watched a lot of football, but I had never seen an offensive player encourage fans to make more noise leading up to the snap of the ball. Usually during an exciting moment in a game, quarterbacks are trying to settle down their boisterous home crowd so their teammates can hear the play call.
So when I saw Navy's Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada actually start waving his arms in the waning moments of regulation to encourage 80,000 of his opponent's fans to make more noise, I immediately thought, "What the heck is he doing?" Turns out, some of his teammates had the same question.
"I saw him pumping up the crowd and I was like, I hope he's directing that towards our little section of the crowd. I don't think the Notre Dame fans were going to get any louder than they were just for Kaipo. It was definitely an odd site," said Navy linebacker Ram Vela.
Turns out, Navy head coach Paul Johnson didn't even see Kaipo do it.
"I missed that," said Johnson.
But the coach heard about it afterwards and had a theory as to what may have motivated the junior quarterback from Hawaii.
"He was having fun. You get a chance to be on the national scene against a team like that - go have some fun. The pressure is on them, not us."
It turns out, Johnson knows his signal caller pretty well.
About his decision to incite the Notre Dame crowd, Kaipo said, "I was just in the moment. I was having fun. After I thought about it I was like, I probably shouldn't have done it. I probably looked like a huge idiot."
And as if requesting more noise from the enemy crowd wasn't enough, Kaipo then took a moment in between plays to greet some of the Notre Dame defenders.
"I was having fun. I went over and shook some of their hands. (Laughter) You know, they are going to be in the [NFL], I had to shake somebody's hand," said a joking but respectful Kaipo.
But it looked like he actually said something to one of the linebackers – did he really do that?
"I walked over and the linebacker said, ‘what's up man?' – I shook his hand and he said, ‘Hey, we'll see what happens.' We were just having a good time."
So what did his teammates, on the field at the time, think of his antics?
"Reggie [Campbell] was like, ‘Get your butt back in the huddle.' He kept yelling for me to get back to the huddle. I said, ‘What man? I'm just having fun.'"
"[Josh] Meek was like, ‘why did you have to do that?'" continued Kaipo.
Another one of the most memorable moments from the historic victory came on 4th and 8 with 42 seconds left and the Irish looking to move into position to break the 28-28 tie. That's when Vela, a converted outside linebacker, leaped over Notre Dame half-back Armando Allen to get at Irish quarterback Evan Sharpley. The play, which has received over 12,000 views on YouTube, has thrown the 5'9" and 196 pound sophomore into the limelight like never before. However, according to Vela, he actually planned on jumping over the defender.
"I had been watching film and I noticed that Armando Allen liked to go low on a lot of his blocks. So I said to myself if I see him in the game doing that maybe I'll leap over him," said Vela. "Then again, I've said that for a couple of games [now]."
The sack even motivated an NFL linebacker to mimic it the next day. Minnesota's E.J. Henderson in an interview with the Star Tribune said that Vela's play inspired him to leap over San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson en route to sacking Philip Rivers.
Vela heard about what Henderson had to say and was in awe.
"It's an honor to have somebody you model your play after to come back and say something you did on the field inspired him…it's a tremendous honor. I wish I could meet him and thank him in person," said Vela.
According to Kaipo, the play has led to a new nickname.
"What do they call him now, SuperRam?"
Vela, who was mistaken for a fugitive at the Commander in Chief's Trophy presentation at the White House last spring, responded by saying, "I think my nickname has been changing every other month."
One of the less memorable plays of the game came during the second overtime when on 3rd and 10, Johnson called for an option pass from Reggie Campbell. Somehow, Campbell's pass managed to fall incomplete even though there were six Irish defenders within 5 yards of where the ball came to rest on the ground.
Johnson had called a similar play in the Duke game, but instead of Campbell, former high school quarterback (and current slot back) Bobby Doyle threw the ball and completed it. So why not call Doyle's number again?
"[Doyle] had been in the game and every time he was in there [Notre Dame] was yelling half-back pass," said Johnson. "I thought it would be better with Reggie."
And what was the Navy coach's reaction after Campbell launched the ball into the air?
"I thought crap, why did I call that," said Johnson.
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