Exclusive: 12th Mid Won't Happen This Season

A member of the Brigade of Midshipmen won't be suiting up for Navy when the team takes on Northern Illinois this Saturday. The popular 12th Mid contest, started by Navy coach Paul Johnson in 2004, is going on hiatus for at least one season. In the meantime, Johnson is looking for his team to put together a complete effort to honor the team's seniors in their final home game.

When your defense is giving up 41 points a game, there is very little margin for error.  One mistake could easily swing a game from the win column to the loss column.  And according to Paul Johnson, he's seen enough this season to know that error could come on a kick-off return.  Therefore, he has decided not to allow a midshipmen to represent the Brigade in this Saturday's game as part of the 12th Mid program he instituted two years ago.


"The last few games, we've had a hard time covering [kick-offs] so the last thing we need to do is take somebody and put them out there - who hasn't covered a kick in their lifetime. I'm not going to do that and risk a chance to maybe lose a game for the guys who practice everyday," said Johnson.


The team's performance wasn't the only factor that led to Johnson's decision.  This year, the NCAA moved the kick-off back five yards to the 30 yard line, and according to Johnson that has made a difference.


"They're harder to cover."


Johnson did make a point to say that he would "revisit the [12th Mid program] next year," but that for right now the team's "got enough issues going on" and "other things [they] need to focus on."


The idea to allow a member of the Brigade to practice with the team for a week and play in a game was something Johnson came up with three years ago to help bring the team closer to their fellow midshipmen.


"When we first came here there seemed to be a real void between the Brigade and the team. And I felt like it was something that we could get the Brigade involved in that they would enjoy and it would be fun for everybody," said Johnson.


However, according to Johnson, the 2004 squad did not initially embrace the idea when he brought it to them.


"When I first went to the team with it, quite honestly, they were skeptical until we explained it to them…because there again you're bringing somebody out, letting them play, and you have guys who've practiced everyday and they never get to play.  But, once we explained it to them, and what we were doing, they embraced it and it became a fun deal." 


As for what Johnson and the team will be focused on this week, well, that shouldn't be too hard for Navy fans to figure out after the defense gave up 62 points last Saturday to North Texas.


"Clearly I was disappointed with the way we played defensively…and we've got to try to work through some of the problems," said Johnson.


"Guys just aren't sure what they're doing and it's our job to give them something to do that they can understand. We missed a lot of tackles and that's something that we work on everyday, but there's still a lot of times that, at least in my mind, I don't see guys playing fast," explained Johnson. "Again, that's disappointing any time of the year.  We should know where we're going and know what our responsibilities are.  To have three times as many missed assignments as the offense is unacceptable."


Speaking of the offense, Johnson was a little critical of some minor mistakes but overall impressed with the unit's fortitude.


"I kept telling the guys on offense just don't miss a turn.  They're gonna break somewhere and every time [North Texas] breaks, we get closer.  Just don't miss a turn." 


"[Our] guys showed some real resilience.  I mean, there were five times in the game we were down 18 points…they kept fighting and kept clawing their way back in," Johnson continued.


Johnson said that there is a lot to accomplish this Saturday against Northern Illinois including "clinching a winning season," but most importantly, he is hoping the team can "send the seniors out the way they need to go out."


"We have not played a very good football game at home - a complete game - since probably Air Force.  [That] was the closest we've played to a complete game.  This is just the week to do it.  We need to be dialed in and you need to be ready to play.  If you didn't learn from what happened on Saturday then you're not very smart," said Johnson.



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