Key Match-ups for Northern Illinois at Navy

The hangover from the Notre Dame victory lasted into the second quarter against North Texas. Then the ibuprofen must have kicked in as the Midshipmen rallied from five separate 18-point deficits to defeat the Mean Green 74-62. Now at 6-4, Navy returns home for the seniors' last game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

November 17, 2007, 3:30 pm

Navy's Senior Day opponent will be the Northern Illinois Huskies who are 2-8 on the season.

Navy Coaching vs. Northern Illinois Coaching

Being involved in a record setting game like the 74-62 victory over North Texas is both a blessing and a curse. The 74 points are the most a Navy team has scored since 1919 when the Midshipmen defeated Colby 112-0. Though the atrocious performances by the defense are a sobering reminder of the flawed nature of this football team, but to their credit both Coach Johnson and Coach Green have taken responsibility for the lack of defensive production. Coach Green said, ""We were horrible" while Coach Johnson added, "They get beat deep, they get beat short and don't tackle". Both will continue to tweak with the defense and this team still has three more opponents to try and contain.

Coach Joe Novak has led the Huskies for the past 12 seasons. His streak of seven consecutive winning seasons will end this year. Novak currently is tied for 8th in MAC history in both total wins (64) and conference wins (47). Coach Novak is going to take his team on a tour of the Naval Academy. The walking tour of the campus will take place Friday afternoon before to the team's final walk-through. This is not the first time Coach Novak has taken the opportunity to expose his team to the cultural aspects of college football. While on their last road trip to Toledo, the Huskies stopped at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.

Navy Offense vs. Northern Illinois Defense

With Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada questionable with a leg injury he sustained during the North Texas game, Jarod Bryant may be called upon to lead the Midshipmen's patented option offense. Bryant has proved he is more then capable when replacing Kaipo during the second halves of the Ball State, Duke, Wake Forest, Delaware and North Texas games. For the season Jarod is 14 of 25 passing for 192 yards and has 64 carries for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass during the comeback in the Duke game.

The slot backs flourished against North Texas. Shun White finished with a team high 131 yards on just 7 carries. He also had a touchdown. Zerbin Singleton scored 3 touchdowns on only 8 carries. He finished with 103 yards. Reggie Campbell had 6 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown and also caught a 47-yard pass. Both fullbacks played well with Adam Ballard finishing his homecoming with 13 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. Eric Kettani had 6 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown, but also lost another fumble. It appears the Ballard has regained the starting spot as Kettani settles his fumbling issues.

Tyree Barnes had the best game of his career against North Texas. The junior from Hampton, Virginia finished with 3 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown and gained 24 yards on his first career rushing attempt. Paul Bridgers continues to start over Andrew McGinn and Anthony Gaskins appeared to have the best game of his career against the Mean Green.

Larry English is the unquestioned star for the Northern Illinois defensive line. English has 9.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss on the season. To put that in perspective, the entire Navy defense has 9 sacks. English recorded 5 sacks against Idaho. The rest of the d-line has been a work in progress. Defensive end Brandon Bice has 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks for the season. Nose Guard Mike Krause and tackle Alex Krutsch start in the middle. Krutsch has 5.5 tackles for loss. The unit has been hit hard by injuries. Six defensive linemen are out of the season including opening game starter Craig Rusch.

Strong side linebacker Josh Allen is second on the team with 79 tackles and 8 tackles for loss. Allen recorded 15 tackles verses Toledo. Zach Larsen has started the last four games at middle linebacker. He has 41 tackles. In his first start against Western Michigan he recorded 13 tackles and forced a fumble. John Tranchitella starts at weak side backer. He has two interceptions including one last week that preserved the victory against Kent State.

Strong safety Alex Kube leads the Huskies with 96 tackles. He has a chance to become the first freshman to lead Northern Illinois in tackles in 31 years. Free safety Bradley Pruitt is third with 76. Pruitt has added an interception. Cornerback Chase Carter has two interceptions, but has already set the Northern Illinois single season interception return record with 120 return yards. Against Idaho he returned his first career interception 95 yards for a touchdown. Melvin Rice mans the other corner and leads the team with 6 pass breakups.

Northern Illinois Offense vs. Navy Defense

Quarterback Dan Nicholson is currently 9th on the Northern Illinois career passing list with 3,112 yards. On the season, Nicholson is 151 for 248 for 1,633 yards with 9 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He is coming off a 21 of 28 performance against Kent State where he finished with 275 yards and 2 touchdowns. There is also a possibility of seeing backup Ryan Morris. Morris started the Western Michigan game and finished 13 of 25 for 144 yards.

Northern Illinois has a proud tradition of high quality running backs. Over the course of the last 5 seasons Michael Turner ran for 1,915 yards in 2002 and 1,648 yards in 2003 while Garrett Wolfe ran for 1,656, 1,580 and 1,928 in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively. Since 1999, the Huskies have a streak of nine straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher. Justin Anderson continued that streak when he went over 1,000 yards on the season against Kent State. Thus far Anderson has 1,096 yards on 229 carries with 7 touchdowns. He is also second on the team with 38 receptions.

The leading receiver for NIU is Matt Simon. Simon has 40 receptions for 783 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had 9 catches for 205 yards and a touchdown against Central Michigan. In that game, Simon had a 92-yard touchdown catch. The other starting receiver is Britt Davis. Davis has 27 catches for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season. Tight end Reed Cunningham has 18 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown.

Center Eddie Adamski, left tackle Chris Acevedo, right guard Jason Onyebuagu and right tackle Jon Brost have started all 10 games this season for the Huskies. Left guard Kevin Skatrud has started the last 5 games after Tim Mayerbock started the first four.

To say that Navy's defense had a historically bad day against North Texas would be an understatement. The 62 points conceded were the most since NC Stare hung 65 on the Midshipmen in 2002. There were few positives from the performance, especially along the line. The leading tackler amount the front was Chris Kuhar-Pitters with three. The pass rush that helped turn the tide against Notre Dame was nonexistent. Jordan Stephens saw his first significant action in order to try to generate more pressure, but it was to no avail.

The line backing corps also saw a shakeup as Craig Schaefer, Corey Johnson and Jonathan Alvarado saw significant playing time. This also was to no avail and the poor tackling allowed short pass to be converted into long touchdowns. Irv Spencer and Matt Wimsatt finished with 6 tackles. Wimsatt and Ram Vela both had interceptions, which were critical to the victory.

Cornerback Kevin Edwards and safety Wyatt Middleton tied for the team lead with 7 tackles. Blake Carter recorded 5 tackles from his corner spot, but missed tackles were the order of the day. Ketric Buffin played, but could not finish due to his arm. He is expected to see more action this week. Greg Thrasher replaced Buffin, but not the way he played against Notre Dame. Thrasher finished with only 2 tackles. Rashawn King is expected back this week, and not a moment too soon. Darius Terry and Emmett Merchant also saw extended action against North Texas.

Navy Special Teams vs. Northern Illinois Special Teams

Once again Navy's special teams were a mixed bag. On the bright side Reggie Campbell returned a kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown. This was the first kickoff return for a touchdown by a Navy player since November 15, 1997, when Matt  Nelson returned a kickoff 57 yards for a touchdown against Colgate. Zerbin Singleton had 6 returns for 145 yards and Emmett Merchant and a return for 30 yards.

Joey Bullen connected on a 22-yard field goal but also had a PAT blocked.

Greg Veteto's lone punt covered 51 yards.

But the kickoff coverage needs to improve. North Texas averaged 19.7 yards per return. The coverage unit so bothers Coach Johnson that he has suspended the popular 12th Mid program, where a member of the Brigade would cover the opening kickoff for the last home game of the year.

NIU kicker Chris Nendick is 11 of 16 on field goals on the season. His long is 47 yards. Nendick also handles the kickoff duties and has 14 touchbacks for the year.

Punter Andy Dittbenner averages 44.8 yards per punt and has forced 7 fair catches and has had 13 punts pin opponents inside their 20-yard line.

Reserve wide receiver Evans Adonis and reserve corner Patrick George are the primary kickoff returners. Adonis averages 19.2 yards per return while George averages 18.6.

Matt Simon and reserve wide receiver Greg Turner share the punt return duties. Turner has returned 8 punts for 66 yards while Simon has returned 6 for 69.


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