Navy Coaching vs. Army Coaching
Paul Johnson is looking to become the first coach at either Army or Navy to win his first six games against their rival. Since 2002, Navy has out scored the Black Knights 202 - 68. This season's offense seams poised to continue that trend, but is Coach Buddy Green's defense up to the challenge. The Northern Illinois game showed that the defense might be maturing, peaking at just the right time. Or was that an aberration. One week after holding Notre Dame to 28 points in regulation, they gave up 64 to North Texas. Army will use the same M.O. as Rutgers, Wake Forest and Delaware, short pass and a downhill running game. The defense will need to play well as Army will surely be motivated.
First year Head Coach Stan Brock understands the magnitude of this game. He has been quoted saying it is bigger then the Super Bowl. And he should know because he played in Super Bowl XXIX with the San Diego Chargers. As first years go, this one has been a pretty typical one for Brock. His team has been up and down. They have also suffered through a lot of injuries. But now Brock can put a positive stamp of his inaugural campaign. With a win over the Midshipmen, he can become the first Army head coach to win his first Army-Navy game since Tom Cahill in 1966. Army is not Coach Brock's first Head Coaching job. He was a Head Coach in the Arena Football League with the Portland Forest Dragons and the Los Angles Avengers.
Navy Offense vs. Army Defense
With Jarod Bryant at the helm of the Navy offense, the approach is slightly different but the results are practically the same. With Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada out due to injury, Bryant ran more mid-line option (where the quarterback either hands the ball to the full back or keeps the ball and follows him) then true triple-option (where after the fullback the quarterback runs wide and has the option to either keep the ball or pitch to a slot back). Bryant finished with 139 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. He was also 3 of 6 passing for 60 yards. Kaipo is practicing in full pads and should start against Army.
Slot back Zerbin Singleton had a career day against Northern Illinois. Singleton had 11 carries for 101 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the last two games he has 204 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also caught a pass for 37 yards. Shun White added 53 yards on 8 carries and a touchdown. The past few weeks Reggie Campbell has served primarily as a lead blocker and decoy, both roles at which he excels. In his return to starting duty, Adam Ballard finished with 7 carries for 45 yards. Eric Kettani added 9 yards on 4 carries and a reception for 14 yards.
No wide receivers caught passes but the blocking on the outside continues to improve. The four seniors on the offensive line must stay on their game as they enter their last Army-Navy game. Paul Bridgers continues to start ahead of Andrew McGinn.
Brandon Thompson is the most experienced Army defensive lineman. The senior end leads the undersized group with 36 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries. At 6' 3'', 261 pounds he is the biggest starting defensive player for the Black Knights. Army has larger linemen in tackle Tony Fusco (6' 1'', 303) and end Victor Ugenyi (6' 3'', 262) but both have been replaced in the starting lineup by smaller players, Ted Bentler (6' 3'', 251) and Nicholas Emmons (6' 4'', 232) respectively. Emmons took over against Air Force while Bentler has been starting since the Boston College game. Bentler leads the team with 3 sacks. The other starting tackle is senior John Wright who has started all 11 games and has recorded 30 tackles.
The rock in the middle of the Army defense is senior middle linebacker Brian Chmura. Chmura has started 10 games this season in the middle and has recorded 79 tackles. The leader statistically among the linebackers is junior Frank Scappaticci. The weak side backer has 83 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. Fellow junior John Plumstead starts on the strong side. Plumstead has 6.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. He started against Georgia Tech and Air Force replacing the injured Charlie Rockwood.
The strength of the Black Knights defense rests in its secondary. Senior strong safety Caleb Campbell seems like he's been at Army since the 40's. He leads the team with 94 tackles. Campbell has made a team high 37 starts in his career. The Lott Trophy candidate has forced 3 fumbles this season. Free safety Jordan Murray is second on the team with 87 tackles. Also a senior, Murray has forced 2 fumbles and recovered 2 as well. The third senior starting in the Black Knights' secondary is corner Kevin Opoku. Opoku has 43 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception on the season. Junior Josh Mitchell has stepped in for senior John Laird after he ended his season with an injury against Air Force. Mitchell has 29 tackles and 2 interceptions on the season. He was the teams nickel back before being pressed into starting duty.
Army Offense vs. Navy Defense
Carson Williams has regained the starting quarterback spot as the new coaching staff turned the offense over to David Pevoto to start the season. Williams started 4 games last season, including the Army-Navy game, becoming the first plebe to do so. On the season, Williams is 139 for 266 passing for 1,653 yards with 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Army has also used Kevin Dunn at quarterback. Late in the 4th quarter of the Tulane game, Dunn replaced injured starter Carson Williams and went 6 of 7 passing for 80 yards, also tossing the game-tying 36-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Mike Wright on the last play of regulation. Army went on to win that game in overtime. Pevoto should be available if needed this week, as he continues to recover for an injury suffered against Rhode Island.
Army's leading rusher is freshman Patrick Mealy. Mealy has 94 carries for 302 yards. He has also added 10 receptions for 60 yards. All-purpose fullback Mike Viti has earned some complements from his opponents. Navy linebacker Irv Spencer called him his favorite player on the other team saying, "I got a lot of respect for Mike Viti. He plays hard. Last year, he gave us a run for our money. He ran the ball really hard." Viti has 84 yards on 29 carries and 2 touchdowns thus far in his senior season.
With Army's transition to more of a passing offense, an experience receiving corps has emerged. The unit is lead by senior Jeremy Trimble. Trimble is one of the most talented receivers the Midshipmen have faced all season. He leads the Black Knights with 61 catches for 907 yards and 7 touchdowns. Trimble hauled in 11 receptions against both Central Michigan and Tulsa. He is Army's All-Time leader in receptions. Starting alongside Trimble is fellow senior Corey Anderson. Anderson is second on the team with 28 catches for 307 yards and a touchdown. Complementing the two deep threats is senior tight end Justin Larson. By far the largest Black Knight target at 6' 5'', 228 pounds; Larson is second on the team with 3 touchdown receptions.
The Army offensive line has been a work in progress all season long. Center Trey Miranne and right tackle Mike Lemming have started all 11 games, but the same cannot be said for the other three spots. Brandon Cox has started all 11 games, but at two different positions (8 at left guard and 3 at left tackle). He is currently listed to start at tackle. The Black Knights have only once started the same five offensive linemen in back to back games. Senior guards Connor Wicklund and Seth Fabin have starting experience with Fabin making his 7th start at right guard and Wicklund making his 4th overall start of the season, the first two at right guard and the following two at left guard. Army has started nine different linemen this season.
The rebound from the North Texas debacle was complete and immediate. Against Northern Illinois, the Navy defense held an opponent under 30 points for just the third time all season. Michael Walsh led the line with 9 tackles and sack. Nate Frazier will need to have an impact in his first Army-Navy game, both pressuring the quarterback and containing the run. As the lone senior, big things will also be expected of Chris Kuhar-Pitters.
Ross Pospisil had a career day against Northern Illinois. His 20 tackles were the most by a Navy player since Rob Caldwell had 21 against Air Force on October 8, 2005. Irv Spencer added 6 tackles. The outside linebacker/nickel back experiment seems to be working. Not only did Ram Vela have another solid day, but now former point guard Corey Johnson is starting to get his football legs under him. Johnson had 4 tackles and tipped a pass that led to a Greg Thrasher interception. Senior Matt Wimsatt had a sack against Northern Illinois and will be needed to supply pressure against Army in order to ensure victory.
The mix and match secondary continues to try and piecemeal together a cohesive unit. Against Northern Illinois Kevin Edwards and Darius Terry continued to fill in for injured cornerback Rashawn King. His status for the Army-Navy game is uncertain. Also uncertain is the availability of Ketric Buffin. Greg Thrasher played well in his place, recording 6 tackles, a tackle for a loss and an interception. Wyatt Middleton continues to impress adding 8 tackles. He leads the team with 79. Blake Carter is still manning the other corner spot. He finished the Northern Illinois game with 10 tackles.
Navy Special Teams vs. Army Special Teams
The musical chairs at kicker may not be a bad thing. This may be the first time ever that Navy has had two quality place kickers on their roster at one time. Both Joey Bullen and Matt Harmon are listed as starters and Coach Johnson will go with whoever has the hotter hand.
Both Reggie Campbell and Zerbin Singleton continue to do well returning kicks. Campbell had returns of 38 and 36 yards against Northern Illinois.
Unfortunately Greg Veteto had one of his busiest games against Northern Illinois. He punted three times for a 37.7-yard average.
The coverage units improved as Navy held Northern Illinois to an under 20 yard return average.
Like Navy, Army has two kickers with game experience. Senior Owen Tolson is the primary place kicker. He is 7 of 13 on field goals with a long of 45 yards and 6 for 6 on PAT's. Junior Adam DeMarco is 1 of 2 on field goal attempts, but is 16 of 17 on PAT's. Tolson handles both the kickoff and punting duties. Tolson has punted 67 times for an impressive 45.5-yard average with 24 kicks inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Of his 38 kickoffs, 8 have been touchbacks.
Starting wide receiver Corey Anderson is the primary kick returner with fellow starter Jeremy Trimble handling the punt return duties. Anderson averages 24.7 yards per return and had an 88-yard touchdown return against Temple. Trimble is just as dynamic with punt returns averaging 15.5 yards per return. He had an 85-yard touchdown against the Owls. These two could play a role in the field position battle and must be accounted for.