5. Ball State will be excited. It's an ESPN game. In prime time. On a Friday night. I know we thought Towson would be excited—and frankly, the Towson fans' turnout was a disappointment. Don't expect the same on Friday, even if the forecast for rain holds.
4. Navy will be starting a pair of inexperienced tackles. Senior Mike Von Bargen is making his first career start. On the other side is sophomore Jeff Battipaglia; he started his first game last week.
Don't forget, though, that Navy has a tradition of inserting little-known offensive linemen without missing beat. Paul Bridgers's first career start came last year came against Notre Dame. And we all remember how that one ended.
Navy's tackles are a little different from most in that they don't always block the opposing team's defensive ends. On option plays, Navy isolates the defensive end as the primary defender on the pitch and makes him determine pitch-keep (i.e. whether the play will be a keeper or an option pitch.)
So see if Navy runs a lot of options or, to counter Navy's inexperience at the tackle spots, see if Ball State moves a linebacker next to a defensive end on the line of scrimmage.
Such a move would force Navy's tackles to block the end since the linebacker would become the pitch-keep defender.
Also see who is Von Bargen's backup. Sophomore Matt Molloy is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart but he did not dress against Towson.
3. The tackle situation may not matter anyway. In the preseason, we talked about how Ball State's defensive front is relatively small. The situation with Navy's tackles may make a direct offensive approach even more important. Fullback Eric Kettani outweighs four of Ball State's front seven.
See how they like tackling him; also see if Kettani has a bit of an edge after Towson focused on stopping him. Namely, how many Ball State guys commit to Kettani on option plays? Towson sent two, and paid for it.
Game within the game: Ball State is starting a short but solidly built NT—Renee Perry is 5-11, 271. If Moore blocks him straight-up, it will be an interesting matchup.
2. Ball State is one of the teams that has had success with underneath screens, or bubble screens, against Navy in the past. (Though it's not exactly an exclusive list.)
What I remember most about last year's game, other than Bryant's fumble in overtime, was that Ball State used a lot of underneath screens. (As did Delaware, Utah, etc.) Navy's defenders looked okay in open-field tackling last week. The problem is that they're not very good in dealing with open-field situations when the offense has blockers in front of the play.
Don't be surprised if Ball State uses underneath screens, especially to Dante Love (86) and Daniel Ifft (4). Navy needs to get a lot of players to the ball. Picture the two-point conversion against Notre Dame; there were 11 players near the ball on that one.
1. One of the hallmarks of Navy's offense under Paul Johnson was how quickly Johnson turned around momentum following a big play by the defense.
And that trait is what impressed me most about Ivin Jasper's play calling in the opener.
In the third quarter, Towson nailed Shun White for a two-yard loss on a toss sweep to the left. Three plays later, Navy sent White in motion as if another toss sweep were coming. The Towson safety and play-side LB bit on the motion. Only it wasn't a sweep. It was a play-action pass. And Bobby Doyle was wide open; he literally ran to the exact spot where the safety had lined up before the motion. It went for the touchdown that gave Navy some breathing room.
Johnson called plays like that all the time. I don't want to compare Johnson and the new coaches over and over; but initially, that sort of play calling from Jasper really jumped out at me. Also, he didn't use more than he had to.
Ken Niumatalolo showed a little bit of Johnson, too, in how he reacted to Bryant's fumble. He grabbed Bryant's jersey and made sure Bryant knew that sort of "complacent" (Niumat's word) play was not acceptable.
To Bryant's credit, when asked later about Niumatalolo's reaction to the fumble, he said, "I deserved it."
That little scene, and its aftermath, said a lot about Navy football.
NAVY vs. BALL STATE: 5 things to watch for
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