Defensive Struggles "Frustrating" for Navy AD

Next year, the Mids will open its season at Ohio State in what Navy AD Chet Gladchuk calls a ‘David vs. Goliath' type game that at first thought gave him nightmares. However, his doubts about scheduling the Buckeyes have disappeared, and his more immediate concerns revolve around the performance of the current Navy defense. If they continue to struggle, could Buddy Green's job be in jeopardy?

Midshipmen football fans are well aware of the 4-4-4 scheduling strategy implemented by Chet Gladchuk when he became the Navy's athletic director.  The intent was to schedule four games in which Navy would be considered a favorite; four games that were perceived to be relatively even; and four games that most would consider Navy to be underdogs.  In the later category, Navy has usually scheduled middle-of-the-pack teams from BCS conferences.  Recent examples include Stanford, Rutgers, Pitt and Wake Forest – all of whom would be considered favorites in a match-up against the Midshipmen.  Three of these games, grouped with the traditional contest against Notre Dame, made for a good quartet of challenges for the undersized Academy team.


With Rutgers, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Pitt already on the schedule for 2009, the tough game quadrant was already full this past April when Gladchuk announced the Midshipmen would play Ohio State next season.  What was Navy's athletic director thinking?  Did he see a game against the Buckeyes as a dream match-up from a marketing and exposure standpoint, and thus too good to pass up regardless of the scheduling strategy?


"No, when I first thought about it, I thought of it more as a nightmare, not a dream.  I thought that was not something I was comfortable with committing to," said Gladchuk.


Although he was not interested at first, Gladchuk did some research and spoke to his colleagues and even players to see if there would be support for such an ambitious undertaking.


"Over a period of time [after getting] the buy-in from the staff; and the buy-in from the athletes; and the home-and-home commitment; the television that comes with that game both home and away; [as well as] the finances that worked in our favor…it just made sense in the final analysis."


It's been reported that Navy will receive $1.4 million to travel to Columbus next season, and while money definitely played a part in the decision-making process, Gladchuk is not penciling in the game as an automatic loss for the Mids.  In fact, the timing of the game was a factor in agreeing to the series, and it is also a reason, according to Gladchuk, to believe Navy could give the Buckeyes a run for their money.


"It's the type of situation that early in the year…it can work…you can be competitive.  You've seen it this past season.  There have been a lot of David and Goliath type games [that Goliath has not won]...and it's something to shoot for…it's something to be enthused about," said Gladchuk.


"I think you find more often than not that [in] early season games you [can] see some competitive match-ups with these types of situations.  And I'd be extremely surprised if we didn't go in there with a positive mindset and a sense of confidence…and a feeling that we are Navy and we are there to play hard and to get the job done," continued Gladchuk.


Another integral part of the deal was Ohio State agreeing to play at Navy – a game that is currently slated to take place in 2014 at a location to be determined.  And even though the match-up is several years away, Gladchuk has already started gauging interest from local stadium groups. 


"That's a game that is going to be highly desirable in this area.  We've already been thinking about it, and we have already met with a couple of venues.  We've met with the FED-EX people and we have met with the Ravens.  Both of those venues are extremely interested in that game and it's probably something that we could lockdown in the shorter term."


When contacted regarding the possibility of Baltimore hosting the Navy-Ohio State game in 2014, Kevin Byrne, the Ravens Senior Vice President of Public and Community Relations, was noncommittal, but he did say the Ravens "love working with the Academy and bringing special events to M&T Bank Stadium."


Regardless of where the game takes place, Gladchuk is convinced that it will be "a great experience for everyone." 


And while fans are starting to get onboard with the idea of playing Ohio State, there is still plenty of interest of how this new agreement will affect the 2009 schedule.  Gladchuk said that there has been some reshuffling of the schedule, and that "there is one more move to be made" before he can release it in its entirety. 


There is some speculation that Ohio State will replace Rutgers on Navy's schedule next season but nothing official has been announced by either school.


Talking to Gladchuk about Ohio State is actually a more pleasant topic these days considering Navy just lost to Ball State, 35-23, last Friday in a game that featured several missed opportunities for the Midshipmen.  One of the most pressing concerns, according to Gladchuk, is getting the Navy defense squared away and playing to its ability.


"It's frustrating for [Defensive Coordinator] Buddy [Green]…it's frustrating for [Head Coach] Kenny Niumatalolo…it's frustrating for the athletic director…it's frustrating for the fans.  But this is not a game of anything other than [a]bottom line.  And we have got to figure it out and get it done upstairs, and I can tell you right now that they are working on it diligently today. And I would expect come next Saturday that we would see some corrections," said Gladchuk.


Even though Navy gave up 36 points a game last season, Gladchuk moved quickly to retain Green as the Mids' defensive coordinator after Paul Johnson took the Georgia Tech job. Injuries to several key players undoubtedly contributed to the defense's struggles last season; but against Ball State, even with an experienced and healthy unit, Navy couldn't stop the Cardinals.


"Last year we were young and now we have grown up and they got to figure it out.  That's all there is to it. You know, whatever it takes," said Gladchuk.


But while Gladchuk said it's "a little discouraging at this point that we are not a little bit stronger on defense," he still has faith in Green.


"Buddy is a very good football coach.  And he proved that he was a very good football coach over the years.  And if you go back to two or three years ago…we had as good of a defense at Navy in as long as I have been here," Gladchuk remarked.


"You know, the most important thing is everyone we have on that staff is an outstanding football coach.  There are no rookies.  They are all seasoned veterans and they all understand exactly what it takes.  They come from winning backgrounds and we have a proven track record here of success.  No one is anything but optimistic that come Saturday it will be a better case scenario.  So we will see how it goes."


Even though Navy failed to beat a very good Ball State team, it appears that the Midshipmen are still ahead of their archrival, Army, who lost last Saturday to FCS-member New Hampshire 28-10.  The Black Knights are in the first year of running a new option-based attack, something that brings back memories of Navy's 2002 season for Gladchuk.


"That first year was tough.  I remember it vividly.  We won our first game against SMU and then it was pretty painful for quite some time until we finished the year with a victory.  There are growing pains that come with that.  It's not like you flip the switch and all of a sudden it works."


According to Gladchuk, recruiting the right players for the system is critical.


"You've seen what has happened here at Navy.  I remember vividly that you can set it up, and you can run the perfect play, but if you haven't got the speed to make the corners or you haven't got the guy on the inside to break a couple of tackles – best laid plans fall short.  So, they are just going to need some time to put it all together.  There's no such thing as being half-in or half-out of that offense."


Gladchuk admits that although the Naval Academy roots against Army once a year, there is "no one that wants to see them win more than we do."


"It is in our best interest and everyone's best interest…Army, Navy and Air Force, when the academies are succeeding.  To see Army back on track would be a huge plus for all of us."




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