WHY NAVY CAN WIN
There is a great scene in the movie "Rudy" where one of the Notre Dame team captains is turning in his jersey so that Rudy can dress in his place. "You're a team captain," the character playing Coach Dan Devine says. "Act like it."
To which the player responds, "I believe I am."
I bring this up because, at the moment, Navy's captains are listed as second-string: Clint Sovie at LB and Jarod Bryant at QB.
Sovie's demotion is probably the aftermath of a crucial tackle he missed against Duke. In the third quarter, Navy safety Jeff Deliz had wrapped up WR Eron Riley short of the goal line on a third-and-goal play. Sovie was nearby and, had he kept his feet and delivered a fundamentally-strong tackle, Riley would have been stopped at around the 2; the Blue Devils likely would have settled for a FG.
Instead, Sovie went for a big hit. He left his feet and flew completely past Riley. From there, Riley simply lunged forward and reached the ball over the goal line for a touchdown.
It was the equivalent of going for a home run when a single, or even a sacrifice fly, would have sufficed. Hardly the stuff that is needed from a captain.
Bryant hasn't been demoted per se. He began the year as the backup QB and moved into the starting lineup after a hamstring injury to starter Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada.
But for Bryant to be successful, Navy clearly needs FB Eric Kettani in the game. Bryant is a good inside runner but needs a pile-moving fullback to drive home the point. Without Kettani, who missed much of the Duke game, Bryant isn't as strong running up the middle because there isn't as much of a threat.
Bryant also appears to me to have been at fault in each of Navy's two failed fourth-down plays; those plays have made the difference between keeping the past two losses close and giving the opponent much-needed separation, for lack of a better term.
Navy has run the same play both times. I believe it is the QB follow play. The QB appears to give the ball to the fullback, only to keep it and slide through a crease in the defense created by the number of tacklers who go straight for the fullback.
I'm fairly certain it's the same play Navy used for the winning touchdown in the Aloha Bowl in '96 with QB Ben Fay.
It's not working now, for a couple reasons.
One, when the slot back (Shun White both times) goes in motion, he does so in the hopes that a defender will follow him; and that makes for one less defender "in the box." Yet Ball State did not follow White on the tail motion. Meantime, Duke half-followed him, meaning a defender took a lateral step to appear to follow White but he went back to his original spot.
In that instance, I think the QB is supposed to read the non-follow and pitch the ball to White? Bryant, however, kept the ball both times and got stuffed both times.
Also, the lack of success on those plays is symbolized by Navy's play-side tackle. He must be having problems with a seal block. Please note that for the past two games, both losses, starting OT Andrew McGinn has been out with a concussion.
Anyway, this is the preamble to "Navy Will Beat Rutgers If..."
The captains act like captains. Does Sovie play sound football or does he look for more big hits? It's the same dilemma the Redskins used to face with LaVar Arrington. A defense with 10 guys being disciplined and one guy looking for home runs is going to expose too many cracks.
Meantime, if Bryant plays QB again, see if he's focused and making the right reads.
The OT job is sorted out. McGinn is listed as an "OR" as a starter on the depth chart. See if he plays or, if he doesn't, what kind of rotation does Navy use with Molloy and Milke.
A direct approach. The way to negate Rutgers's excellent safety Courtney Greene is to run right at him. This appears to be a job for Kettani.
Teel has a bad day. Navy's defense likes to keep the offense in front of it, i.e. not give up big plays. Nebraska had a similar scheme last year. The scheme works when opposing quarterbacks throw a couple incompletions in a row or the offense is called for penalties. Unfortunately for Navy, its past two opposing quarterbacks have been very accurate. The way Navy's defense is supposed to work is how it looked when Duke went to its backup QB last week. A couple quick incompletions and Navy had forced a punt.
Teel needs to be patient and take what's there.
Confidence Game. I think playing this game at Navy is a huge break for Rutgers. My theory is that college teams in pro sports markets don't have the most patient fans. Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Pitt, etc., their fans get on the players' cases pretty quickly if things are going south over a prolonged period (like two or three games).
If this game were at Rutgers, and RU got off to a slow start, I think it would help Navy. Conversely, Navy is at home, it lacks confidence and its fans are probably a little exasperated. A slow start by one team or the other could be huge.