One-Trick ‘O' Works against Ponies but…

Navy is 5-3 and on the verge of its sixth consecutive bowl bid after a 34-7 rout of SMU. However, the road ahead is not an easy one. Three of the Mids last four opponents are capable of significantly limiting their running attack, and that could spell trouble for a Navy team that has struggled to throw the ball with any consistency all season. Against Temple, Navy may have a chance to fix that.

Before the season even began, head coach Ken Niumatalolo adopted the motto "no excuses" for his team, hoping to instill in them a sense of urgency and purpose. It's now time for that phrase to apply to both Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper as they prepare the game plan for Navy's match-up with Temple this Saturday. So far the Navy coaching staff has used the loss of option-guru Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhanda as the main reason in limited the play calling. And this past Saturday, Mother Nature gave them another one. However, against the Owls, Navy should have an opportunity to open things up on the offensive side of the ball. The only question is will they do it?

This season, when Jarod Bryant has been under center, a lot of the true triple option plays were taken out of the game plan, and so too it seems was any desire to include a few pre-planned passing plays in non-throwing situations or even a trick play or two. And so far, the strategy has not backfired for the most part. Against Air Force, with a scaled back playbook, the Mids leaned heavily on its defense and special teams to emerge with a victory. Against Pittsburgh two weeks later, Navy's entire offense, especially the offensive line, was ineffective at best and terrible at worst. Therefore, it probably would not have made a difference what plays were called. However, one could make a very good argument that a scaled-back game plan will not work against Notre Dame, Northern Illinois [10th ranked defense in nation], or a much improved Army team [27th ranked defense]. I truly believe Navy will need to throw the ball well in order to win any one of those games. So why not see what a no holds barred, non-Kaipo led offense can do before then?

Believe it or not, I actually thought about writing this column last week, prior to the SMU game, because against the Mustangs, I figured there might be an opportunity to experiment a bit offensively against a very susceptible defense. However, I was not sure if Navy's defense would have been able to stop June Jones' offense to the degree necessary for Jasper to feel comfortable with expanding the offense. To explain, I thought that every possession may have been critical in the outcome of the game, and that Navy would have no problem running the ball. Therefore, throwing the ball would not only have been risky, but it could have proved disastrous if it led to a turnover that gave the Mustangs another possession to chuck the ball around with.

As fate would have it three things happened that led the Navy coaching staff to once again limit the game plan. First and foremost, a mini monsoon hit Annapolis before and during the game which put a premium on ball handling. Secondly, Bryant injured his shoulder early in the contest which gave sophomore Ricky Dobbs plenty of time to affect the outcome of a game for the first time in his career. And third, the Mids defense shut down the Mustangs potent offense – with an assist from the aforementioned weather. Thus, there was really no reason to throw the ball or add a trick play or two to the repertoire this past week.

However, this week, Navy will not be throwing an untested quarterback into the mix and the weather is going to be perfect – or so I hear. Therefore, regardless of who is at quarterback, there is a good chance that an opportunity will present itself for Navy to expand its playbook as it has in past seasons with so much success.

That chance comes mainly due to the fact that the opponent is a Temple team that has struggled to move the ball on offense all season. If Navy's defense plays with the same intensity as it did against SMU, Wake Forest, Rutgers and Air Force, the Owls will have trouble scoring more than 13-17 points. That type of effort could very well put Navy's offense in a position to get an early lead and maybe even put the game out of reach in the third quarter. So say (and I know I'm taking great liberty with the hypothetical situations here), Navy can get up by 14 points or more on the Owls like it did against SMU. And let's say Dobbs is under center and the weather is not a factor. That may just be the perfect time to find out what an unrestrained Ricky Dobbs-led Navy offense can do.

Fans have waited all season to see Navy's offense open it up and here's hoping that the Owls cooperate this Saturday. I mean how nice would it be to see one of Navy's top playmakers, Tyree Barnes, get a few opportunities to touch the ball? How nice would it be to see if Dobbs can hit Shun White on a wheel route on a first down? How nice would it be to see if Bobby Doyle can still throw the ball? I'm sure any one of those plays, if successful, will help keep Navy's last three opponents a bit more honest, and it will also give the Mids offense confidence that if the time comes when they need to hit a big, non-conventional play that they can actually do it.

Of course having said all of this, I'd still be thrilled if Navy doesn't throw the ball once for the second time in two weeks - because if that happens again, the Mids will be going bowling again.

If you have a comment for David, send him an email.


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