A Defensive Affair

On the same night that junior linebacker Tyler Simmons was honored as the team's "most improved player" during the spring football season, the Navy first and second team defenses posted dominating performances against their offensive counterparts during the team's annual Blue and Gold Spring Game on Friday night.

The Gold Team, quarterbacked by starter Ricky Dobbs and featuring members of the first team offense, ultimately defeated the Blue Team and its second team offensive unit, but the real story of the evening was the two defensive units. The first team defense of the Blue Team was able to hold the first team offense out of the endzone for the entire first half, only surrendering two field goals to starting kicker John Teague before the third quarter. Teague finished the game 2-3 on field goal attempts, connecting on kicks of 42 and 22 yards, while missing from 31-yards out. Senior-to-be outside linebacker Craig Schaefer continued his impressive spring campaign, leading the first team defense with eight stops (1 tfl), while defensive lineman Nate Frazier and Jordan Stephens added five tackles each. The Gold Team (second team) defense also looked impressive, with linebackers Caleb King, Max Blue, and Jerry Hauburger all standing out in the first half against quarterbacks Mike Stukel, Greg Zingler, and the rest of the second team offense. King finished the day with five tackles, including one tackle for a loss in which the sophomore-to-be linebacker made a great play by shooting the ‘A' gap, while Hauburger made several disruptive plays to chase the option down from the backside. Junior defensive end Lee Calloway also made several nice plays in the latter minutes of the scrimmage, and finished the night with three sacks and a forced fumbled which saw him deliver a punishing hit on Mike Stukel.


The Gold team ultimately scored two touchdowns to widen the score, but both came with members of the third and fourth team offense playing under "running clock" conditions in the second half. Backup quarterback Kriss Proctor scored on a one yard touchdown dive, while reserve slotback Chris Hill also rushed in for a touchdown late in the game. Among the other Gold team offensive standouts were fullback Alex Teich (4 carries, 21 yards) and slotback Bobby Doyle (43 yards on 3 carries.) The Blue team saw several fine individual performances on offense, with quarterback Michael Stukel showing off several athletic runs en route to 42 yards on the ground overall. Gold team fullback Vince Murray combined for 37 yards on the ground and through the air.


While the performances of the first and second team defenses defined the scrimmage, the most important outcome of the game was the welcomed absence of any serious injuries during the contest. Navy fans weren't without a scare however, as junior quarterback Rocky Dobbs suffered a minor left ankle sprain on the Gold team's second possession. Dobbs, who was only scheduled to play during the first two possessions for the Gold Team offense as it was, seemed fine after the scrimmage, with head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirming his status.


"Our number one goal tonight was no major injuries and we got that accomplished," said Niumatalolo, who admitted that "his heart sank" when Dobbs limped off the field in the first quarter. "Fortunately [Ricky's injury] was a mild sprained ankle. He could have gone back in if it was a real game."


Dobbs confirmed his head coach's comments, even joking that he would still be able to dance in Saturday night's International Ball. Also among the highlights of Friday night's Spring Game was the naming of team captains for the 2009 season, as well as the awarding of The Admiral Mack Award to junior linebacker Tyler Simmons. Senior linebacker Ross Pospisil and senior guard Osei Asante were named captains for the upcoming year, while Simmons becomes the second consecutive Navy linebacker to win the award given annually to Navy's most improved player in the spring. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo said naming Simmons as the team's most improved player during the spring was a no-brainer, even joking that Simmons' play over the course of the spring had been so impressive that the coach's wife could have picked him out for the award.


Check back later this weekend for more in-depth coverage from Friday night's Blue and Gold Game, including expert analysis, photos, and video.


Adam Nettina can be contacted at AdamNettina@gmail.com.


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