Week No.2 of the Rutgers college football season is here, and the first test of the year is upon us. The Navy Midshipmen (1-0) roll into Piscataway for a Friday night ESPN rumble with No. 15/16 Rutgers (1-0, 0-0 Big East) that is sure to be black and blue. Let's take a look in our weekly breakdown.
Week 2 of the Rutgers
college football season is here, and the first test of the year is upon us. The
Navy Midshipmen (1-0) roll into Piscataway for
a Friday night ESPN rumble with No. 15/16 Rutgers (1-0, 0-0 Big East) that is
sure to be black and blue. Let's take a look in our weekly breakdown.
Rutgers handled Buffalo
easily in the opener while Navy had more difficulty than it needed versus Temple. The Scarlet
Knights raced to an early lead and never looked back while the Midshipmen
failed to put away Temple
until late in the fourth quarter.
At least the Scarlet Knights are finally learning their
lesson as to when to schedule Navy, a team that inflicts a cost even in defeat.
In 2005, Rutgers won the Navy game 31-21 but came out flat against South Florida the following week and could not recover
from an early 21-0 deficit en route to a 45-31 home loss at the hands of the
Bulls. Last year the Scarlet Knights gutted out a 20-10 victory at Pittsburgh a week after
locking horns with the Mids. Rutgers traditionally fares poorly following the
Navy game, and the Norfolk
State game next week
should be a good antidote for this week's bruising affair.
Nobody in college football seems to want to play Navy. The
Midshipmen are disciplined, well-coached and physical. Plus, they play an
offensive scheme (the triple option) that hardly any Division I-A school uses
(Division I-A is now called the Football Bowl Subdivision by the NCAA).
The Midshipmen got out to an early14-0 lead and never
trailed against Temple
in a 30-19 win. Navy moved the ball at will (361 yards rushing). However, the
Midshipmen failed to put the Owls away until the late in the fourth quarter and
tried to find ways to give the game away. That being said, Temple never threatened to take the game away
from the visiting Midshipmen
What does this game tell us? Nothing, really. Navy struggled
in the opener against Temple, but consider this:
the Midshipmen gutted out wins against East Carolina and Division I-AA
(Football Championship Subdivision) Massachusetts
last year before getting on track en route to the school's fourth consecutive
bowl game. Under coach Paul Johnson, the Midshipmen certainly know how to
compartmentalize each game.
Junior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada improved as the Temple game went on, so
there's no reason to think he won't be that much better against the Scarlet
Knights. He rushed for 102 yards, including a 44-yard scamper and completed
three of seven passes for 78 yards.
Navy QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (or Kaipo for shorthand) vs. Rutgers'
When the Scarlet Knights knocked out Navy QB Brian Hampton
during a 34-0 rout last year, they did a favor to Kaheaku-Enhada in terms of
gaining exposure. Navy wasn't going to win that game with or without Hampton, so Kaheaku-Enhada got some valuable snap time to
figure out Rutgers' defense. Kaipo throws the
ball more than his predecessors, though his arm seems a bit weak on out
Last season was the first time Rutgers
could truly say it had a handle on the triple option and was able to snuff it
out. In fact, RU held the Middies to just 113 yards on the ground. With a corps
of young linebackers who have not seen significant time against Paul Johnson's
offense, the linebackers could be in for a long evening if they don't play
Navy's offensive line vs. Rutgers' defensive
One of the reasons Navy gains so many yards despite everyone
in the building knowing what's coming is its offensive line's quickness on the snap.
Perhaps no other team in college football gets as quick a start on the snap as
Navy, forcing opponents on their heels and allowing the Mids to get to the
second level in the run game. Leading the offensive charge of three returning
linemen for Navy is senior center Antron Harper, who is on the Lombardi watch
list for the nation's top lineman; the Rimington Award for the best center in
college football; and the Outland Trophy for the best interior offensive
Rutgers is slightly undersized
(averaging just over 260 pounds on the defensive line vs. Navy's 275 on the O
line), but it has speed in its own right to counter Navy's initial burst. Ramel
Meekins, who graduated after last season, almost single-handedly dismantled
Navy's offense this year, so the defensive tackles in particular will have to
step up. The old cliché that "whoever controls the line of scrimmage controls
the game" applies here.
DTs Eric Foster and Vantrise Studivant vs. Navy FB Adam Ballard
It will be interesting to see how Rutgers'
best defensive player fares against Navy's most gifted running back. Ballard
will be coming straight at RU's defensive tackles, so they had better be
prepared. Ballard scored two touchdowns against Temple and gained XX yards, and Navy's triple
option tends to freeze defensive lines.
4. RU's passing attack against Navy's green
The Midshipmen lost nine players on the defensive side of
the ball in the offseason. Temple
quarterback Dam DiMichele tagged Navy's secondary for 199 yards despite a lack
of run support. The Midshipmen seemed to have trouble when he scrambled with
the ball, though DiMichele is more mobile than Rutgers QB Mike Teel.
Still, Teel is more seasoned than DiMichele and has a line
that will protect him. Rutgers throws three
legitimate deep-play threats in junior Tiquan Underwood and sophomores Kenny Britt and Tim Brown. Can Navy match up?
5. Navy RB Shun White vs. the
Knight has the speed to get the corner, and he gained 122
yards on just eight carries versus Temple.
That was his third 100-yard game in his last four and his second straight.
Jason (a true junior) and Devin (a redshirt sophomore) are going to be tasked
with watching the pitch. White appeared a bit iffy handling the ball against Temple and coughed it up
when hit hard in the first half.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (NAVY)
In the triple offense, you need a quarterback who is sharp
and poised and who knows how to make multiple reads in option situations. Kaipo
showed these abilities last year, as well as the occasional flash of passer
ability. He has had almost a full year as a starter under center and should be
able to handle himself better than he did against the Scarlet Knights last
season (2-for-6 passing for 28 yards and 11 net yards rushing on 22 carries,
including four sacks). His backup is junior Jarod Bryant, who completed two of
10 passes for 20 yards against the Knights last year.
FB Adam Ballard
The senior, ranked the third-best fullback in the nation by The Sporting News, is a standout. Being
a Navy running back, he of course knows how to dole out punishment to tacklers.
He also can hit the hole quickly, though he lacks breakaway speed. He led Navy
in rushing last year with 792 yards and three touchdowns, though he broke his
leg in the finale against Army and missed the Middies' bowl game. Ballard is a
battering ram on short yardage, and he scored twice against Temple while gaining 78 yards on 21 carries.
Slot Back Reggie Campbell
The senior has speed, creating a dual threat in both the
running and the passing game. Campbell was the
Mids' leading rusher against Rutgers the last
two years, gaining 44 yards on nine carries last season and 69 yards on four
touches in 2005. He doesn't get a ton of workload in the running game, but he
is a threat to score almost every time his number is called.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (RUTGERS)
TB Ray Rice
The talented true junior racked up 184 yards on 25 carries
against Buffalo and needs just 17 yards to set
the all-time Rutgers rushing record. In the UB
game he got a good deal of yardage running behind the blocking of left tackle
WRs Tim Brown and
We all saw what Tiquan Underwood did last week. That had to
fuel Britt, Rutgers' go-to guy heading into
the season, to elevate his game. Brown returns from a broken hand this week.
While he may not be
DEs Jamaal Westerman
and George Johnson
The defensive ends are key to Rutgers
halting Navy's rushing attack. They need to be disciplined and poised, as the
triple option features multiple looks and cut blocks. Johnson has a nose for
the ball and was all over the place against Buffalo, but he needs to play stay-at-home
football this week.
Offensive and Defensive Schemes
Navy employs the dreaded triple option attack on offense, a
scheme that relies on getting off the snap quickly and taking out opposing
defensive ends and linebackers to create holes on the outside. The Middies are
also likely to employ traps and dives, keeping Rutgers'
front seven off balance in an effort to get into the secondary. Rutgers' 4-3 defense will rely on assignment football,
especially on the part of defensive ends, outside linebackers and cornerbacks,
who need to stay at home to defend the option properly. Kaipo brings the added
element of passing, something the Midshipmen have not employed much in the past,
though he was just 3-for-7 against Temple.
Navy was dead last in passing last season with 56 yards per game but was tops
in the nation with 327 yards per game running the ball.
The Midshipmen run a hybrid 3-4 defense with formations that
also resemble a 4-4, 5-2, 4-6 and nickel package, depending on the offense they
face. Navy lost nine starters on this side of the ball last year, and it showed
in the opener. While the Midshipmen often confused the Owls with defensive
shifts, they also found themselves susceptible in zone coverage. Rutgers' pro style offense will use Ray Rice as a weapon against
Navy's green offense and will rely on the ground game to set up a passing attack
that looks to pressure the Mids' secondary. But RU's advantage in the offense
versus defense paradigm is mitigated by the fact that Navy is one of those
teams that effectively use their offenses as defensive weapons. When you're
grinding out 7- and 8-minute drives, you're keeping the opposition from
True senior placekicker Jeremy Ito looked unsettled against Buffalo. He got a late
start on field goal attempts, and his timing generally looked off. He was 1-for-3
on field goal attempts against UB, though one of those misses was a 56-yard
attempt. He also was not booming kickoffs in the opener like he has in the
past, and we still have yet to see what he is like as a punter. Kick coverage
was good in the opener against UB, holding the Bulls to less than 20 yards per
Junior Navy kicker Matt Harmon, in his second full year with
the starting job, was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts against Temple, including a
43-yarder late in the fourth quarter to seal the game. He also converted all
three PATs and was effective on kickoffs. Navy limited Temple to just 14.8 yards per kickoff return.
HEAD TO HEAD
The all-time series that began in 1891 is tied at 10-10-1,
with RU gaining a 6-4 edge in the last 10 meetings. Rutgers is 4-1 versus Navy
during coach Greg Schiano's tenure, including last year's 34-0 shellacking of
the Mids in Annapolis.
Navy's last victory in Piscataway was a 34-7
decision in the 1999 season.
Last season, Rutgers held
Navy to just 113 yards rushing, the Mids' third-lowest total under Johnson. The
161 total yards was Navy's second lowest total with Johnson at the helm. RU has
limited Navy to less than 2 yards per carry while rolling up a combined 65-21
score in the last two meetings, both Rutgers
Navy, 19-11 in games played away from home in the last five
years, is on the road for the second straight week and the second consecutive
Friday. The Midshipmen, who have not beat a ranked team on the road since 1985,
follow this game with three home games they should win before traveling to
Pittsburgh in early October.
Last year was the first time Rutgers
followed a game against Navy with a victory the following game since 1999. The
Scarlet Knights were 0-5 following Navy week from 2000-05. Rutgers
has won eight straight at Rutgers Stadium dating back to 2005. The Scarlet
Knights are looking to start the season 2-0 for the third time since 2000 and
are trying to put together back-to-back 2-0 starts for the first time since
ESPN will carry the game at 7 p.m. EDT. Sean McDonough,
Chris Spielman and Rob Stone form the broadcast team.
It's looking like clear skies for the game, with a game-time
temperature in the upper 60s to low 70s.
WR Tim Brown is set to return from a broken hand earlier
than expected. OT Pedro Sosa is a
game-time decision with a knee injury. Kevin Haslam will switch from guard to
tackle, paving the way for true freshman Anthony Davis to see more playing time
in the guard slot. DT Peter Tverdov is
still sidelined with a sprained ankle. FB Andres Morales is not likely to play
due to a shoulder injury.