Navy: View from the Press Box

While watching Stanford's 2005 season opener progress from the press box in Annapolis Saturday night, I kept a log of observations and opinions. Here is a string of time-stamped highlights, lowlights and opinions as The Bootleg saw things unfold at Navy.

All times Eastern

6:05pm - Stanford wins the toss and defers.  Hmm.  In the Buddy Teevens Era, that was an admission that the defense was markedly ahead of the offense.  We now have a guy in Walt Harris with a lot of confidence in himself and his offense.  Interesting.

6:07 - Pat Maynor makes his college debut on the kickoff coverage team.  There is the first (redshirt) freshman of the game.  David Lofton streaks down the field, though and comes left to right to make a nice stick for the tackle.  That looked good.  And that might have been his first collegiate tackle.

6:08 - First play from scrimmage and Stanford swarms to stuff the option at the line of scrimmage.  Michael Okwo is quick to the ball - wow.  Next play (2nd &10), Navy quickly goes to the air and finds a wide open receiver for an eight-yard game.  The rollout game could be dangerous.  Have we over-thought our anticipation of the triple option?  Players and coaches warned this week that with the safeties largely committed to stopping the option/run, the cornerbacks would truly be on an island and at risk.

6:11pm - We have our first third and long, but the base defense stays on the field.  No nickel defense yet, as Navy does not spread the field with receivers.  It's a weird world playing against an option team.

6:12 - David Marrero makes his 2005 debut, on special teams, as the punt returner.  Fair catch.

6:13 - Anthony Kimble lines up as Stanford's tailback on the first down of the 2005 offense, as expected.  He catches a pass just past the line of scrimmage for a nine-yard gain.  Throwing to the backs in this Walt Harris offense is going to be a staple and not a novelty - that was a forecast.

6:14 - The fullback lives!  Trent Edwards hits Nick Frank as a safety valve on third and short.  Frank looks smooth and gets up the field quickly for a big gain, across midfield to the 49.  The Bayou backfield is making an early, positive statement in '05.

6:17 - 2nd & 10 @ the Navy 39.  First substitution of the game for Stanford.  Justin McCullum for Frank.  Stanford goes three-wide, but they run the draw for Kimble to the 24.  15 yards.  Clever and effective.

6:19 - Anthony Kimble is making a statement on this first drive.  He is picking up yardage with quick north-south running and nice instincts in the open field, but equally impressive is watching him power through tacklers.  Granted, Navy's defenders are undersized, but he is carrying them like a bag of groceries for several yards.

6:20 - 3rd & 3, Edwards looks immediately to Evan Moore on the right side, pulls back and then throws to him in the back far corner of the endzone.  Close call to stay in bounds, but nifty footwork and control by Moore to tip-toe in.  On paper, the Cardinal should have a big size advantage in the passing game, and that just played out for the first time in an obvious fashion.  Not the typical corner fade with a lot of air under the ball, but Edwards' pass was where the 6'7" receiver could only grab it.  The Edwards-Moore connection should be dangerous this year.  Stanford draws first blood, 7-0.

6:25 - Stanford's inside linebackers are option killers.  Back to back plays just saw Michael Okwo and Kevin Schimmelmann explode into the Navy backfield and stuff plays.  We expected speed and deception from the Mids' option athletes, but Okwo and Schimmelmann make them look slow.  First sack of 2005 goes to Schimmy, a loss of eight.  These two guys are exciting to watch.

6:29 - Stanford has its first third and long on offense.  3rd & 14 from the Stanford 27.  But the base offensive personnel stay in the game.  Both backs, tight end and both starting receivers.  I think this is the 14th or 15th play of the game, so we may still be within Harris scripted first 15 plays.  But this play shows us that you do not have to go three wide to get open on long yardage.  Evan Moore was there.

6:31 - Those of you watching on TV are away on commercial, but Michael Craven is now on the field ready for his first play with Stanford's defense at the strongside "Sam" outside linebacker, spelling starter Udeme Udofia.

6:34 - Jon Alston makes a great play behind the line of scrimmage on the option and forces a fumble, which luckily for Navy rolls out of bounds.  But more noteworthy is that Stanford's fifth-year senior comes up gimpy on the play.  His health is paramount to Stanford's success this year.  Not a good sight.

6:35 - Stanford forces a punt again on defense, and despite a short field, the punt is oddly short and returnable...  Marrero looks to get the ball upfield but fumbles it.  Navy twice in the last few minutes put the ball on the ground on offense and had fortunate bounces to hold on to the ball.  The Mids get the good bounce here again, picking up the ball and running it 19 yards for the score.  Stanford had completely controlled the first 12 and a half minutes of this game, until that play suddenly tied us up at 7-7.  Big, big lift for the home team.  Will Marrero continue to return punts after that costly mistake?

6:39 - What is the fastest imaginable momentum reversal you could ask for?  How about T.J. Rushing for 93 yards on the very next play - the kickoff return.  Last year he broke one 99 yards, giving Stanford their first KOR touchdown in quite a few years, but we didn't have to wait nearly as long for the next one.  Boy he is explosive.  That kid deserves to go on the cover of The Bootleg Magazine... <g>

6:41 - Redshirt freshman Carlos McFall makes his first tackle of his college career, coming on special teams.  After the Mids and Cardinal just traded special teams touchdowns on back-to-back plays, Navy looked like they might have another after KOR Jason Tomlinson breaks to the outside on a return.  But McFall made a tackle that saved a big return, if not a touchdown.  You love the fact that McFall is even on the field, with his ongoing shoulder problems.

6:45 - Our earlier question has been answered.  After Navy is stopped on third down, one yard short of the marker, the Mids have to punt for the third time this quarter.  Marrero does go back, and he holds onto the ball for a short return.

6:47 - For the record, Stanford's starting five on the offensive line has survived one quarter of the 2005 season intact!

6:50 - Facing 3rd & 12, Stanford pulls tight end Matt Traverso off the field and replaces him with Michael Horgan, for Horgan's first offensive play of the season.  Single back, three wide - this is an offense looking to get downfield, and indeed Horgan gets open well past the first down marker.  Edwards hits him beautifully, but a hard hit knocks the ball out.  Todd Husak made the comment to me during an training camp interview that Horgan has made solid plays but has not converted enough on the chances for big plays.  He has the chance to be something very special, but Horgan has to make these plays to get there.

6:51 - David Lofton and Peter Griffin are both on the field for Stanford's defense at the safety positions.  Brandon Harrison was down on his knees after a play just a moment ago and left the field.  Didn't see what happened to take Trevor Hooper off the field this early.  It is not expected that Tom Hayes would freely rotate his safeties early in a game.  Pannel Egboh is in as well, spelling Gustav Rydstedt at defensive end.  That is expected.

6:53 - Navy could do nothing in the first quarter with their option.  Nothing.  But to start the second quarter, they have found something.  They made their first dangerous and successful gainer on the ground for 15 yards.  Then 44 yards when freshman Karlos Whitaker beat everybody to the corner.  Lofton cannot get there in time after the linebackers were beaten.  The game has been won in most battles thus far by Stanford

6:56 - We have our first offensive line substitution.  Ismail Simpson, who started all 22 games his first two post-redshirt seasons, moved into a reserve role this year.  He was in the doghouse for some time but rallied and now is the #1 reserve offensive guard.  He's in at left guard to start this series for Josiah Vinson.  Interesting - OL rotations are not something we are used to seeing, unless there are injuries or penalties.  Whoops - Navy breaks through on some kind of breakdown to sack Edwards for a big loss.  One of those Mids looked like he came up the middle, quite possibly through Simpson.

7:02 - Stanford plays its first nickel defense of the year.  Pannel Egboh, Emmanuel Awofadeju and Tim Sims all come onto the field, exactly as we have seen in practices - but to no avail.  Blown coverage leaves a Navy receiver wide open for a big gainer.

7:07 - A sign you really don't want to see, big Babatunde Oshinowo, Stanford's 310-pound fifth-year senior nose tackle goes down.  Very slow to get up, and he limps off the field.  Oshinowo is the number one key to Stanford's 3-4 defense.  "Irreplaceable" is not too strong of a word.  Those Navy cut blocks are dangerous.  The Cardinal have their entire second team defensive line on the field right now with Chris Horn, Matt McClernan and Pannel Egboh.  But Stanford decides to call a timeout and brings Julian Jenkins back in the game.  Looks to me like they were willing to burn a timeout just to give Jenkins a chance to catch his breath, rather than have to play without one of their starters.

7:10 - This is the danger of Navy's passing game.  Redshirt sophomore Nick Sanchez gets caught with his eyes looking in the Mids' backfield, burned badly by play-action.  His receiver is wide open and picks up 17 yards, down to the two-yard line.

7:12 - Navy scores from the one-yard line to go ahead by a touchdown, but the bigger story is second string nose tackle Matt McClernan down on the field in a lot of pain.  He cannot walk off the field under his own power.  It's his right leg.  Navy cut block again.  Are we already going to have to dip to the third string defense?  This is a potentially big story, and a very disturbing one.

7:16 - For the second straight time, Navy kicks off out of bounds.  After being burned by Rushing, they apparently are happy to give Stanford the ball on the 35 rather than let T.J. Rushing touch the ball.  Mathematically, that probably works out.

7:17 - Simpson is now at right guard, giving redshirt freshman Alex Fletcher a breather.  Simpson spelled Vinson earlier.  Jason Evans is also in the game, giving us our first change at tailback.

7:20 - Gerren Crochet comes onto the field for the first time in this game, with a little over three minutes left in the half.  He is the fifth receiver for Stanford on the field, owed mostly to the time he missed in camp with an injury.  But a bigger story is a Jason Evans.  He really made a big surge forward during this training camp, and he just showed on this field that he's more than a practice player.  Fantastic run for 28 yards - by far his career long.

7:22 - For the first time, we see the "Jumbo" formation, with Stanford at the two-yard line for First & Goal.  Three tight ends, two backs and no wide.  Redshirt freshman Austin Gunder makes his Stanford debut as the third tight end, and he goes in motion, becoming a blocker when the ball is snapped.  Nick Frank rumbles in for his first career touchdown!  If you thought Walt Harris was a guy who favored the pass and ran a "soft" offense, that was a power play right there.

7:25 - Breathe a deep sigh of relief: Babatunde Oshinowo is on the field for Stanford at nose tackle.

7:30 - Navy's cut blocks are killing Stanford's players.  Oshinowo is down again.  Has to be helped off the field.  Replay shows that the cut block came from behind.  That's illegal folks.  No yellow hanky's, however.

7:31 - What happens when Navy has to run a hurry-up offense?  They can pass off deception, with play-action when you watch for the option.  But they are at a disadvantage when everyone knows they need to pass.  Not too surprising to see them throw a pick.  Udeme Udofia snares it and returns four yards.  Now Stanford has a chance to do something and untie this 21-21 game.

7:32 - The single best part of Stanford's offense we saw in training camp was the hurry-up offense.  And though a KZSU announcer next to me in the booth just suggested that Trent Edwards take a knee and send everyone into the locker room, I know that 62 yards in 55 seconds is something this first team offense has done several times in recent weeks.  First play - a brilliant 33-yarder from Edwards to Moore!  But Moore was dragged to the ground out of bounds, and twisted down awkwardly.  His right knee?  This looks bad.

7:38 - After a long time down just out of bounds, Moore is taken off the field on a cart.  Very ugly looking situation after an ugly play.  This is sickening to see on a number of different levels.

7:45 - Stanford is screwed, getting a first down just outside the one-yard line, yet the clock keeps rolling.  They lose several seconds before it is stopped, with 7.1 seconds left in the half (clock stops automatically for first downs in college, while the chains are reset).  The Cardinal use their last time out, giving them time for only one play.  You really wish you had Evan Moore for a fade in the endzone.  Surprising everyone in the stadium, Stanford comes onto the field with their "Jumbo" formation - zero wideouts.  Trent Edwards fakes the hand-off and keeps the ball himself, to his right side.  He has Alex Fletcher to block, but the two do not get on the same page.  Edwards cuts it back inside but is tackled short of the goalline.  The ball comes out and is recovered by Michael Horgan.  Replay shows that Edwards was down, but it does not matter.  The clock was going to expire with Stanford out of time outs regardless of whether that was or was not ruled a fumble.  We stay tied at 21-21, but a lost opportunity and lost Stanford players leave a dark cloud over the Cardinal headed into halftime.

8:07 - Stanford finally gets a flag on a dirty Navy play, when Frank is hit late out of bounds.  That comes too little, too late from this ACC officiating crew.  Stanford already sustained crippling injuries on no-call plays in the first half.

8:16 - Bionic Babatunde Oshinowo comes back to the game as Stanford's defense takes the field for the first time.  He gets quickly into the backfield and drags Lamar Owens for a loss, but he does so by the face mask.  15-yard penalty.  Stanford's first flag of the game.

8:19 - With 10:28 to go in the third quarter, we just now have our first field goal attempt of the game.  Navy hits a 39-yarder to bring the Mids to within four, 28-24.

8:34 - Bionic Baba makes another great play, but takes himself off the field, limping.  Stanford mans the middle of their 3-4 defense now with David Jackson, the third string nose tackle.  Second team defensive end Pannel Egboh makes the play for the Cardinal on third down, running down the play from behind with impressive quickness.

8:40 - We have seen several times now where Trent Edwards has gone to the shovel pass when a pass play breaks down.  He just hit Jason Evans for a nice14-yard first down pickup on 2nd & 11.  Stanford truly has a safety valve on offense under Walt Harris.

8:41 - If you attended Stanford's spring practices, there was just one trick play run during the entire 15 practices.  It was a reverse for Gerren Crochet.  He ran it for a 62-yard touchdown in the spring game, in fact.  Well, the Card just whipped it out here in the regular season, and Crochet went 46 yards to the house.  Nice lead blocks made it work.  Stanford now has their first double-digit lead of the game, 35-24.

8:47 - After a 30-yard punt and eight-yard Marrero return, Stanford starts with the ball for the first time today in Navy territory.  Late in the third quarter, the Cardinal have reclaimed the momentum in this game.  They lead by 11 but have a chance here to put more on the board and gain some breathing room...

8:53 - Stanford stalls and puts their field goal team on the field for the first time in this game, just inside the start of the fourth quarter.  Fifth-year senior Michael Sgroi punches home a 40-yarder to give the Card a 14-point lead, 38-24.  Not a knockout punch, but two touchdowns for Navy's option offense would be a tall order in one quarter.

8:59 - The thinking when you play Navy is that if you can build a little lead, you can force the Mids into the uncomfortable position of having to pass.  Their option offense is not prone to picking up yardage or points in a hurry.  But Navy just showed that they can score by the air.  The Cardinal secondary again was caught looking in  the backfield, allowing a wide open Navy receiver to catch and run 54 yards for a touchdown.  We're back to seven points at 38-31.  This game is certainly not over.

9:06 - Stanford has played a pretty clean game, but two holding penalties have been costly.  And they have come from the two most experienced players in the front five - Brian Head and Josiah Vinson.  Vinson's hold just moved Stanford way back, across midfield, into a 2nd and 20 situation.  Those are killers...  But Walt Harris calls a play to answer right back.  Edwards to Justin McCullum for exactly 20 yards.  First down.  What a playcall.  Nice job by McCullum.  This passing game is so much smarter and better executed than what we've seen in a while at Stanford.

9:10 - After a 3rd & 5 pass was batted down at the 30-yard line, Stanford had to decide to kick a 47-yarder or go for it on fourth down.  With seven-plus minutes to go and just a seven-point lead, it was a big decision and big play.  Michael Sgroi came onto the field and coldly pounded a field goal from 47 yards, with distance to spare.  That was the second longest field goal of Sgroi's career, trailing only a 50-yarder last year against Oregon State.  Helluva start to his fifth year.  Those points are huge.

9:14 - Navy made one big splash throwing the ball, but they just shot themselves in the foot going to the air.  The Mids tossed their second interception of the game, and this one probably ended any chances they had left.  Redshirt sophomore Nick Sanchez snared the errant pass and returned it to the Navy 38.  Stanford takes over and has a chance to run clock and/or extend their 10-point lead.

9:16 - Hmm.  You want to run some clock, so why throw the ball on three straight downs?  Only 18 seconds come off the clock, and Stanford has to punt.  6:35 to go, and now Navy has some life.  You don't want to give your opponent a stool when the noose is tightening around his neck.  Even worse, Jay Ottovegio's punt rolls into the endzone, giving the Midds the ball at the 20.

9:20 - Stanford is having to be flexible on its defensive line, with the hurts at the nose tackle position.  Matt McClernan has not returned since his injury, and Babatunde Oshinowo has been able to sparingly continue.  Gustav Rydstedt has now been moved to nose tackle, moving Pannel Egboh to the first team defensive end.

9:24 - The two-deep is having to play on the defense, and they are making their presence felt.  Redshirt sophomore Chris Horn just made a fantastic play behind the line of scrimmage for a 10-yard sack - the first of his Cardinal career.  Boy, Horn looked good on that play.  With the D-line body count, he is going to be counted upon in the coming weeks to play more than we expected.

9:26 - We're inside three minutes, but Navy is methodically moving down the field.  They are now inside the 10.  They will likely score, but their offense needs time - for the most part - to get down the field.  Even if they punch into the endzone here, it's not obvious how they will get the ball back and have time to score again.

9:27 - Time to go down to the field for post-game interview work.  Signing off from the press box...

(Navy does score, bringing the game to three points at 41-38.  Stanford stalls three-and-out, but Navy gets the ball on their 15 with 1:37 to go.  They go four-and-out.  Trent Edwards kneels out the last 53 seconds of clock.  First Stanford win in the Eastern Time Zone since the 1992 season.)


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