Todd's experience keeps Midshipmen's options open, their rushing game tops

297-pound senior center clears the way for backs

Navy notebook

October 07, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Shane Todd played like a guy who had been there before, which helps explain how Navy was able to move the ball with sledgehammer-like success on Saturday.

While upsetting heavily favored Air Force, 28-25, the Midshipmen did what they do best: run the ball with their option attack. And after rolling up 294 yards on the ground, including a career-high 176 by fullback Kyle Eckel, Navy maintained its position as the top rushing team in the nation with an average of 308.2 yards a game.

Todd was truly in the middle of Navy's big day. A week after junior center August Roitsch suffered a left foot injury at Rutgers that ended his season, Todd vacated his right guard spot and moved back to his old position. He started nine games at center as a junior last year. He probably will start the final seven games there as a senior.

The Midshipmen gained much of their yardage on dive plays up the middle, where the 297-pound Todd handled Air Force nose tackle Nicholas Taylor with regularity and helped Eckel get into the linebacker layer of the Falcons' 5-0 defense.

"I thought Shane Todd played his best game since I've been here," said Paul Johnson, Navy's second-year coach. "We were running a lot of stuff inside, and it was important that we got the nose tackle tied up, and [Todd] did. The majority of the time, he gave us a chance to get started."

Todd said he especially enjoyed the grinding nature of Navy's ball-control success. The Midshipmen had touchdown drives that consumed 13, 14 and 15 plays, and only one run all day exceeded 14 yards. Navy averaged 4.5 yards a rush on 65 attempts.

"That's a good feeling, when you see the yard markers ticking off. It's nice to see big plays, but as a lineman, sometimes it's a better feeling when you're out there longer and it's 3, 4, 6 yards," Todd said.

"I didn't realize I'd had as good a game as I did [until he reviewed game tape]. But our glory thing on the line is at the end of the game, when it's a W. The personal satisfaction is water under the bridge. We won."

On the road

Attempting for the third time to win on the road for the first time this season, the Midshipmen are not expecting easy pickings at Vanderbilt (1-5), a bottom feeder in the powerful Southeastern Conference.

Among the Commodores' losses are a 24-21 decision to a Mississippi team that just beat Florida, a 30-21 loss at Mississippi State and a 17-12 defeat in overtime against Georgia Tech.

"They're in the SEC. That means they're big, they're physical and they can run, like a lot of teams we see," said Johnson, who also coached against Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson in the Southern Conference. While at Georgia Southern, Paul went 4-2 against Bobby at Furman.

"They are not going to overlook Navy," Johnson added. "If you're Vanderbilt and you're trying to build your program, you schedule Navy to win."

Et cetera

Navy is ranked 10th in the nation in pass defense, having allowed 163.8 yards a game. The Midshipmen have intercepted at least one pass in six straight games dating to their victory over Army in last year's finale. ... Senior safety Eli Sanders has 29 tackles in his past two games. ... Navy has scored 15 touchdowns on 22 trips inside the red zone (.682). ... Paul Johnson is one of just six Division I-A head coaches who never played college football. ... Navy's home game against Air Force in 2005 will be moved back to newly renovated Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Its three-game contract with the Washington Redskins expired with the playing of Saturday's game at FedEx Field.

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