Rutgers puts pressure on Navy QB

Kaheaku-Enhada faces first big test as starter

September 07, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

In a week of lighthearted bantering, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano tirelessly praised Navy's passing game and Midshipmen coach Paul Johnson countered with typically droll observations.

Told by Rutgers beat reporters during a teleconference that Schiano was impressed with the passing of Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, Johnson didn't miss a beat.

"Based off our seven attempts against Temple?" he asked.

The laughter stops and the gloves come off, though, when Navy visits Piscataway, N.J., to play the 15th-ranked Scarlet Knights tonight in a 7 o'clock kickoff on ESPN. It will be Navy's relentless triple-option offense against Rutgers' suffocating, quick defense.

Navy's passing game represents the unknown.

The last time Kaheaku-Enhada passed this way, the Mids had just lost quarterback Brian Hampton to a season-ending knee injury and the Hawaii native was thrown into the breach. That was last October.

"I remember a lot of white and red around me," he said. "They were fast, by far the fastest team we played."

Kaheaku-Enhada completed two of six passes for 28 yards and rushed 22 times for only 11 yards in a 34-0 home loss to Rutgers.

"He didn't play real well," Johnson said, "but he didn't have a chance. It's hard to play well when someone is hanging on your back."

Rutgers (1-0) rendered the triple option obsolete last season. Defensive tackle Eric Foster, a preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy awarded to the nation's best interior lineman, is back and going against first-year starter Ben Gabbard, Navy's right guard.

The Scarlet Knights under Schiano have defended the triple option as well as any team. Navy (1-0) averaged just more than 2 yards a carry and totaled just 113 rush yards in last season's game.

"If you are asking me what they do best, it's play defense," Johnson said. "They run the ball well and they hit big plays in the passing game."

That's why Kaheaku-Enhada might have to resort to the pass. Fortunately for Navy, he's been preparing for that eventuality.

"It's something I'm still really trying to work on," he said. "My arm's gotten better; it's just my footwork. My footwork is something that's been hurting me this past game and over the summer."

Schiano, who turned down a chance to go to Miami after last season's 11-2 success, was effusive in his praise of the Navy quarterback.

"When he came in the game last year, what worried me [was] that he can throw the football," Schiano said at a news luncheon. "With 10 more pounds on his frame and the way he runs, this may be the biggest threat we faced at quarterback since we started playing Navy."

To which Johnson replied during a news conference: "I'm sure [Schiano's] a good evaluator of talent. He's got his program in pretty good shape. I think Kaipo's a good player, too."

The other issue awaiting Navy is Rutgers' potent offense. In a 38-3 rout of Buffalo last week, the Scarlet Knights recorded 563 yards of offense. Heisman Trophy candidate Ray Rice ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns, wide receiver Tiquan Underwood caught touchdown passes of 66 and 65 yards, and quarterback Mike Teel threw for 328 yards.

Rutgers has speed and more speed on offense.

"They have so many weapons to beat you, starting with the tailback and wide receivers," Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. "The bottom line is, we've got to keep everything in front of us, do a great job tackling and we've got to run to the ball. If we don't, bad things can happen."

Kaheaku-Enhada understands the challenge.

"Everything worries me about Rutgers. They're such an awesome team," he said. "We've got to go out and try to match their abilities. It's going to be hard."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.