Blue Hens are no chickens

Delaware confident for game at Navy

`We shouldn't have any problem'

October 27, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Reporter

Between heavyweight bouts with Wake Forest and Notre Dame, Navy has an intriguing scrap today with Delaware of the Colonial Athletic Association and NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

It's a game that figures to deliver more than its marquee value might indicate.

At 6-1, Delaware is ranked eighth in the FCS coaches poll. The Blue Hens beat Navy in Annapolis in 2003 en route to their sixth Division I-AA national title.

They have a Division I transfer at quarterback and a durable playmaker at running back. Earlier this week, their top wide receiver talked smack about today's opponent at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

"Athletically, I think we're just as good as Navy, if not better," junior Aaron Love told The News Journal of Wilmington, Del. "We shouldn't have any problem winning this game."

And there's more.

Even Delaware's coach expressed confidence during his Monday news conference.

"I have no fear going into this football game that we can't beat these guys. None at all," said K.C. Keeler, who was careful to pay homage to Navy's triple-option offense and coach Paul Johnson as well.

That's the backdrop to today's game. Navy, needing two more wins to become bowl eligible, must fend off a team that has had two weeks to prepare for a game that could help it get to the FCS playoffs.

Navy (4-3) wasn't about to be drawn into dialogue with Delaware about relative strengths.

"We read it," Navy linebacker Matt Wimsatt said of Love's comment. "That's as far as it goes. That's just how they prepare. We never get involved with it. But it's definitely a good motivator, so we're using that to our advantage."

Asked during one of his sessions with the media whether Delaware had better athletes, Johnson was coy: "I don't know. That's why you play the game. I guess we will see. They have some good players, and I think we have some good players, too."

That subplot has taken away from what should be the key factor today: Which offense can control the ball and the game?

Navy's triple-option is generating 343 rushing yards a game this season, and quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has recovered from a neck injury he suffered in last week's loss to Wake Forest. If the option is working to precision, Delaware might need more than two weeks to prepare.

On the flip side, Delaware has one of the most versatile offenses in the FCS. Quarterback Joe Flacco, a transfer from Pittsburgh, has completed 72.8 percent of his throws for 282 yards a game and nine touchdowns.

Running back Omar Cuff might be the team's most valuable player, though. A senior from Landover, Cuff has rushed for more than 123 yards a game and scored 24 touchdowns.

"Teams try stacking the line and try to keep us in a pocket almost," Cuff said of Delaware's opponents. "But our offensive coordinator, Coach [Kirk] Ciarrocca, has done a good job with the schemes he has planned. Either way it goes, we have a balanced offense."

Cuff has been a workhorse for Delaware, carrying 169 times this season, including a career-high 39 against Northeastern two weeks ago. He attributes his durability to a strong offseason conditioning program, meditation and "a lot of mental work."

He said he was aware of Love's assessment of Navy.

"Love was speaking for the team and for himself," Cuff said. "But I also want to point out that Navy is a good team and those guys work hard just like every other football team. It should be a good match."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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