Mids not defending airways

Failure to stop pass key error all season

October 29, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

There was a time this season when it looked as if Navy would finally get some satisfaction - and a victory - in its Nov. 3 trip to Notre Dame.

Now, however, it is the Irish (1-7) who look best situated for a reprieve in Saturday's game in South Bend, Ind.

The matchup to watch is Navy's beleaguered defense against Notre Dame's struggling offense. Viewer warning: it might not be pretty.

The Midshipmen (4-4) have allowed at least 40 points their past three games. In Saturday's 59-52 loss to Delaware, they were shredded for 581 yards, 434 through the air.

If there is one ominous trend for Navy this season beside defensive injuries, it's the inability to defend the pass. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 70.5 percent of their passes for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions through eight games.

Not coincidentally, Greg Thrasher became the sixth player this season to be used at one safety position Saturday.

The Midshipmen appeared to have exhausted their options on defense against Delaware. Afterward, coach Paul Johnson said the defensive coaches "have tried everything. ... I don't know what else they can try."

They tried blitzing in the first half against Delaware and twice sacked quarterback Joe Flacco, nearly matching their season total (three) coming in. But once Flacco found tight end Robbie Agnone (seven catches, 133 yards), that strategy was foiled.

Linebacker Irv Spencer spoke of alignment mistakes after the game, and Johnson pinpointed fundamental miscues.

"We don't do what we're supposed to," Johnson said. "We don't put our eyes where we're supposed to. We're not looking where we're supposed to. Couple that with not being able to make plays, and it's a deadly combination."

It is also putting pressure on the offense to maximize every possession. Slotback Reggie Campbell shrugged off that suggestion and reduced the team's problems to a simple solution.

"We have to work harder," he said. "Every team we play can take advantage of the mistakes we make."




On its first posses- sion, Navy pulled a fake field goal out of its bag of tricks to set up a tying touch- down. Navy faced fourth-and-eight on Delaware's 32-yard line and had kicker Joey Bullen lining up a 49-yard field goal attempt. Bullen completed a 30-yard pass to wide receiver Greg Sudderth, standing alone in front of the Navy bench, to the 2, and quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada scored on the next play.


Two turnovers proved critical to Navy, but a holding penalty against Zerbin Singleton in the third quarter turned the game. Delaware had just tied it at 35, and Navy was driving. But at Delaware's 36, Singleton drew a 10-yard holding penalty that pushed the Mids back to the 46. They weren't able to overcome the first-and-20 hole and turned the ball over on downs. Delaware responded with a go-ahead touchdown.

Fast forward

Navy (4-4) seeks to break a 43-game losing streak against Notre Dame (1-7) on Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Just like Delaware, the Irish will have had two weeks to prepare. Evan Sharpley is expected to make his second start at quarterback for Notre Dame. He was sacked seven times in a 38-0 loss to Southern California.


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