Navy's offense, defense on seesaw

While Mids score more and more, opponents find reaching end zone easier and easier

November 17, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak said when he saw the score of last week's Navy football game scroll across the bottom of his television screen, he thought there had been a mix-up.

"I was sure it was the score from their basketball team's game," Novak said during a conference call this week. "But it wasn't a mistake."

The score was Navy 74, North Texas 62.

When Navy coach Paul Johnson looked at that score, he was disgusted by the second part of it. His Midshipmen had allowed 62 points. Sixty-two points.

Asked whether he considered this Navy team unusual, Johnson laughed.

"Bizarre maybe," he said.

Who's to argue?

Navy's scores are escalating. The Mids have gone from beating Temple, 30-19, in their first game to the high-scoring matchup at North Texas in their 10th game.

The Huskies (2-8) are another team whose offense - like Duke's, Notre Dame's and North Texas' - is looking to get healthy against a struggling Navy defense.

"When you look at it, it can come down to trouble if we're playing a good team that can stop our offense," Navy sophomore nose guard Nate Frazier said.

Young and beaten up physically and psychologically, Navy's defensive players are trying to remain upbeat.

"We have to keep fighting on defense," Frazier said.

Said Mids defensive coordinator Buddy Green: "The offense has been unbelievable. They've been playing to perfection every Saturday. ... Unfortunately, we [the defense] haven't given them much help.

"Last Saturday, it was awful. Awful. Just awful. I can't be any clearer than that."

And Johnson, who has been working more closely with defense this week, agreed.

"It's a fair assessment," Johnson said about the comments regarding the defense. "I'm ultimately responsible, so blame me. I'm not the defensive coordinator, but I'm the head coach and ultimately responsible for our football team. We've got the same defensive coordinator we've had for five years."

Navy's defense and offense couldn't be more opposite in performance.

The Mids are averaging 40.6 points and are leading the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing offense with 357.2 yards a game.

Their defense, meanwhile, is giving up 41.1 points a game, third worst in the FBS.

Despite the struggles, Navy (6-4) is going to the Poinsettia Bowl next month and is a victory away from a winning season.

As the defense has weakened, the offense has gotten stronger. Although Johnson said it is virtually impossible for a team to score on every possession, the Mids have scored on 26 of their past 35, and 22 of those scores have been touchdowns.

"A perfect game would be scoring on every possession and maybe get a turnover and be three-and-out on every defensive series," Johnson said. "My thing is we just need to get better and score one more than they do."

Asked whether his offense can score 100 points in a game, Johnson responded quickly, "No," and then reconsidered. "Well, I don't know. I guess if the situation is such, if you have a bunch of plays. I don't know. The offense is doing what it is supposed to do. It's supposed to try to score on every play."

Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada twisted his knee in the second half at North Texas and is not expected to start today - Jarod Bryant will likely start in his place. Though his status is iffy, Kaheaku-Enhada smiled at the suggestion of a 100-point game.

"It's crazy," he said. "I don't think any team should be scoring this much. But we hold high expectations on offense."

So high, Kaheaku-Enhada said, that after last week's game, the offense "was disappointed."

"I'm not too sure about 100 points, but the amount of times we got the ball, I think we would have come out with 90-something if we would have scored on every possession the way we should have," he said.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

Today's game

Matchup -- Maryland (5-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) at Florida State (6-4, 3-4)

Time -- Noon

Site -- Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

TV -- Chs. 13, 20

Radio -- 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

Line -- Florida State by 7 1/2

Series -- Florida State leads 15-2

Last meeting -- Maryland won, 27-24, on Oct. 21, 2006, at Byrd Stadium

Maryland offense vs. Florida State defense -- The Terps will have their work cut out running against a Florida State defense that is allowing only 2.9 yards per rush and 100.2 yards per game. Keon Lattimore (groin) should return to split duty at tailback with Lance Ball. QB Chris Turner will try to take advantage of a Florida State secondary that ranks 10th in pass defense in the ACC, with 232.7 yards allowed per game, and has given up 16 touchdown passes. The Terps expect to have LT Scott Burley (ankles) but won't get G Andrew Crummey back this week. Florida State has 23 takeaways this season, 2.3 per game.

Maryland defense vs. Florida State offense -- The Seminoles are second in the ACC in passing offense, but QB Drew Weatherford is coming off a concussion in the team's loss to Virginia Tech. Weatherford is expected to start and will be backed up by redshirt freshman Christian Ponder, not Xavier Lee, who came off academic suspension this week. Florida State's top two tailbacks, Antone Smith and Jamaal Edwards, suffered shoulder injuries in last week's game. The Terps expect LB Erin Henderson to play again despite continued back problems. KEN MURRAY

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