Scouting Report

December 20, 2007|By SANDRA MCKEE

Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (8-4) vs. Utah (8-4)

When: Tonight, 9

Site: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

TV, Radio: ESPN, 1090 AM

Line: Utah by 7 1/2

When Navy has the ball

If the Midshipmen want to improve to 7-6-1 in bowl games, the offense led by quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and his backfield mates, Reggie Campbell, Zerbin Singleton, Adam Ballard and Eric Kettani, must be perfect. That has been the case all season. The new wrinkle tonight, in the first bowl game of the season, is that play-calling will be done by new offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper and the team, overall, will be led by Ken Niumatalolo. The new coach's mantra? "If it isn't broke, don't fix it." But the Navy offensive line will be challenged by Utah's big, fast, rangy defense that is No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense (15.6 points). Utah, which has won six straight bowl games, has held opponents under 14 points five times this season.

When Utah has the ball

With an injured starting quarterback, Utah lost three of its first four games. Junior QB Brian Johnson returned from a shoulder injury, and the Utes went 7-1. Junior Darrell Mack is Utah's leading rusher (1,128 yards) and is followed by junior Ray Stowers (5.6 yards a carry). The entire Utah offensive package worries Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green. "Johnson can throw deep, run a sweep, a draw or a speed reverse, and if you cover all that, he can pull the ball down and run with it himself," Green said. Navy's defense has gotten stronger, rising to each week's challenge - if often at the last moment. In its last game, Navy held Army to three points, the fewest allowed by the Mids in 13 years.

Keys for Navy

Establishing the run: The Mids need to keep possession of the ball and pound out 3- and 4-yard gains. The longer they keep the Utah offense on the sideline, the better Navy's defense will look.

Stopping the run: The Utes' backfield features a 1,000-yard rusher, a secondary runner who averages more than 5 yards a carry and a quarterback who can do just about anything. If that trio gets energized, it could be a long night for Navy's defense.

Prediction

Utah should beat Navy, but so should have Pittsburgh, Duke and Notre Dame. The Mids have an edge in their ability to keep possession of the ball. Utah has a tough defense, but Navy has the uncanny and incalculable ability to pull off magic tricks. Navy, 32-30

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