Game plan: Go long

navy football

But how much Kaheaku-Enhada can play in his return is up in the air

November 01, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is expected to start at quarterback for Navy today against Temple, but will he finish?

It is a reasonable question, considering how little Kaheaku-Enhada has played this season since partially tearing his hamstring during a preseason scrimmage in August and reinjuring it against Wake Forest on Sept. 27.

Asked how long he planned to play Kaheaku-Enhada, first-year Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said, "The whole game if he can last."

That is a big if.

After Kaheaku-Enhada missed the first two games, he made it through only half of the Sept. 13 game at Duke before sitting out the second half with heat exhaustion. The Midshipmen, leading at halftime, wound up losing by 10.

Kaheaku-Enhada returned the next week and played the entire game in a home win over Rutgers, but he hurt the hamstring again late in the first half of a road upset of then-No. 16 Wake Forest.

He has been out since.

"It's definitely frustrating, especially because it's my senior year," said Kaheaku-Enhada, who came into the season as a candidate for the Davey O'Brien Award given to the nation's top college quarterback. "I want to get back and help out the team. I've done nothing but sit on the sideline and criticize everybody."

When sophomore Ricky Dobbs came in after Jarod Bryant was injured twice in the first half of last week's 34-7 victory over Southern Methodist, Kaheaku-Enhada could be seen on the sideline congratulating Dobbs for the big plays that produced 224 rushing yards and four touchdowns while offering constructive criticism when Dobbs failed to make the proper reads or simply called the wrong plays.

"Coming from the quarterback position, we've got to be perfectionists," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "I'm pushing Ricky as much as I can. He's got the potential to be the best quarterback to come through this place. He's not there yet, but I'm pretty sure he's going to be there pretty soon."

Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper have made it clear Dobbs is their quarterback of the future but not necessarily of the present unless Kaheaku-Enhada gets hurt again or Bryant, who has a shoulder sprain, is unable to play.

When Kaheaku-Enhada has played this season, the triple-option offense seemed to be in better sync than when Bryant ran it. Though Niumatalolo has tried to deflect the blame from Bryant, he has acknowledged that Kaheaku-Enhada "is the starting quarterback for a reason."

The Midshipmen certainly expect to face a more difficult test against Temple (3-5) than they did against SMU.

"You can see [coach Al] Golden's hand in that," Niumatalolo said. "They're in the Penn State mold. Nothing fancy, but they're well-coached. They're a tough football team."

Niumatalolo said there are no plans to take out Kaheaku-Enhada even if the Midshipmen can build a big lead early.

"We're going to try to win first and then kind of go from there," Niumatalolo said. "We don't want to try to disrespect anybody. We know who we are."

After running strong at the end of practice Monday and Tuesday, Kaheaku-Enhada seemed to favor his left leg and not run as hard toward the end of practice Wednesday. He said he is not fully recovered from the second hamstring injury.

What might also explain Kaheaku-Enhada's push to get back onto the field is that his family from Hawaii has never seen him play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. How long Kaheaku-Enhada can stay in the game or how long Niumatalolo keeps him out there remains a question.

Asked whether he expected to finish today's game, Kaheaku-Enhada said: "I think the most important thing is winning. I really don't care if I finish the game as long as we win."

Notes:: Niumatalolo will wear a microphone for the CBS College Sports Network telecast and said he might have to hold his tongue a little. "I thought it would be great from an exposure standpoint," Niumatalolo said. "I think all that helps kids get an insight into your team. I'll try to remember, so I'll behave myself." ... Navy will honor its 33 seniors in a pre-game ceremony.

midshipmen today

Matchup: Temple (3-5) at Navy (5-3)

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

TV: CBS College Sports Network

Radio: 1090 AM

Line: Navy by 7

Series: Tied at 4

Last meeting: Navy won, 30-19, in Philadelphia on Aug. 31, 2007.

Navy offense vs. Temple defense: The Owls will give up yards (more than 351 a game) but are ranked 25th in the country in scoring defense (18.1 points), meaning the Midshipmen will have to finish drives better than some of Temple's other opponents. The return of Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada at quarterback should help, along with SB Shun White breaking off big runs for touchdowns in each of the past two games. FB Eric Kettani, who has been held to a combined 120 yards the past three games, could benefit the most from Kaheaku-Enhada's return because the holes have been there but Jarod Bryant and Ricky Dobbs weren't giving the ball to Kettani.

Navy defense vs. Temple offense: Helped by the rain, the Midshipmen had their best defensive game of the season last week against Southern Methodist. Temple is not exactly an offensive juggernaut, ranked next to last among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense (251.1) and 115th in scoring (16.8). The Owls have allowed 21 sacks and are ranked 104th in passing, so defensive coordinator Buddy Green should let ends Jabaree Tuani and Matt Nechak tee off a little bit more than they did the past two weeks against better-passing teams.

Prediction: Navy 28, Temple 14

Don Markus

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