'D' was for dependable

Offense inconsistent in bowl loss, will need rebuilding

Navy Rewind

December 22, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

Washington - Buddy Green's mind was still on Navy's last game, which had ended less than an hour before. As the team's defensive coordinator stood in the bowels of RFK Stadium after Saturday's 29-19 loss to Wake Forest in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, Green acknowledged that he was already starting to think about next season.

"I was thinking about it as soon as the game was over," Green said.

Unlike the 2007 season, when the Midshipmen finished with an identical 8-5 record, the defense carried this year's team for much of the season. Though Navy led the nation in rushing for the fourth straight year, its defense was more consistent and improved more than any other Football Bowl Subdivision team in points allowed.

Asked about the difference this season, senior cornerback Rashawn King said: "A lot of guys with more experience. Everybody just stepping their game up a notch. You could see the change, the way we started out both these Wake Forest games. But at the same time, you've just got to endure. You've got to finish."

Unlike the game against the Demon Deacons (8-5) earlier this season, when the Midshipmen built a 17-0 lead in the first half and held on for a 24-17 victory, Navy was unable to stay in front. In all but one of Navy's losses, an inconsistent offense led to the defense's tiring out. The defense also gave Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner too much time to throw on many occasions.

Conversely, Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada was under constant pressure.

"It's ridiculous we can't execute, the whole season," Kaheaku-Enhada said after the game. "Regardless of who's at quarterback, it doesn't matter. The quarterback knows what we're doing. We know what we're doing. It was one of those years."

Next year will be different for Navy for a number of reasons.

The offense will have to replace its four key skill-position players - slotback Shun White, fullback Eric Kettani, wide receiver Tyree Barnes and Kaheaku-Enhada - as well as left guard Anthony Gaskins and center Ricky Moore. Only sophomore quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who led the Midshipmen to three victories as a starter and reserve, has much experience.

Navy loses only four defensive starters: linebackers Jeff Deliz and Corey Johnson and cornerbacks Kedric Buffin and King. The Midshipmen have experienced depth at those positions.

Junior linebacker Ross Pospisil, who led the Midshipmen in tackles, returns along with sophomore safeties Emmett Merchant and Middleton, junior linebacker Clint Sovie, junior nose guard Nate Frazier and freshman end Jabaree Tuani.

Replay

The fourth-quarter comebacks against Temple and Notre Dame. With Dobbs at quarterback, the Midshipmen erased a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Owls in overtime, 33-27, and nearly did the same in their next game against the Fighting Irish before losing, 27-21.

Erase

Though a 42-21 loss at home to Pittsburgh was Navy's largest margin of defeat, the one game Niumatalolo would like to have back was a 41-31 loss to a Duke team that finished 4-8.

Fast forward

The Midshipmen open the 2009 season Sept. 5 at Ohio State.

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