Schupp likely to miss Poinsettia

Senior wide receiver's torn ACL recovering too slowly

December 15, 2010|By Gene Wang, The Washington Post

Navy wide receiver Mike Schupp's recovery from a torn ACL has not progressed as quickly as the senior had hoped, and it's highly unlikely he'll be able to participate in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 against San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium.

Schupp was injured in a season-opening loss to Maryland, 17-14, on Sept. 6 when he planted his leg while trying to block. Most frustrating for Schupp was that the injury occurred even though he never made contact with a defender.

"I don't know if got caught on the turf or whatnot," Schupp said after practice on Tuesday, the team's first since beating Army on Saturday, 31-17. "I heard it pop, and I knew."

Approximately a week later, Schupp had surgery at Anne Arundel Medical Center to repair the damage and began the long and trying process of rehabilitation, targeting the Army-Navy game for his return.

When it became clear last week that wasn't going to happen, there remained a glimmer of hope he could get onto the field for Navy's school-record eighth consecutive bowl game, but all Schupp could do was watch in sweats while his teammates began preparing for the Aztecs.

"It was a long and emotional season for me," said Schupp, who started nine of 13 games last year. "Every game the team comes out of the tunnel, it's tough to watch them. You just want to be a part of it so bad, especially this Army-Navy game, but I try to do the best I can, be there for moral support, things like that and be a big part of the team still even though I'm injured."

Schupp is part of a senior class that has 35 wins, one short of the modern era record at the academy. He's also among a handful of senior starters whose seasons ended prematurely. The others are starting right guard Matt Molloy and starting safety Emmett Merchant, out with concussions.

Middleton expects to play

Starting safety Wyatt Middleton has missed the past two days of practice with a sore shoulder, but his consecutive-games streak doesn't appear to be in jeopardy, according to both the senior co-captain and coach Ken Niumatalolo. Middleton has started 47 straight games and played in 49 overall, the longest active streak at the academy.

Middleton watched Tuesday morning's practice with his right arm in a sling. On Wednesday, Middleton was not wearing a sling but took care to limit motion in his arm while moving about Wesley Brown Field House, where the team is practicing this week in the wee hours of the morning until it departs for San Diego this weekend.

"I'm not too worried about it," said Middleton, who is planning to wear a brace in the coming days to help stabilize his shoulder. "Just taking my time, making sure it heals nice, so that way I'll be ready for the game."

Middleton had a 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Army that dramatically altered the complexion of the game. The Black Knights had been driving for a touchdown that could have cut the deficit to three points, but linebacker Tyler Simmons punched the ball loose from quarterback Trent Steelman on a running play on first and goal from the 3. Middleton gathered the ball before it reached the ground and raced untouched into the end zone for a 24-7 lead with 1 minute 3 seconds left until halftime.

Middleton had to come out of the game briefly in the second half, but he re-entered shortly thereafter, finished with nine tackles and two fumble recoveries and was named the game's most valuable player. Middleton is tied for first in the country with five fumble recoveries this year.

"Nah, he's a tough kid," Niumatalolo said when asked if he was concerned Middleton would not be able to play. "He'll suck it up."

More work for defense

Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green has been focusing this week on getting his unit prepared for yet another potent offense, and included in his gameplan for San Diego State is installing several packages that call for extra defensive backs. The Midshipmen have been comfortable this season in such alignments, having played their entire November schedule against opponents with wide-open attacks.

The Midshipmen went 3-0 last month, including a 76-35 victory over East Carolina in which Navy scored what at the time was the most points by a Football Bowl Subdivision team this season. Last week, Navy had to adjust to an option offense against Army. Now the Midshipmen must reacclimate themselves to defending a team that averages nearly 34 passes per game.

"The thing about it, they kind of put you in a bind when you bring in extra personnel because they run the ball so well," Green said of the Aztecs. "When I say run it so well, it's physical. They run the power game. They run it right at you, and then a lot of their deep balls come out of the same formation, the two-back sets. They make it tough for you. Yes, we'll carry the package where we play maybe some extra DBs, but at the same time, they'll use three tight ends. They'll use two-back sets where you better be able to stop the run."

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