Mids will look to put out fiery offense

Western Kentucky pits its quick, prolific passing attack vs. Navy's rushing game

September 26, 2014|By Bill Wagner | Baltimore Sun Media Group

Buddy Green spent a total of four days at Anne Arundel Medical Center getting treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

When the veteran defensive coordinator returned to Navy football practice Wednesday, it was suggested that spending too much time watching Western Kentucky's prolific offense prompted Green to hurry back to work.

"Actually, watching Western Kentucky will put you back in the hospital," Green quipped.

First-year coach Jeff Brohm has installed a pass-happy Hilltoppers attack that piles up yards and points at a rapid rate. Quarterback Brandon Doughty leads the country in passing yards (486.3) and total offense (480.7) per game, while Western Kentucky ranks third nationally in total offense and ninth in scoring with averages of 608.7 yards and 46.7 points.

"They are unbelievable, just hitting on all cylinders and throwing the ball all over the place," Green said. "The quarterback is special — just the timing and he makes all the throws. There is a ton of talent at all positions, a lot of speed and the offensive line does a great job. They can beat you in a lot of ways."

Brohm, who served as offensive coordinator under previous coach Bobby Petrino, is following the national trend of up-tempo offense — the Hilltoppers employ a no-huddle system and looks to snap the ball as fast as possible. In a wild 50-47 triple-overtime loss to interstate rival Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky set single-game school records for total offense (718 yards), passing offense (593) and number of plays (102).

"We want to make this offense fun and exciting. We want to showcase our talent at the skill positions," Brohm said. "Our goal this season was to modernize the offense, really increase the tempo, to go faster and be more efficient. It's like a fast break in basketball when you create a numbers advantage. It's been fun so far."

One downside to scoring in a hurry is that it doesn't give the defense much time to rest, and that has been the Achilles' heel for the Hilltoppers so far this season. Western Kentucky ranks 116th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in total defense, allowing an average of 508.7 yards per game. Opponents are scoring 41 points per game, which places it 114th.

Pass defense has been the biggest problem for the Hilltoppers, who are allowing an average of 329 yards through the air — third worst nationally. That problem might be mitigated today at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium because the host Midshipmen prefer to run the ball.

Western Kentucky is hoping to replicate its performance from last year, when it held Navy to season lows of 86 rushing yards and seven points. Things went downhill quickly for the Mids after starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds was knocked out of the game by a vicious hit from standout linebacker Andrew Jackson, who is now with the Indianapolis Colts.

"Last year, looking back at that game, obviously our defense played exceptionally well. We shut down their attack as well as anyone. We had a great play for it and executed," Brohm said. "Their starting quarterback getting injured definitely hurt their cause. We caught them a little off guard. They didn't know what we were going to do, and we had a decent plan for them defensively. Now they have an idea of what stopped them and what prevented them from executing, so I'm sure they'll have a plan to counteract that."

In last season's matchup, Western Kentucky put five defenders on the line of scrimmage, then had some variations off that look. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt had the nose guard stand up a couple yards off the line of scrimmage with the intent of timing the snap and shooting the gap.

Linebacker Xavius Boyd, the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year, caused considerable disruption by repeatedly gaining penetration. Boyd, who went to training camp with the Buffalo Bills, combined with Jackson for 15 tackles.

"They caught us off guard with something we hadn't worked on and got after us. There's no secret to it. We're admitting that they got after us. It was a bad day for us and a good day for them," Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. "This year, we have to be prepared for anything and everything. They brought a lot of pressure and we weren't ready for it. It was one game when we got caught off guard. There's no excuse for it, but it happened, you learn from it and move on."


WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-2) @ NAVY (2-2)

When: 3:30 p.m.

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/1090 AM

Series: Navy, 2-1

What's at stake: Navy suffered two straight losses only nine times since 2003. Over the past 11 years, the Midshipmen have managed to follow a defeat with a victory on 17 occasions. Western Kentucky is looking to end a two-game losing streak and conclude its four-game series with Navy at 2-2.

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