Posts Tagged ‘Navy’

Blown UP

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Over at Kelly Green, Luke has a post with video of the failed two-point conversion attempt from the end of the Navy game, together with an analysis of a half-dozen things that went wrong with it. (WARNING: This is not suitable for the easily nauseated.) Ugh. Those of you who can watch that clip and be filled with anything other than outright anger at Charlie Weis, and SERIOUS doubts about his abilities as a head coach, offensive coordinator, and situational play-caller, need to give me some of what you’re drinking.

*sigh*

Go Irish, beat Falcons!

Ugly handful

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Speaking to the media after Notre Dame’s loss to Boston College three-and-a-half weeks ago, Irish head coach Charlie Weis went over six plays that he thought showed “the difference between winning and losing” (John’s insanely lengthy riff on the same theme can be found here). In a similar vein, here are five plays from last Saturday’s loss to Navy that do the same.

1. The facemask call.

Situation: 3rd-and-8 at the Notre Dame 22-yard line. Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada rushes for two yards and is enveloped by three or four tacklers after his pitch-out option is covered. As he is being brought down, Joe Brockington catches him by the facemask and is called for a ten-yard facemask penalty. Rather than forcing Navy to try to convert a 4th-and-6 or attempt a 38-yard field goal, they are able to methodically cut through the red zone and score a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

Analysis: This one may have been the least brutal of these mistakes, but it hurts in a situation where the Irish defense had a real shot at making one of those key stops that was needed if they were to beat Navy. The frustrating thing about it was that Brockington wasn’t the only tackler, and using that extra hand was certainly not necessary when you have two other defenders on the runner and he is already a lot smaller than you.

Alternative outcome: Notre Dame stops Kaipo and Navy has to face a fourth-down-and-long situation. There is a chance the Midshipmen might have tried to go for it, given ND’s offensive production this year (or lack thereof), but as early as it was in the game it would seem the smart decision would have been to line up and try to kick a field goal. Either way the odds are likely that the score would have stood at 7-0 or 7-3 as opposed to 7-7 at the end of that drive.

2. The missed field goal.

Situation: It’s the third quarter, and Notre Dame leads 21-20 thanks to a missed extra point attempt. The Irish been driving steadily down the field, thanks to a huge dose of James Aldridge. But Evan Sharpley misfires on two consecutive passes, and the drive grinds to a halt at the Navy 23-yard line. But Brandon Walker misses wide right on his field goal attempt, and the Irish fail to extend their lead.

Analysis: The trouble is that the field goal was only the tip of the iceberg. Notre Dame had been running the ball very successfully, so it almost made sense to not bother throwing it at all (a point John raised in his initial post after the game). It’s possible, however, that Aldridge was winded, and Armando Allen had rushed for no gain on first down. Sharpley, as always, was a bit inaccurate, and two incompletions later the Irish have to kick or go for it. In my mind it was probably this kick, more so than the missed practice attempts during halftime, that convinced Charlie Weis that ND needed a few more yards at the end of the game. The lack of a consistent kicking game has been a plague for far too long at college football’s greatest institution. The Irish have to be able to find a consistent, good kicker.

Alternative outcome: Walker makes the field goal and extends the lead to 24-20. Nothing spectacular, though it would have made it impossible for Navy to go up by seven with a touchdown and a two-point conversion (see “The fumble,” below): the real reason to highlight this play is because of how ND killed the drive. It’s been a while since the Irish could count on the three points as most teams do, and right now they really need the kind of kicker who is going to be either number one or two on the team in terms of points at the end of the year.

3. The fumble.

Situation: Notre Dame is on its second play of the series, at its own 29-yard line. Three Navy players make it into the backfield and as two of them turn Sharpley into a human sandwich, Chris Kuhar-Pitters forces a fumble and returns it to the ND end zone for an easy six points. After Kaheaku-Enhada converts the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, the Midshipmen find themselves up by a score of 28-21.

Analysis: People that were complaining about Jimmy Clausen, eat your hearts out. In fairness the blitz seemed to have come mostly from Evan’s blindside, but once it is obvious you are going to take the sack, you have to tuck the ball and just go down. Kuhar-Pitters saw the throwing arm flailing out there and took advantage. In a game that was going to be determined by long drives and few turnovers, this is a huge game-killer.

Alternative outcome: Notre Dame was up 21-20 at this point and had the opportunity to move down the field and get a touchdown, having done so on three of their first five drives. Weis probably would have elected to go for seven as opposed to trying to make it a two-score game (no guarantee, as he is the biggest river-boat gambler out there - pun intended), but in any case there was the potential to make it a two-score game at 29-20 or at least make it more difficult for Navy to catch up at 28-20.

4. The sack.

Situation: Notre Dame has excellent field position, after an excellent Tom Zbikowski punt return to the Navy 38-yard line. Facing 4th-and-8 at the Navy 24, Weis elects to go for the first down as opposed to attempting the field goal. Kuhar-Pitters comes flying around the left side of the line and makes a spectacular play by leaping over Armando Allen to sack Sharpley. Navy’s ball.

Analysis: This one is a tough one to try to lay any definitive blame. Was it a poor coaching decision to go for the touchdown with 2:01 left? Tough to say since the Irish while hadn’t been able to stop Navy, they do rely on long, sustained drives and - as the ensuing three-and-out made clear - moving the length of the field in two minutes is tough to accomplish with their playbook. So suppose we leave that issue aside. Was it poor blocking? Weis has already said that Allen is not the best blocker among ND’s backs, and that’s fair since he is build to be a speedster, not a big obstacle. Moreover, the leap itself was a spectacular play, very Lavar Arrington. The one good thing to take away from the play might be that the Irish offensive line picked up every other player pretty well (something that frankly wouldn’t have happened earlier in the year, as we may have seen more of a jailbreak), and that it took a great play by a defender to make the stop. What is not fun about the play is the missed call on the facemask: it should have been a penalty to give the Irish a first down, but in that situation you can’t rely on refs to win the game for you.

Alternate outcome: The Irish had excellent position, so if they had got the first down it’s probable that they would have scored one way or another and eaten up enough time to make a Navy score unlikely. Best outcome is that ND scores a touchdown or kicks a field goal and eats up about 40 more seconds in the process, leaving Navy only a little over a minute to try to tie the game. Worst outcome, ND fails to score, and Navy still has very little time to try to take the lead. This was obviously the toughest play of the entire game, and in my opinion was what did the Irish in.

5. The failed two-point conversion.

Situation: In the third overtime, Notre Dame scores the touchdown and is forced to attempt a two-point conversion per NCAA rules. ND brings in their “goal-line back” in Travis Thomas and attempts a running play. Frankly it’s tough to tell if the play was designed to run between the tackles or bounce it out to the right but Thomas was tackled for no gain and the Irish lose to Navy for the first time in over four decades.

Analysis: In my mind, this was the worst coaching decision of the game. While in years past it would be okay to rely on ND’s physical advantage along the line of scrimmage, we had already seen that this play wasn’t a sure thing earlier in the game, when the same play was run and Thomas had to make a second effort outside to score. It was painfully obvious what kind of play was going to be run as soon as #26 came in, so it wasn’t any sort of trickeration-gone-wrong. I am no coach, but it would have been great to fake the run and pass with him in, especially after the pass interference call on the previous play.

Alternative outcome: Not much to say here, except that the Irish would have had another shot at winning the game. Sometimes you lose, even to Navy. Kudos to them for putting themselves in a position to win, and hey - if Notre Dame is going to lose to anyone in any year, I would choose the Midshipmen over anyone else.

In conclusion, what we have here is another game that could have been won, multiple times. But at the end of the day it’s just another loss, and the Irish going to end the 2007 season with a maximum of four wins. There were positives to take from the game, such as an offense that actually seemed to be on the field and a much-improved showing on special teams (other than the ongoing troubles with the kicking game). This stage of the season is more about damage control and preparing for 2008, so in a way it was nice to see a competitive game even if the result was in the wrong column.

Young players are prone to making mistakes and even the (relatively) few that were made on Saturday were enough to sink the Irish against an efficient Navy squad. Let’s hope that ND starts to make offensive games like that more of a standard, and builds some overall consistency as a team. If the offense can muster performances like that against their final three opponents, the Irish will have a shot to end 2007 on a positive note.

Congratulations to the Midshipmen. I hope they enjoyed that day off; they certainly earned it.

-Jared

Pardon me as I stab myself in the eye with a fork.

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

It seems to me that a loss like this one is better left to message board rants (and hilariously angry blog posts - nice job, Jay) than detailed analyses of the sort I’ve usually given, but in lieu of another installment of Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear, let me just point out four crucial statistics that I think have been somewhat overlooked in the discussions I’ve been party to so far (both on IE and BGS).

338

That’s the total number of offensive yards that Navy had through four quarters and three overtime periods, their second-worst offensive output of the season. At the end of regulation, their rushing total was only 240 yards - a season-worst, and a full football field below their average through the first eight games - and their passing total stood at 38: a combined offensive output of 278 yards, their lowest of the year and over 170 yards below their season-long average coming in. Navy’s average gain of 3.9 yards per carry was also a season-worst, and by a considerable margin at that. The Midshipmen had to punt the ball twice yesterday, something that had happened only two other times all season, and they would have had to do it a third time if Joe Brockington hadn’t been called for a personal foul facemask penalty after a third-down stop on the second Navy possession. Add to that two forced fumbles (only one of which was recovered by the Irish, of course) and two drives where the Midshipmen were held to a field goal attempt - something that had been accomplished only once in each of their previous two games - and it becomes clear that anyone who wants to blame this loss on Corwin Brown’s defense has got another thing coming.

4

That’s the total number of sacks yielded by the Irish, to a defense that came in with only five sacks in their first EIGHT GAMES. Sorry folks, but all is not well with Notre Dame’s offensive line (on which see also “3.7,” below).

27

That’s the total number of passes thrown by Evan Sharpley, on a windy day when it was clear from the start that he was going to be woefully inaccurate. Add in the four sacks and the four (I think) other times where a pass play was called but Sharpley ended up scrambling for positive yardage, and you end up with what looks to have been about 35 pass plays called against a team that was obviously overwhelmed in the trenches when it came to stopping the Irish running game, a fact that Charlie Weis failed to exploit with any consistency until the end of the third quarter. Going through the play-by-play, I count NINE times that Sharpley was asked to throw the ball on first-and-ten. Offensive genius, my ass.

3.7

That’s the average yardage per carry picked up by the Notre Dame offense. It’s easy to look at the box score, see 235 net rushing yards, and conclude that the running game was a real bright spot yesterday. But it took SIXTY-THREE runs to get to that total, and nearly all of the Irish rushing efficiency seemed to be of the “fall forward” variety: the Irish offensive linemen stood up and shoved their massively undersized counterparts nice and hard, and the tailbacks ran through the wreckage they created. If you’re trying to build a D-I football program, that’s not much to hang your hat on.

The bell tolls, indeed. Now, off to find that fork …

A size-able advantage

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Among the many reasoifns why there is no excuse for the Irish offense to have anything short of an absolute break-out day against Navy tomorrow is the huge size differential that is on their side this week. Here’s a quick comparison chart to get things going (only starters and co-starters are listed):

In other words, Notre Dame’s starting offensive line outweighs Navy’s defensive line by an average of over 44 pounds, their starting offensive backfield of James Aldridge and Asaph Schwapp outweighs the average Navy linebacker by an average of just under 22 pounds, and the average Navy defensive back gives up almost six inches and thirty pounds to Notre Dame’s starting wideouts.

Need more evidence that the Middies are undersized? Here’s a position-by-position comparison of Navy’s defense with those of Notre Dame’s other 2007 opponents (note that I’ve generally had to use the most recent depth charts for these schools, rather than their starting lineups against ND - once again, only starters and co-starters are listed):

With the exception of UCLA, then, Navy will have far and away the smallest defense that Notre Dame has played so far in 2007 - a trend that continues, though not to quite the same degree, over the next three weeks.

It’s not all about size, of course: it’s also about strength, skill, speed, execution, avoiding stupid mistakes, and having the drive to physically dominate your opponent. But once again, there’s no reason to think that the first three of these factors are heavily on the side of the Irish as well: it’s really the others that have been holding them back all year, and it’s those things that one would hope the coaching staff was able to use the bye week to work on. This team isn’t going to become physically different overnight - nor need they do that, when opponents like Navy, Air Force, and Duke are the ones rolling in to town. The big challenge is getting the players to keep their heads in the game after a 1-7 start, and that’s just what Charlie Weis and his assistants are going to have to show that they’re able to do.

There are no more excuses. In the month of November, pretty much every conceivable advantage - the home field, the bye week, the experience of the first two-thirds of the season, the level of talent on the roster - will be on the side of the Irish. Anything short of dominance will be a huge disappointment.

Pitch right … and left, and right, and left, and right, and …

Monday, October 29th, 2007

I’ve already noted that Navy’s defense has been nothing short of horrendous this year. The Middies do their best to make up for that, though, with a rushing game that ranks first in the nation - and by a huge margin - at 342.88 yards per game, which puts their total offense at #16 nationally and their scoring offense at #19.

What makes the Midshipmen offense so dynamic, you ask? The answer, of course, is their crazy option offense. This year, though, they seem to have kicked it up a notch from years past, as this footage makes clear:

That’s right, it’s the quindecuple-option, coming soon to a Michiana stadium near you. Fear the Kaheaku-Enhada Explosion, Irish fans … fear it.

(HT: IrishDodger.)

Ripe for the lickin’

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

From the AP wire report on Navy’s 59-52 loss to Div. I-AA Championship Subdivision Who Cares What You Call It Just Know that It’s Really Bad to Lose to a Team from It Delaware on Saturday:

Navy has now allowed 40 points or more to three straight opponents and has surrendered 305 points through eight games.

Delaware scored on nine of its 11 possessions.

The Middies rank 82nd in rushing defense, 109th in pass defense, 105th in total defense, and 114th in scoring defense. Thanks to yesterday’s loss, they ALREADY have TFH. If the Irish offense can’t get things going against this pitiful squad, count me in with this bunch for the time being.

[UPDATE: Via Pitch Right, a thoughtful analysis of why the Navy "D" has been so dreadful. HT: HLS.]