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Navy stages efficient rout

The Baltimore Sun

DETROIT -- Ever since taking over as Navy's starting quarterback last month, sophomore Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has kept the nation's top-ranked rushing attack humming. Yesterday at Ford Field, the Hawaii native also served notice that the Midshipmen still can do some damage in the air.

The combination was far too much for mistake-prone, overmatched Eastern Michigan to handle, as Navy scored touchdowns on all seven possessions with Kaheaku-Enhada at the controls and blew out the Eagles, 49-21.

Navy (7-3) won its second straight because Eastern Michigan (1-9) was clueless as to how to contain the option, and Kaheaku-Enhada was nearly flawless with his decisions. He capped off four scoring drives with touchdown runs, ignited the nation's lowest-ranked passing offense by completing seven of nine attempts for a season-best 151 yards and two more scores, and put the Eagles away by guiding Navy to an early 28-0 lead.

"We went out there and had fun today. That's what we have to do to win," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "The whole line was blocking outstanding. I had all the time in the world back there. I threw it up, and they made the plays."

On a day when fullback Adam Ballard left the game in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle and center James Rossi departed in the third with a sprained right ankle, only a pair of lost fourth-quarter fumbles by sophomore backup quarterback Jarod Bryant slowed the Mids.

Otherwise, Navy, which turned two first-half turnovers into touchdowns, had all of the angles covered.

Sophomore fullback Eric Kettani got his first real taste of playing time and made it count. He rushed for a game- and career-high 91 yards and scored his first career touchdown, a 7-yarder that gave the Mids a 35-14 advantage with 9:49 left in the third quarter. Junior slotback Reggie Campbell produced 159 total yards, including 92 on three catches.

When he wasn't befuddling Eastern Michigan's eight-man front with sharp option reads, runs and pitches, Kaheaku-Enhada was hitting the Eagles over the top.

Kaheaku-Enhada set up the game's first score, his 1-yard plunge, with a 50-yard, play-action strike to Campbell. He quickly made it 14-0 with a 1-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jason Tomlinson, then fueled an 89-yard touchdown drive on Navy's next possession with a 29-yard pass to Campbell before scoring from 9 yards out.

Then, with 2:01 left in the half, after an interception by freshman safety Jeromy Miles, Kaheaku-Enhada found sophomore receiver Tyree Barnes, who leaped to make a 29-yard catch in the end zone. That made it 28-0.

By halftime, Kaheaku-Enhada had 128 yards passing, more than the Mids had produced in a single game this year. His four rushing touchdowns tied for the second-most ever by a Navy player in a single game.

"It's a lot easier for him to do what he's supposed to do when everybody else does what they're supposed to do. He hasn't really done anything I didn't think he could do," said Navy coach Paul Johnson, who expected to see a basic 4-3 defense, then took advantage of the way the Eagles crowded the line of scrimmage.

"[The Eagles] had been a 4-3 team all year," Johnson said. "They played like Rutgers and Notre Dame, minus Rutgers' and Notre Dame's players. If the safety is on the line of scrimmage [defending] the option, you have to be able to throw it over his head. Kaipo did a nice job executing."

Early mistakes doomed the Eagles, who were forced to play catch-up by trying repeated onside kicks. After trimming Navy's lead to 28-7 at halftime, they opened the second half with a successful onside attempt, then marched 54 yards and cut it to 28-14 on a 5-yard run by quarterback-turned-running back Tyler Jones.

No problem. After another onside kick attempt failed, Navy drove 50 yards in four plays. Kettani walked in from 7 yards out to make it 35-14.

Kaheaku-Enhada's 1-yard run increased the lead to 42-14 with 2:49 left in the third quarter, prompting Johnson to begin clearing his bench. Then, after Bryant lost his first fumble, setting up another touchdown run by Jones, Johnson reinserted his starters.

"Until you can get familiar with [Navy's] offense, you have to score on every possession, or at least every other one," Eastern Michigan coach Jeff Genyk said. "That's probably the smallest team in Divi- sion I-A, other than Air Force, but they're very effective at what they do."

By scoring a season-high 49 points, the Mids improved to 5-0 on the road, and turned the event dubbed the "Collegiate Clash" into a Navy bash. No attendance figure was announced, but Navy clearly enjoyed more support from the stands at Ford Field.

"It was kind of weird to go all the way to Michigan and get a home crowd," Kettani said.

Play it again

What went right -- Navy's offense was unstoppable. The Midshipmen rushed for 323 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry, finished with 151 yards passing and scored touchdowns on their first six possessions.

What went wrong -- Sophomore backup quarterback Jarod Bryant lost two fumbles. After his first miscue early in the fourth quarter, coach Paul Johnson temporarily yanked the backups to maintain a firm grip on the game.

Defining moment -- Sophomore receiver Tyree Barnes leaped and stretched out to make an outstanding 29-yard touchdown catch, giving Navy a commanding 28-0 lead with 2:01 left in the first half.

What it means -- Navy finished the regular season with a 5-0 record on the road. The Mids outscored those opponents 189-77.

Up next -- Time to pad the stats. Temple comes to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday for the Mids' home finale. The 1-10 Owls were allowing 40.7 points and 456 yards per game before yesterday's 47-0 loss to Penn State.

[ Gary Lambrecht]

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