With defense in need of shoring up, Mids going back to basics

The Baltimore Sun

Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green put a two-step program in place this week to get his young defense in step for Saturday's game against Duke, which comes to town after recording its first victory in 23 games.

First, the coach showed the defensive unit its mistakes. He had a lot of film to use after last week's 34-31 loss to Ball State.

Second, he cut the number of defensive plays in half and simplified the assignments.

"Last week, we made both mental and physical mistakes," Green said. "On some plays our guys didn't step up to cover the right guy or we weren't in position for a running play or our alignment was wrong. Those were mental.

"On the physical side, we'd blitz and have a chance for a sack and didn't make it, or a Ball State guy that we had in the backfield for a loss would avoid our tackle and sprint out for a first down. We were in position to make plays and didn't make them."

Green said he hopes he gets the proper balance this week, giving his team fewer things to remember and thus improving the Mids' concentration, while supplying adequate ammunition.

"No one gets points for being in position," the coach said. "You've got to make the plays. We've got to learn how to play hard and play smart for 60 minutes."

With several veteran defenders injured - "It's only the older, experienced guys who have been hurt," Green said - Navy's defense will have to work extremely hard.

"We've got to stop the run first and then the pass," Green said. "They have the most experienced and talented wide receivers, and they're 6-foot-6, 305 up front. It's important that we play with good body position and get pressure on the quarterback."

Tops on the ground

The Navy rushing offense is No. 1 in the country, averaging 378.7 yards per game. Quarterback Kaipu-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada leads six players with more than 100 rushing yards. Kaheaku-Enhada has run for 254 yards and four touchdowns.

The Mids also are scoring 28.3 points a game.

It sounds pretty good, but coach Paul Johnson isn't impressed with anything this week, as his team tries to prepare to rebound from its 1-2 start.

"I think we can do better," he said. "Until we execute the way we should, we won't be satisfied. We can take better care of the ball. We can execute better deep in the red zone. The bottom line is, win and it doesn't matter if we do that 6-3 or 45-43. Winning either way is cool. Lose and no one wins."

Everyone in position

Johnson spent some time watching the defense Tuesday, and he said yesterday that he was "encouraged."

Navy's defense is not a mirror image of the offense. While the offense is No. 1 in rushing yards, the defense is ranked 93rd overall in total yards allowed, giving up an average of 429.3.

But Johnson said things are improving.

"People were lining up where they were supposed to be," he said. "As a general rule, most of the time players want to win and do well. The questions are can we [do] what it takes [to win] and understand what it takes and are we capable of doing it?

"I believe we're capable. We just have to do it. ... I know there is a better team in there; we've just got to get it out."

Injured to return

Kaheaku-Enhada, who left last week's game with two sprained ankles with 38 seconds left in the first half, will be ready to start Saturday's game, and senior inside linebacker Irv Spencer, who also suffered a sprain, is expected to be ready as well.

"I'm fine," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "When I'm playing and running my ankles feel fine. They swell up a bit when the tape comes off after practice, but that's nothing."

Up in the air

Johnson said the kicking situation is still being evaluated. Junior Matt Harmon, who missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt at the end of regulation that would have won Saturday's game, is being challenged by senior Joey Bullen and freshman Kyle Delahooke.


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