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|Key Match-ups for Navy at North Texas|
(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
It's finally over. 43 years of frustration have come to an end as Navy has defeated Notre Dame. But the Midshipmen can not let down, as this week they travel to Denton, Texas to face the high powered passing offense of the North Texas Mean Green. Saturday will mark the first meeting between the two programs.
I’ve never seen Coach Johnson show as much emotion as he did at the end of last week’s game. The smiling, jumping, hugging version of Coach Johnson was a welcome change, especially in conjunction with such a monumental win. Beating Notre Dame could change the program, but only if the team can refocus and continue winning. Coach Green spent the game upstairs in the coach’s box. This was in order to give him a better view of the field. Coach Johnson announced that Coach Green would continue coaching for upstairs for the time being.
Todd Dodge is just the second coach in recent memory to make the jump directly from High School Head Coach to Division I Head Coach. In 1992 and 1993, Coach Dodge was passing game coordinator for North Texas. Form 2000 till 2006 he was the headman at Southlake Carroll High School. From 2002 to 2006 he compiled a 79-1 record and won four Texas state championships. The one loss was by a single point in the 2003 state championship game. Dodge brings a high-powered passing attack to Denton as the Mean Green currently rank 12th in the country in passing averaging 297.9 yards per game.
Navy Offense vs. North Texas Defense
With Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada now the answer to a trivia question, the next question is “What’s next?” He now must steady this team through a three game stretch against teams with a combined 5-21 record. Kaipo finished the Notre Dame thriller with 12 carries for 47 yards and 6 of 8 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown. His final two pass attempts were the 25-yard touchdown to Reggie Campbell and the two-point conversion, also to Reggie.
Speaking of Reggie, he finished with 9 carries for 62 yards, but had several key blocks. His only receptions were the final two players of the game. Fullback Eric Kettani led the team with 20 carries for 70 yards and 2 touchdowns. His lone reception was on the first play of the first overtime, which helped setup a Navy touchdown. Both Shun White and Zerbin Singleton had touchdowns.
The offensive line held up well against a much bigger opponent. Paul Bridgers made his second career start and will stay at the top of the depth chart. With wide receiver Greg Sudderth out for the year with a broken right ankle, juniors T.J. Thiel and Curtis Sharp will need to step up.
The Mean Green defense is much maligned. They currently rank 107th in rushing defense (209.4 yards per game), 112th in pass defense (288.6 yards per game), 116th in total defense (498 yards per game) and 119th in scoring defense (46.5 yards points per game). Defensive end Jeremiah Chapman and defensive tackle Montey Stevenson are the only linemen to have started all 8 games this season. Chapman has 38 tackles and leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Stevenson currently has 34 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He was named Sun Belt Defensive player of the week for his 10 tackle, 1.5 sack performance in the win over UL-Monroe. Time has been split between Eddrick Gilmore and Blake Buruss at end while Joseph Miller and Isaac Thomas have both started at the other tackle. Miller is second on the team with 3 sacks.
Middle linebacker Derek Mendoza is tied for the team lead with 49 tackles. He forced a career high 2 fumbles against Troy. Maurice Holman has started every game at one outside backer spot. He is third on the team with 42 tackles. Both Craig Robertson and Brandon Monroe have started at the other linebacker position. Robertson leads North Texas with 3 interceptions.
Safety Aaron Weathers is tied with Derek Mendoza with 49 tackles. He leads the team with two fumble recoveries. Weathers is trying to become the first payer in North Texas history to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons. Cornerback Antoine Bush is tied for the team lead with 6 pass breakups. Safety Kartey Agbottah is currently fourth on the team in tackles with 41. Latif Nurudeen is taking over for Dominique Green at the other corner spot. Nurudeen started the first two games of the year. Green, who had started the last 6 games at corner, was suspended due to an incident that occurred on the sideline during the Middle Tennessee game.
North Texas Offense vs. Navy Defense
North Texas has used two quarterbacks thus far this season. Daniel Meager started the first four games while Giovanni Vizza has started the last four. The freshman Vizza has completed 110 of his 207 pass attempts for 1,295 yards with 8 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Before he was pulled in the Arkansas game, Meager was 106 for 167 passing for 1,081 yards with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Since that time he has only attempted 2 passes, completing one for 7 yards.
Senior Jamario Thomas leads the Mean Green in rushing with 369 yards on 68 carries. He has scored 2 touchdowns on the ground. Thomas is backed up by freshman Micah Mosley. Mosley has 271 yards on 59 carries with 2 touchdowns. Neither has been a big factor in the passing game. Thomas has 13 receptions for 25 yards and Mosley has 9 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
The factor in the passing game is Casey Fitzgerald. The 5’ 11’’ junior leads the team with 72 catches for 992 yards and 7 touchdowns. Fitzgerald had a 99-yard touchdown reception against UL-Monroe. He was named Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week for his astounding 18 catch, 327 yard, 2 touchdown performance verses SMU. The other starting receivers include Brock Stickler, Brandon Jackson and Sam Dibrell. Jackson is second on the team with 54 receptions for 613 yards and a touchdown. Dibrell leads the team in yards per catch averaging 14.2 yards per reception.
The right side of the line has been consistent with center Kelvin Drake, guard Esteban Santiago and tackle Adam Venegas starting all 8 games this season. The same can not be said on the left side where both Tyler Bailey and Chad Rose have started at guard, while Matt Menard and Robert Peachey have started at tackle. This week it appears that Coach Dodge is returning to his opening day lineup with Bailey and Menard starting.
To say that the Navy defense played its best game against Notre Dame would be a 43-year sized understatement. The defensive line played out of their minds. Nate Frazier finally showed that he deserved getting NFL pub during the preseason. Michael Walsh and Chris Kuhar-Pitters had the games of their lives. Walsh recorded 2 sacks and forced the fumble the Kuhar-Pitters returned for a touchdown. Frazier led the group with 8 tackles.
All of the linebackers stepped up. Matt Wimsatt finally had the game we all knew he was capable of. Nine tackles, a sack and a pass breakup only start to define the big plays he made all over the field. Then there is Ram Vela. That leaping play at the end of regulation will be one of the signature moments of the college football season. Vela has improved greatly since his insertion into the starting lineup. He is now making the entire defense better. Tony Haberer, Irv Spencer and Ross Pospisil played well in the middle and are really starting to improve in coverage. Looking at the depth chart is seams that former point guard Corey Johnson has been moved to outside linebacker.
The piecemeal secondary made plays when they needed to. Wyatt Middleton continues to make us forget that he is only a plebe. He finished the game with a team high 14 tackles. He is now only one tackle behind Irv Spencer for the team lead. Fellow freshman Kevin Edwards made his first career start. Form the start you could see that the Irish knew he was there. Most of Notre Dame’s 27 pass attempts went directly at him. But, he stood tough and made just enough plays to help ensure the victory. Greg Thrasher seems to have found a spot at safety. He finished with 10 tackles. Blake Carter rebounded for a mistake at the end of the first half to almost be the hero of the game, if it were not for that bogus pass interference penalty. Both Ketric Buffin and Rashawn King could return this week. Now it seems Navy will finally have some depth in the secondary.
Navy Special Teams vs. North Texas Special Teams
Special teams turned out to be a key element in Navy ending the Notre Dame winning streak. Joey Bullen did miss an extra point attempt, but came back to make 32-yard field goal to force the third overtime.
Punt coverage needs to improve. Tom Zbikowski almost ended the game in regulation with a big return. Greg Veteto punted twice for a 36-yard average.
Notre Dane kicked away from Reggie Campbell, and rightly so as he has almost broken returns all season. Zerbin Singleton finished with 4 returns for 93 yards.
North Texas kicker Thomas Moreland has connected on 6 of his 10 field goal attempts this season. He has not attempted a kick longer then 39 yards. He has a long of 37.
Punter Truman Spencer is averaging 41.1 yards per punt, but the Mean Green are having a problem with protection. North Texas has had 3 punts blocked this season. Spencer also handles kickoffs.
Reserve cornerback Evyn Roman is the primary kick returner. Roman has handled all 14 punt returns for the Mean Green with an average of 6.3 yards per return. He also leads the team with 15 kickoff returns for an average of 21.3 yards per. Antoine Bush and Micah Mosley also have double digit kickoff returns for North Texas, with both averaging over 18 yards per return.