Thursday, November 01, 2007

Decades-Long Streak On the Line as Irish Host Navy | by Brian

Though the friendly rivals meet every year, the Navy Midshipmen have not defeated the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame since 1963, when the Middies, led by Heisman's Trophy winner Roger Staubach, defeated an ND squad which would finish the '63 campaign with a 2-7 record, ushering in the Era of Ara the following year.

Many experts in the Footbawl Arts think this could be the year that the streak ends, with the Irish struggling to a 1-7 record through the grueling first eight games of their schedule. That the streak is still alive at 43 straight is surprising, since the tag team combination of former head footbawl coaches Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham did their damnedest to end it. Four of the eight years of their tenures featured nailbiters:

* 1997: The Irish took a 21-17 lead with 5:48 following a 5-yard touchdown by Autry "Not Darnell Autry" Denson, capping off a 93-yard scoring drive. It appeared that the Irish would hold on, when on the final play, a Hail Mary connected, caught by Navy WR Pat McGrew at the Notre Dame 18. McGrew appeared to be headed in for a miracle touchdown when he was caught from behind by Allen "No Longer Vick's

Not the only Omar to
score big in Baltimore
Teammate" Rossum and pushed out of bounds just short of the goalline.

* 1999: Navy took a 24-21 lead with 5:56 lead. The ensuing Notre Dame drive was extended when, facing 4th and 10, Jarious "His Last Name is Jackson So You Shall Call Him Action" Jackson found Bobby "His Name Conjures Up No Obvious Nicknames" Brown for, oh, 10 yards and one centimeter. The Navy faithful will forever contend that the Irish were given a favorable spot. ND eventually got the winning score a few plays later.

* 2002: With the bloom off the Willingham rose following a feckless (yet verdant) performance against Boston College the week before, the Irish again looked flat for three-and-a-half quarters against Navy. Trailing 23-15 with 7:27 left, Notre Dame unleashed an offensive explosion not often seen in Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, site of that year's game. The Irish went on a 52-yard touchdown drive capped off by a one-yard run by Rashon Powers-Neal. A two-point conversion tied the game. The Irish defense quickly forced a punt, getting the ball back with 2:19 left, after which Notre Dame got the winning score on the next play, when Carlyle Holiday hit Omar Jenkins for a 67-yard touchdown.

* 2003: Navy took a 24-21 lead with 9:53 left, after which Notre Dame drives led to two D.J. Fitzpatrick field goals: one which tied the game with 5:10 remaining, and the game-winner as time expired.

Anchors Aweigh

Mekka-lekka hi mekka hiney ho
The Navy defense is, by great lengths, the worst which ND has faced so far this season. They have allowed 305 points in eight games, including 59 last week in a loss to FCS Delaware (which is a footbawl team, not a battleship or upscale toy emporium). The Middies are averaging a stunning 459.5 yards allowed per game, and it's not as if you can only beat them one way: they're giving up 280.6 YPG through the air and 178.9 YPG on the ground.This could be the week when Notre Dame finally puts together some semblance of a balanced offensive attack.

The Navy offense, on the other hand, is its usual brand of crafty triple option skullduggery. They average an astounding 342.9 rush yards per game. The Mids feature a remarkable seven players with over 25 rushing YPG, led by quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, which if memory serves was the chant used to summon Jambi the Genie on Pee Wee's Playhouse.

Navy has only 861 passing yards for the entire season through eight games, which is par the course for them, but their typical M.O. is to try to throw the ball deep once or twice a game to exploit defenses' overemphasis on shutting down the option. It's the sort of well-timed, brilliant strategic strike which makes me feel good about the future prospects of America's fighting forces. Look for them to potentially unleash an early deep ball on Saturday, in the hopes of catching the Irish defense napping and establishing early momentum.

Navy's unorthodox offensive attack will provide an unique challenge for Notre Dame's first-year defensive coordinator, Corwin Brown. It will be interesting to see how he attacks it, particularly with the speed of exciting freshmen Kerry Neal and Brian Smith on the outsides. Though Navy's defensive woes would suggest that this should be Notre Dame's highest scoring game of the year, the defense can't assume that it can afford to get into a shootout.

The Middies are again led by head footbawl coach Paul Johnson. already in his sixth season in Annapolis. Johnson has returned the Navy program to respectability, winning 70 percent of his games over the last four years and earning a school-record four consecutive bowl appearances and four straight Commander-in-Chief's Trophies.
Mekka-lekka hi mekka chahney ho
Johnson came to Navy from Georgia Southern, where he won four straight Division I-AA National Coach of the Year awards and led his teams to two consecutive national titles. (Old-timers and college footbawl devotees will recall that Division I-AA is the former moniker of the now more tastefully-named Division I Football Championship Subdivision of Anaheim By Mennen.)

With this pedigree, he has emerged as a hot coaching candidate in the past few years, though he's been content to stay at Navy. Nevertheless, nervous Navy fans have taken to wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Hands Off Our Johnson". (The host of Pee Wee's Playhouse would have been wise to give himself the same advice.) The Navy hasn't seen such tawdry behavior since Tailhook, though the slogan is certainly preferable to the alternative, which would no doubt include some combination of the words "Johnson" and "seamen".

In Related News, Army is Affiliated With the Army

In one of the bigger headscratchers in recent memory, Idris Leppla, a senior at Barnard College majoring in political science, wrote an opinion piece for The Columbia Spectator, in which she shared her shock and concern upon discovering that her brother, a student at the Naval Academy, was in fact being trained to be part of the American military. Apparently, this Jewel of the Seven Sisters, and her family, didn't realize that the United States Naval Academy was in fact affiliated with the United States Navy:
"When I talked to my brother about why he wanted to go, he admitted that it was because he was drawn to the structure of the place—as a kid who did not want to sit around and drink beer during college, he liked the fact that he would be busy and have a purpose. I soon became comfortable with the idea of the academy, as if it would be a haven for my brother’s undergraduate career. And when people would congratulate me on my brother’s decision, it made me feel reassured.

Soon that pride turned to anger and fear: after my mom dropped him off at Annapolis, she came home with an acute sense of grief. The only thing she could talk about was how to get him out. In addition to missing his presence at home, she was scared by the extent to which her son had suddenly become the property of the U.S. Navy."
Leppla further distinguished herself as follows:
"My brother ended up liking Annapolis and he has decided to stay. While it has been difficult for me to accept that I have a brother in the military, I must allow him to pursue whatever path he is drawn toward, and he has admitted to me that he feels called to being there. However, for anyone else out there considering a career in the academy, let it be known: the U.S. Naval Academy is not an elite college; it is first and foremost a branch of the U.S. military and the prestige comes at a big price—it taxes parents, siblings, and participants if they do not understand what they were signing up for."
The political science program at Barnard must be a doozy, if Idris wasn't aware of the existence of military academies which educate and train young men and women to become officers in the military. She went on to say that she hadn't been aware that Michigan State University was a state university located in Michigan, or that George Washington University is named for former President George Washington (or, as he's known in the Barnard curriculum, White Male Slaveholding Overlord #1). Ms. Leppla's confusion isn't confined solely to colleges and universities: she reportedly didn't know that toy stores sell toys, or that TV's Real People was about real people.

While her comments have turned some heads, Idris has reportedly been praised by recent Columbia guest speaker Mahmoud Ahmadenijad for "speaking truth to power", and her name has been placed in nomination for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. As for me, I think that the Naval Academy is an elite college, and I have known since I was, say, 4 years old that it's affiliated with the U.S. Navy, and I would be damn proud to have a family member go to school there.

Go Navy, Beat Army.

(Note: These views do not necessarily reflect those of BGS and its management, though I would certainly hope that they do...unless one of those schmoehawks is an Army fan or something.)

A Humbled Blind Oracle Weighs In

After a bizarre prediction of an Irish loss in a nonexistent game last week, The Blind Oracle at Bristol is back to give his thoughts on this week's matchup.

"From the banks of the Severn comes a focused fighting force. By sea or by air, but mainly by ground, they have defeated even the stoutest of foes. Decades of anguish will soon be put to rest. Bottom line, the Irish lack the team speed to keep up with the Midshipmen. Navy beats Notre Dame 35-10."