Note: This is Part II of “Enemy Lines,” in which I trade e-mails with Christian Swezey, one of my good friends and a fellow sportswriter who has covered Navy for many years. The first part of our exchange is in the post below.
Jake! Thank you for the very kind words in your intro. The only way your readers will learn more from me than you this week is if their questions are about lacrosse. And even then it will be close.
Though it should be noted Navy is 3-2; a winning percentage not as good as Blog Dog’s last year but still pretty good.
Couple quick takes on the game.
1. The teams could not be entering in more different physical condition.
Navy played a very physical game in beating Wake Forest, 24-17, on Saturday. Wake is not a typical ACC team; it relies more on size and strength than finesse and speed.
Air Force, meantime, is coming off a bye week.
2. Among the service academies in the past few years, Navy has had a tremendous edge in talent. Shun White is probably the best SA running back; Eric Kettani is the best fullback; Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is the best QB.
So the first thing in analyzing this game is whether AF has closed the talent gap?
3. In 90 percent (at least) of its games, AF has a coaching advantage over its opponent. Not sure that edge exists this week or, if it does, it’s very miniscule.
In terms of Navy this year vs. last year…Navy has a ton of experience back on offense. So the year when Navy was going to struggle, if it does at all, was always going to be next year. As in, after Kaipo, Shun, Kettani, etc., leave.
Ken Niumatalolo has done a very good job thus far. There have been a few bumps in the road. Navy’s two losses turned on failed fourth down plays. Navy ran the same play both times, and both times it appeared Navy made the wrong read. Calling that play twice seemed stubborn to me.
Overall, though, it’s obvious Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper paid close attention to Paul Johnson’s coaching methods in their years with him. In the bowl game, Navy got really gimmicky. That has not happened this year, at least not yet. The play calling has been astute, and they haven’t “showed” very much to upcoming opponents on film in terms of trick plays.
In other words, they’ve been very patient in play-calling. If something is working, they are using it until it gets stopped (or doesn’t get stopped). That’s a lot harder than it sounds.
In terms of misspelling Kaipo’s name…let’s just say my stories have always been very well edited!! For you, though, I’m going with the over on misspellings.
Anyway…What’s your take on the talent gap between AF and Navy? Does it exist and, if so, is it large?
Is Rembert going both ways because AF lacks gamebreakers on offense? Rembert nearly went to Navy, correct?
The game last year turned on Hunter Altman’s missed read on an option that Kaipo took to the house. Altman was focused on the fullback. Is Kettani the focus of AF’s defensive game plan again? Will their defense be different if Kaipo is at QB or if Jarod Bryant is at QB?