Oct. 9, 2010
By Bob Socci
Sitting in a Starbucks in Winston-Salem, following an early checkout from the team hotel and prior to a later-than-usual Navy kickoff, allow me to share some notes from a conversation with head coach Ken Niumatalolo in anticipation of tonight's meeting with Wake Forest.
RED ZONE WOES
This week Navy coaches reviewed video of every possession inside the opponent's 20-yard line this season, seeking to solve the problems that have pinned them ahead of only Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico as the 118th-ranked team in "red zone" offense.
They evaluated and reevaluated every aspect from personnel groupings to play-calling to execution. The onus tonight is on everyone, staff included, to return to the efficiency that defined the Midshipmen the last seven years.
"It's just disappointing," Niumatalolo said of an offense that has enjoyed 1st-and-goal on 12 series, yet (not including a kneel-down at the end of the Georgia Southern victory) failed to score five times. "There's accountability on both sides (players and coaches).
"What are we doing to help our guys? We're all in this together."
Will we see an overhaul of personnel or play selection?
"We're not going to make drastic changes," he said. "Yes, there's a sense of urgency, but we're not going to panic."
Dealing with the disappointment of an academy loss for the first time in the career of any Navy player - and many of the Mids' coaches - after falling at Air Force, 14-6, last Saturday, Niumatalolo was pleased with the Mids' preparation this week.
"This place is about leadership," said Niumatalolo, referring to his team's resilience. "It's easy to lead when things are going well.
"We had a team meeting on Monday. I thought about the things I would talk about, how to push us forward. But the players had already moved on. We had our best practice of the season on Tuesday."
He singled out defensive captain Wyatt Middleton
for addressing the team, as soon as the Mids started back for Annapolis on the flight home from Colorado Springs.
"We really wanted that one," Niumatalolo said. "But we're not going to dwell on it. Our main goal is not to let one loss become two losses."
Niumatalolo admitted that burning time outs, even when Navy is in the no-huddle offense, is inexcusable.
"That should never happen," he said, indicating that the Mids may vary their approach when it comes to huddling this evening, trying to seize control of the tempo, as they did three weeks ago at Louisiana Tech.
As the saying goes, time will tell.