Nov. 13, 2010
By Bob Socci
It's almost time to head to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for today's encounter of the Midshipmen (6-3) and Central Michigan (3-7).
I'm fairly confident - I'm never totally certain - that my homework for our radio broadcast is complete. Well, if nothing else, there's a poster board and folder full of various notes on the Midshipmen and Chippewas.
I know for sure that I exhausted a lot of ink, from both my computer printer and the highlighters that help fill my trusty pouch full of pens and markers. We announcers are very particular about our writing instruments. Generally, "extra fine point" Pilot G-2's are my preference. "Smear guard" highlighters are a must.
Something else that undoubtedly dawns on me each week, in sifting through statistics, press releases and newspaper clips, is that almost all of the info I assemble will never be heard on air. Always, the game dictates when and what nuggets you relay to the listener.
Besides, even if a game gets out of hand, like last week's at East Carolina, filling time isn't a challenge for our three-man booth and four-person crew. Even during long breaks for television, as much as someone among us might complain about them.
So, this morning, not wanting to leave certain relevant, and irrelevant, tidbits unused, I've put together a notebook. Without further adieu, here goes.
Seeking a Strong Start at Home
While the Midshipmen have been mostly impressive outside of Annapolis, thinking specifically about their last two blowouts of Notre Dame and East Carolina, they've struggled at home this year. Especially early.
Though 33-10 at NMCMS since 2003, including an 11-3 mark under Ken Niumatalolo, the Mids were held scoreless in the opening half by both SMU and Duke.
In three 1st-half possessions against the Mustangs, Navy totaled 124 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per rush. The Mids recovered after intermission with 28 points and an average of 5.6 yards a carry.
Two weeks ago, falling behind 24-0 to the Blue Devils, their first-half numbers included 67 total yards and a very uncharacteristic three fumbles, one of which was lost.
Navy also eked out a 13-7 victory over Georgia Southern in its home opener, rushing for just 109 yards, its lowest output in eight years.
Three's a Lucky Number
First-half difficulties aside, the Mids have been dominant in the 3rd quarter, outscoring opponents, 93-28. Last week alone, they overwhelmed the Pirates with 27 points, off 23 offensive plays totaling 179 yards.
It's Not Only on Offense
No question, Navy's offense adjusts well. So does its defense. I don't consider myself a big "numbers guy" per se. I take issue with anyone who strictly sees sports through a quantitative lens - except, of course, for the final score.
I tend to agree with former baseball player Toby Harrah, who reportedly said that "statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything."
When it comes to the Mids in football, one stat that does intrigue me concerns opponents' productivity on 3rd down. Overall, Navy's defense ranks 64th nationally, allowing the opposition to convert nearly 40 percent of the time.
But, breaking down that percentage by halves, indicates why the Mids are so much better after halftime. Opponents convert at a 47-percent clip in the 1st half and just a 33-percent rate in the 2nd half.
The Navy `D' gets off the field sooner, allowing its `O' to stay out there longer. You know what that means.
A Score to Settle
Finally - because I'm almost out of time - today's matchup won't mark the initial meeting of the two young head coaches, Navy's Ken Niumatalolo and counterpart Dan Enos.
They first crossed paths in Honolulu, at the 1989 Aloha Bowl. Enos's Michigan State Spartans beat Niumatalolo's Rainbow Warriors, 33-13.
Worse than the outcome itself, is how the game unfolded. Hawaii, operating the spread option attack of offensive coordinator Paul Johnson, turned the ball over its first six series. In all, the Warriors had eight giveaways.
As for the two present-day coaches, both were quarterbacks. Enos started for MSU, while Niumatalolo relieved Garrett Gabriel for UH.
That was then. Now it's time for me to go.