- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — The cheers Matt Brewer receives during practice from his teammates on defense at Navy usually mean one thing.

An offensive lineman is getting up off the ground.

“Guys who outweigh him by 50 pounds, and he just puts them on their butt,” fellow Missourian and inside linebacker Matt Warrick said.

That brand of physicality helped Brewer make an instant difference in his first career start Saturday. The junior led the Midshipmen with seven tackles (one for loss) in a 40-17 defeat of Delaware.

Brewer was one of seven first-time starters on a revamped defense, and made one of the strongest statements in a linebacker corps not especially deep in game experience.

“We knew Delaware was going to come and run the power and zone and try to smash-mouth us, and he played well,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He was physical at the point of attack, but he’d been doing that all camp. I’ve been very impressed with him.”

There’s a strong chance he could be again Saturday, when the Mids (1-0) play Western Kentucky (0-1) in the first of consecutive road games. The Hilltoppers - whose tailback, Bobby Rainey, led the country in rushing attempts last season - make no secret of their preference for a physical game.

Neither does Brewer.

“I like to hit - I am a middle linebacker,” Brewer said. “I guess since little league, our team motto has been ‘Hit hard.’ As linebackers, that’s something we pride ourselves on.”

They delivered in the opener, relying heavily on a pair of players who grew up not far from each other. Brewer and Warrick attended the same elementary and middle schools and knew of each other (though both are juniors, Brewer is a year older and attended the academy’s prep school). The pair attended rival high schools located about five minutes apart.

The pair have a common bond - an upbringing in the middle of the country - and a common position, so it’s unsurprising they’ve gotten to know each other well in recent years.

On Saturday, Brewer showed the skill set Warrick - and others in the program - have come to expect in practice even though he’d played primarily on special teams coming into the season.

“He played a great game. We always knew he was tough as nails and works as hard as anybody,” Warrick said. “I think his biggest challenge is just getting to know the defense, and he’s worked real hard and worked with all of us and now he knows it and he’s a freak on the field.”

Brewer’s most notable contribution Saturday came early, when he the Mids recovered a fumble he forced and scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to bump the lead to 13-0. Later, he jarred another ball loose, though Delaware recovered it.

“[Defensive coordinator Buddy] Green preaches big plays, so if you can just fly around and make big plays, it’s a good job,” Brewer said.

Not to mention a good reflection on the Mids’ linebacker pipeline into the St. Louis suburbs that figures to help for the next couple of years.

“Typical Midwest guys who are just hard workers,” Niumatalolo said. “Coach [Chris] Culton found them both and it came down between us and the other service academies. Those are huge gets for us, and they’re paying off for us.”

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