- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

As Navy tries to continue building momentum after a surprise march to a bowl game last season and two victories to open this campaign, Paul Johnson will match strategies today with a coach in a similar position.

Steve Kragthorpe is in his second season at Tulsa, which plays host to the Midshipmen at Skelly Stadium. Kragthorpe and Johnson led the top two resurrections in college football last season; both teams finished 8-5 and went to bowl games. Navy improved by six wins and Tulsa by seven from 2002.

Johnson and Kragthorpe were finalists for several coach of the year awards and sat together at the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award ceremony.

“We were on the same circuit cheering on [Louisiana State coach] Nick Saban. He kept winning them,” Johnson said. “Deservedly so, I might add.”

So far, this season has been disappointing for Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane lost at Kansas and Oklahoma State, two Big 12 bowl teams a year ago. Last season Tulsa opened the Kragthorpe era with losses at Minnesota and Arkansas before ripping off eight wins in 10 games.

Tulsa quarterback James Kilian threw for 2,217 yards and rushed for 605 to earn second-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors in a league full of talented quarterbacks. He might be the most talented passer Navy faces this season.

The Golden Hurricane can cause opposing quarterbacks trouble with their defensive alignment. Tulsa utilizes a 3-3-5 set, which adds an extra safety and allows for several different pre-snap formations. The defense has grown in popularity in recent seasons, with West Virginia and Wake Forest among the programs that use it as a primary set.

“We played them the year before and basically ripped them, and then we came back the next year and it was the other way around,” said Louisiana Tech coach Jack Bicknell, whose team defeated Tulsa 53-9 in 2002 but lost 48-18 last season. “I think their quarterback is fantastic. The three-down look on defense presents you with a lot of problems. It’s a headache when you only have a couple of practices to prepare.”

For Navy to succeed against Tulsa, the Mids will have to cut down on mistakes. Johnson lamented “a ton of missed of missed assignments” by the offense last weekend against Northeastern.

Despite rushing for at least 300 yards in both of their games, the Mids have turned the ball over six times. In each game, Navy had a chance to snatch control early in the second half but let the opposing team march right back down the field to answer a Midshipmen touchdown in the third quarter.

“If you have somebody down, you better put your foot on their neck with all your weight,” Johnson said. “We’re either going to learn to do that, or we’ll learn the hard way.”

There also have been several special teams errors. To rectify this, Geoff Blumenfeld will yield punting duties to Eric Shuey or Ethan Gouge. Blumenfeld, who is 0-for-2 on field goals and missed an extra point against Duke, will concentrate on conversions, field goals and kickoffs.

“I wish I could be a guy who can do all three things and do all three well and be the special teams guru,” Blumenfeld said. “You don’t get into school here and get to play at this level by not caring. I was a little upset that I couldn’t do it. I wanted to help the team, but I was actually hurting the team.”

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