- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith dropped back to pass and lofted a high-arcing spiral deep down the middle of the field Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Normally, that is a pass opposing quarterbacks do not attempt — and if they do it is incomplete or intercepted. This time though, Smith’s pass went to a wide-open Idris Moss for a 58-yard gain in the Golden Hurricane’s 24-23 overtime victory.

“That was a miscommunication, and we can’t have that,” Navy senior defensive back Jeremy McGown said. “I bit up on a shallower route. It was one of those routes that we should have had two guys on it, and we ended up with nobody on it.”

The Midshipmen have two basic principles when it comes to defending the pass: keep everyone in front of them and run to the ball. By taking away the deep ball and putting an emphasis on sound tackling to stop short routes for a minimal gain, Navy tries to force teams to grind out drives. The Mids wait for the opposing team to become impatient and make a mistake, and then they pounce.

But Saturday, Smith hit the long pass and had plenty of success with the short stuff. Because of a combination of poor tackling by the Mids and crafty design, Tulsa had plenty of success with screen passes to wide receiver Ryan Bugg, who turned two into 34-yard gains — one for a touchdown — and set up the overtime score with a 19-yard catch and scamper.

“We’ve got to A) get a better pass rush and B) we’ve got to break on the ball better underneath,” defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. “We’ve got to do a better job of breaking on the ball and getting the guy on the ground.”

Added freshman safety Jeromy Miles: “We’ve been getting a lot of practice over here getting our tackling down, but that is more of a mental thing. I guess we need to approach the game with a different mentality — just tackle anything.”

Through four games the Mids (3-1) have allowed 256.2 passing yards a contest, which ranks 110th in the nation. That number might be a bit misleading, though. Three of the four teams the Mids have faced are pass-first teams. Both Smith and Stanford quarterback Troy Edwards are NFL prospects. And East Carolina wide receiver Aundrae Allison also might be playing on Sundays soon.

“I think that could be a deceptive stat. Normally by now we would have played someone like Rice [who rarely throws the ball], but we added East Carolina to the schedule, and Stanford has one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” McGown said. “Tulsa has been throwing on everybody this year. I think one of the main reasons that shouldn’t be overlooked is that we’ve crushed the run.”

In the first three games, the Mids held opposing teams to 259 yards on 86 carries, 3 yards an attempt. The Golden Hurricane, however, had plenty of success running the ball as well.

“The thing we do since we’ve been here is when we play well we don’t give up big plays. And number two is we’ve stopped the rush,” Green said. “We try to get teams to be one-dimensional. Any time you make a team one-dimensional you’ve got a chance to play better pass defense.

“This ballgame [Tulsa] rushed for 159, so you commit more people to stopping the run because you’re having trouble stopping the run, and then it is boom — they have the advantage.”

Injuries also have been a factor. Both starting safeties, DuJuan Price and Ketric Buffin, have missed the past two games. Buffin has an ankle injury, and Green hopes he can play some Saturday against Connecticut. Price’s time line for a return from a right knee injury is still not settled.

Miles has played well in Price’s absence. McGown shifted from cornerback to replace Buffin with mixed results. He was responsible for the big pass to Moss but also had a key interception against Stanford and is Navy’s most talented and valuable defensive back.

“We’ve got to get better at playing both phases,” Green said. “The bottom line is we have to keep them off the scoreboard.”

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