- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | On a warm Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Navy’s Shun White, the reigning Patriot League 200-meter sprint champion, played Olympic double gold-medal winner Usain Bolt. The Towson defense was the rest of the world, watching helplessly.

Bolt made it look easy in Beijing, winning the 100 and 200 meters in world-record time, and White pretty much did the same thing to the overmatched Tigers. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior slotback needed just 19 carries to rush for a school-record 348 yards and three touchdowns as the Midshipmen won their opener 41-13 in coach Ken Niumatalolo’s regular-season debut before an announced crowd of 31,613.

Working out of Navy’s trademark triple-option offense White gained 214 yards in the first half alone, well en route to breaking Eddie Meyers’ 1981 record of 298. Again and again, backup quarterback Jarod Bryant, playing for injured senior Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (sore hamstring), deftly faked a handoff to fullback Eric Kettani, rolled out and with perfect timing pitched to White, who darted around, through and eventually past the frustrated defenders.

Towson’s game plan was to stop Kettani, last year’s leading rusher, and it did. He had just 14 yards. White, meanwhile, had touchdown runs of 87 and 73 yards (he scored three times in all) as Navy, the national rushing leader four of the last five years, rolled up 558 yards on the ground and a total of 602.

“I just told myself I was gonna go out there and give my best for my teammates, and every time I got the ball I was gonna run as hard as I could and as fast as I could,” White said. “Every time I got back to the sidelines, I congratulated the [offensive line], and the receivers and the other slotbacks. The offense worked as a unit, and I thought they did a great job of blocking on the perimeter and inside.”

Longtime Towson coach Gordy Combs said his teams are not accustomed to dealing with a player as fast as White.

“When he got those shoulders turned, he was a different speed,” Combs said. “If you miss him the first time, you’d better have some people coming to the ball. They were just executing, We had guys there, but we didn’t make the plays. They did a good job of putting White in position.”

A career assistant, Niumatalolo worked under Paul Johnson for six years and took over the top spot in December after Johnson was hired as coach at Georgia Tech. The transition got a lot of attention because Johnson was so successful. He led Navy to five straight winning seasons and bowl games, and dominated service academy rivals Army and Air Force.

But Niumatalolo has repeatedly tried to divert attention from himself.

“This isn’t about me,” he said. “It’s about all of the staff, together. Heck, I didn’t win. The whole team won.”

Still, Niumatalolo didn’t mind talking about White.

“The great thing about Shun White is that he came through so much,” he said. “Academically, he was working hard. He ran for our track team, so in the spring, he did both. He was doing other things. It’s just the overall development of Shun White. I’m so proud of him.”

Yet White wasn’t the only offensive star, at least for a half. Towson’s pass-happy, spread offense is the exact opposite of Navy’s ground-intensive attack, and Tigers quarterback Sean Schaefer knows how to run it. The senior came in needing 543 yards to become the school’s all-time passing leader.

Schaefer threw for 225 yards in the first half even though Towson, a Football Championship Subdivsion team, was playing a Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time in its 40-year football history.

Towson was in the game, trailing, 21-13, before Navy’s Matt Harmon kicked a 31-yard field goal at the end of the first half. The Mids’ defense adjusted, turned up the heat on Schaefer, and the Tigers failed to score after halftime.

“We came out in the first half and let them get some drives on us,” linebacker Clint Sovie said. “The second half, we came out with a different attitude.”

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