- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | The questions and criticisms started early this season for Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green.

After outplaying the Midshipmen’s offense in preseason camp scrimmages, the perception was that Navy’s defense was much improved from last year’s unit, which ranked 99th in the country.

But in losses to Duke and Ball State, Navy surrendered a combined 76 points. Last year’s struggles resurfaced: an inability to get stops on third down and a vulnerability to long pass plays.

In the past two weeks, however, those imperfections have disappeared and the much-maligned unit has taken on a whole new look. By pressuring the quarterback and forcing eight turnovers, the Mids’ defense has anchored back-to-back wins over Rutgers and Wake Forest.

“We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder,” said linebacker Ross Pospisil, who has an interception in each of the past two games. “Navy is who we are, and we are just selling out every play. You have to play like that every play to give us a chance. We’re not doing a whole lot different schemewise, just something clicked with the attitude.”

Green has drawn on his 29 years of coaching experience to employ numerous strategies in trying to improve the Mids’ defense. It appears he has found one that works.

One of the positives that came out of the turmoil of last year is that several of Navy’s young defenders got game experience. Green has capitalized on that by rotating more players this season.

The depth has paid off. Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner entered Saturday’s game without an interception in 133 consecutive passes, the longest streak in the nation. Navy (3-2) hounded Skinner all day, getting a season-high three sacks. Skinner threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. Navy also forced and recovered a second fumble from wide receiver Marshall Williams.

The six-turnover performance followed a strong showing against Rutgers on Sept. 20 in which Navy held the Scarlet Knights to just seven points in the second half. The Mids also forced two turnovers in that game.

“We’re having more fun,” safety Wyatt Middleton said. “We’re just going out there and playing rather than thinking about our responsibilities or anything like that because all defense is, is flying around and having fun.”

While the starters have been getting a breather, the reserves have made plays of their own. Eleven Mids received credit for the six turnovers and three sacks Navy recorded against the Demon Deacons.

Even when the Mids weren’t forcing turnovers, they remained stout. While the offense stalled in the second half on Saturday, Navy forced three consecutive Wake Forest punts while clinging to a 17-10 lead. Finally in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Jarod Bryant scored from 4 yards out to put the game out of reach.

“These guys have worked extremely hard all season long,” Green said. “The schedule is full of teams that can put a lot of points on the board and we’ve been fortunate enough to make some plays. Our guys have shown improvement.”

While the Mids have enjoyed success, they are careful not to be too confident, especially with this week’s showdown against rival Air Force (3-1) looming.

“You take one week at a time,” defensive captain Clint Sovie said. “The next week you never know how you’re going to react. It carries over a little bit, but you’ve got to play harder the next week.”

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