- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

— While watching the tape of Navy’s 41-31 loss to Duke, defensive coordinator Buddy Green wasn’t upset with the way his unit played - at least on first and second down. The linemen penetrated, the secondary covered well and all 11 Midshipmen made sure tackles.

Third down was another matter. The Blue Devils converted 10 of their 16 third downs.

“We missed too many tackles in the open field,” Green said. “They threw one pass for 17 yards and one pass for 14. Other than that, everything was thrown around the line of scrimmage. We didn’t do a good enough job of tackling in space.”

Last weekend’s futility continued a season-long trend for the Mids (1-2), who rank 117th out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision schools by allowing opponents to convert 61 percent of their third downs. It’s the same problem Navy struggled with last season, when it finished 110th in the country in third-down conversion percentage defense.

Getting off the field is critical for Navy’s defense this season because the Mids’ triple-option offense has not been consistent. If Navy expects to beat visiting Rutgers (0-2) on Saturday for the first time since 2004, it will have to force more punts.

“It comes down to our intensity level,” safety Jeff Deliz said. “You notice us on first and second down, we’re getting off the ball real hard, and there’s a different kind of energy level. Then we get in a third-and-long situation, it’s almost kind of like we relax a little bit. We need to stay intense until we get off the field.”

To reduce the 414.7 yards a game the Mids are allowing, they will have to overcome their flaws against a Rutgers offense Green heralded as “the most talented group that we have seen this year.” The Scarlet Knights pose the same problems for Navy that most BCS teams do. They are bigger, stronger and faster.

That makes it tougher on the Mids’ defense to do just about everything.

“As a whole group, execution is a big thing for us on third-and-long, third-and-short,” linebacker Clint Sovie said. “We just need to come out and have an attitude that we’re going to get them off the field.”

The Mids have had success against the similar matchup problems Rutgers will create. Since 2003, Navy has 11 wins against BCS schools, which ties it with Utah for the most among non-BCS schools.

“I liked to say we have a toughness factor that it doesn’t faze us, not to say they are easy to go against,” Sovie said. “They are gonna be a tough team to play, but if we don’t come out with the mental attitude that we can take them on, then we would have already lost the game.”

Deliz said he won’t be the most talented player on the field Saturday, but that doesn’t mean Navy can’t stop the Scarlet Knights.

“You can always outwork people,” Deliz said. “It’s always the people who are going to stay tough and stay mentally focused throughout the game that are going to come out on top. So hopefully we stay that way and things lean our way.”

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