- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Fullback Eric Kettani said this week he needed to increase his production for the Midshipmen’s offense to succeed. The senior backed up his talk with a career best-performance Saturday.

Kettani broke a 24-yard run to set up Matt Harmon’s go-ahead, 24-yard field goal with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, and linebacker Ross Pospisil’s second career interception sealed Navy’s 23-21 comeback over Rutgers in front of a Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium record crowd of 37,821 that included Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Harmon’s kick came on the tail end of a 12-play, 63-yard drive. Rutgers had taken the lead on its previous possession when freshman running back Jourdan Brooks scored his second touchdown of the day.

Kettani left last week’s loss to Duke after suffering a hip strain on his first carry. He didn’t practice in pads this week and said he was “75 to 80 percent” entering the game, yet he still ran for a career-high 133 yards and a touchdown.

“We know what Eric can do,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He’s going to have some nicks and bruises tonight, but he really sucked it up in the second half. We challenged him. We said we needed the Eric of old.”

Rutgers (0-3) held the Mids to 97 yards rushing in the first half, so they came out throwing on their first possession after the break. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada connected on passes of 41, 14 and 22 yards to lead Navy (2-2) down the field. His final strike found wide receiver Tyree Barnes open in the end zone to cut the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 14-13.

On that drive alone, Kaheaku-Enhada eclipsed his passing figures from last season’s loss in Piscataway, N.J., when he threw for 35 yards and three interceptions.

A Rutgers punt pinned Navy on its 6-yard line, but the Scarlet Knights couldn’t stop the triple-option offense. With Rutgers’ defense respecting the pass, Navy’s backs found more space on their runs. The Mids churned out a nine play, 94-yard drive highlighted by a 44-yard Kettani run. He capped it off with a 2-yard rumble up the middle to give Navy a 20-14 lead with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter.

“They were dropping back more. They didn’t know what to expect from us,” Kaheaku-Enhada said. “I think that helps us out a lot. It was great coaching by [offensive coordinator Ivin] Jasper.”

Pospisil’s interception was the second critical turnover the Mids’ defense forced. Already leading 14-6, Rutgers looked well on its way to adding another touchdown at the end of the first half. Rutgers receiver Tiquan Underwood caught a pass at the 4-yard line, but Navy safety Wyatt Middleton stripped him. Mids safety Emmett Merchant recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.

“The turnover ratio is always huge,” Middleton said. “That’s a battle that we have to win. The past couple of games we’ve lost that battle, and if you win the turnover battle you’re basically going to win the game.”

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